Billie Eilish might just make you believe in magic…
It’s the best explanation for this silver-haired 15-year-old siren whose breathy, soulful, and spirited croon immediately casts an unbreakable spell. The Los Angeles songstress resembles something of a fairy tale heroine—albeit one with a Tyler, the Creator obsession, Aurora inspiration, wicked sense of humor, and inimitable fashion sense filtered through a kaleidoscope of hip-hop, grunge, and glam tendencies ready to practically levitate above any runway. It’s this kind of je nais sais quoi that fueled the meteoric rise of her debut single “Ocean Eyes.”
Produced by big brother Finneas O’Connell, a whopping four-and-a-half years older than she is, the siblings uploaded the track to Soundcloud in 2015, and it became a veritable phenomenon, generating 40 million cumulative Spotify streams and 5 million YouTube/VEVO views. In between signing to Darkroom/Interscope during 2016, Vogue decried her, “Pop’s Next It Girl,” and she received love from i-D Magazine, V Magazine, and Beats 1 tastemaker Zane Lowe. This fervor stems from a combination of the whimsy Billie creates by being herself and an impressive “I-don’t-give-an-eff” imperviousness.
“I want to say things that people think but nobody says,” she explains. “I like to make myself uncomfortable and spend my day out of my comfort zone musically and in terms of how I look. I really like being judged. I don’t care if it’s a good or bad judgment, I’m in your head now, and you’re thinking about me.”
In many ways, Billie has been working towards this in earnest since birth. Her wise and warm actor/teacher/artist parents fondly recall, “She couldn’t go without singing for even a moment.” By eight-years-old, she joined the renowned Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and would go on to perform everywhere from Japan to the Hollywood Bowl with John Williams and Walt Disney Concert Hall. A lifelong dancer, she also became a part of a dance company at Revolution Dance Center. Within the family’s East Los Angeles quaint creative oasis complete with a handmade treehouse and trapeze equipment, her parents homeschooled Billie. Her youth would be augmented and enhanced by a much larger community of friends often devoting Fridays to group art projects and all kinds of adventures.
“Since I wasn’t forced to do anything, it made me want to learn and do certain things,” she says. The artist developed a keen appetite for music discovery, constantly combing Soundcloud and the internet at large for underground rap and chill artists. Simultaneously, she and Finneas quietly wrote and recorded a host of music, culminating with the breakthrough of “Ocean Eyes.”
“I was going through something with this boy who had deep blue ocean eyes,” she sighs. “I was really in love with him, at least I thought I was. He wasn’t interested though. Finneas brought me the song, and it meant so much to me—it still does.” After further success with “Six Feet Under,” her 2017 follow-up single “Bellyache” trots along on bright acoustic guitars before spinning out into a bass boom and unexpected, cinematic lyrics like, “Sitting all alone, mouthful of gum in the driveway, my friends aren’t far, in the back of my car, lay their bodies” and “My V is for Vendetta. I thought that I’d feel better. Now I got a bellyache.”
“When I write, I try to become different characters,” exclaims Billie. “You can write a song about being in love with someone, but you don’t have to be in love with anyone. You can write a song about killing someone, but you don’t have to have killed people. ‘Bellyache’ is one of those characters.” Billie’s “gloom pop,” as she appropriately dubs it, is nothing short of magic as it continually surprises. “I don’t want to ever write or sing the same way everyone else does,” she leaves off. “It’s just me, and I’m always going to be myself.”