"I wanted it all to be me and not anybody else...” - hmv.com talks to Billie Eilish
In the world of pop music, the phrase “overnight success” is an overused one - and one that often irritates the artists it is being used in reference to, since it tends to be both inaccurate and dismissive the years of hard graft that an artist has probably put into their career before their work is finally and suddenly given the recognition it deserves. But in this case – and in so many others – Billie Eilish is the exception.
There's really no other way to describe the young singer-songwriter's meteoric rise to fame. Back in 2015, still just 13 years old, Eilish and her older brother Finneas recorded a song that the latter had originally written for his band, with the intention of using it for Billie and her dance teacher to choreograph a routine to. The pair recorded Eilish performing the song, called 'Ocean Eyes', and uploaded it to Soundcloud with a free download link so that her teacher could access it. “We had no intentions for it, really”, she would later tell Teen Vogue, “but basically overnight a ton of people started hearing it and sharing it. Hillydilly, a music discovery website, found it and posted it and it just got bigger and bigger. It was really surreal.”
The response to the music Eilish has released since has been nothing short of phenomenal. Since scoring a record deal and distribution with Interscope, the singer has released an EP and a string of singles that have collectively notched up over a billion streams, all before Eilish has even released her debut album.
This week, however, the wait for her debut is finally over. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? makes its long-awaited arrival in stores today and ahead of its release we fired some questions at Billie about how her debut album came together...
So it's finally time to unleash your debut album - can you sum up how you're feeling right now?
“I've been really excited for this album for a really long time. I've been working on it forever. Finishing it was a very satisfying and kind of scary feeling because I never thought I would. I'm nervous, excited, and kind of terrified, all at the same time.”
This all started back when you uploaded 'Ocean Eyes' to Soundcloud – what was it like living through the next few days and weeks after that started to blow up?
“It completely went over my head, so I basically didn’t take it in at all until a year later. I wish I had taken it in when I didn’t, but I was 13 and stupid as hell, so...”
When did you start writing the material on the album? What's the oldest song that made the cut?
“The oldest song that made the album is 'listen before i go' which we made in like 2016, I believe. We probably started the album a year and a half ago.”
Was there any particular song that set the direction for the rest of the album?
“bury a friend"
Is that what made you decide on the album's title?
“It just made the whole album make sense after making “bury a friend.” That was just a lyric in the song, but I thought it sort of tied all of the songs into each other. It made it all make sense in my head. It just clicked.”
Your music is difficult to pin down to any one genre – what kind of music would you say has been a big influence on this record?
“Everything. I don’t just get inspired by one thing.”
Quite often these days with debut albums there are lots of guest appearances from more established artists, but it's pretty much all you here – was that something that was important to you?
“Yeah, I just think that I never wanted anyone to be able to feel like they had the right to say that, if my album does well or doesn’t do well, I don’t want someone to be able to say “it’s just because some other artist was on it.” If it’s all me, then it’s me doing it and it’s me creating and it’s me working, and so I wanted it all to be me and not anybody else.”
You've recorded everything at home in a bedroom with your brother, Finneas - was there any pressure from your record label / management to go into a big studio or work with a big name producer?
“No, I think it was more like, everyone knows that the way that me and my brother work together, works, so why change that? If you are already doing something that works, there’s no need to do something different, and my team support that.”
Your rise to fame has been incredibly rapid - what has been the most 'WTF?' moment of your career so far?
What are your touring plans for the new album? Anywhere you're particularly excited to go?
“I am just excited to play these new songs live everywhere.”
When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is available in hmv stores now