Billie Eilish on Why Fame Sucks and Family Matters
“Fame fucking sucks,” says alt-pop singer-songwriter Billie Eilish. “I hate it. But it’s great, though.”
Eilish, this week’s TIDAL Rising Artist of the Week, is a few weeks into her first solo tour when we talk on the phone. She’s hit Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the point where the reality of her worldwide fame is starting to sink in. “It’s really weird. It’s like nothing I would ever think it is,” she says. “When this kind of thing happens, you just have to be like, ‘Shit, OK. Great. Let’s just go with it.’”
And going with it is exactly what she’s done, embracing her new lifestyle but also recognizing its natural downfalls. Connecting with fans from her native L.A. to the energetic crowds in Aukland, Eilish, at 16 years old, is, in her words “learning more and more” as she goes — one day, one city at a time.
In this interview, Billie Eilish talks about adapting to the attention since releasing last year’s don’t smile at me EP, her unique sense of self, meeting Tyler, the Creator and more. She also shares a playlist with TIDAL of her “jump around punch people songs,” fittingly titled WE ALL DIE EVENTUALLY ILL DO WHAT I WANT TIL THEN. Listen to the playlist and read more about the unapologetic artist below.
How has the tour been? What’s your favorite city been so far?
Well, this is the beginning of the tour. We just did the Laneway tour, which was Singapore and all over Australia so that was pretty sick. It was my first real festival, and Laneway is like the same festival over and over and over again. Festivals are insane. I feel like I’m invincible now, but it’s been cool.
How has it been seeing your fans in these very different areas and how people are responding to your music?
It’s weird, everywhere is different. The vibes are all different. Some of the [audiences] are really energetic and jumping around, and then some of them still love it the same amount but just stand there and don’t really move [or] make any noise. It’s really weird to see because the more we have shows in these places, you get to know what each audience is like in all the different places.
Where was the rowdiest crowd?
I’d probably say Brisbon was the most fun show. I also did a show in Auckland. God, New Zealand is beautiful. The people there are crazy and so loving, and I think the audiences are almost the best there. They have been on this tour but Brisbon was incredible. Oh my God. That was so much fun. Now, we’re in London, and we’re about to do the whole UK and Europe run and go home for a little then we have the whole US run. I’m just living.
Last year was a huge year for you, and now you’re traveling around the world with almost all of your shows sold out. Is it easy to adapt to this sudden fame and popularity?
It’s really weird. It’s like nothing I would ever think it is, especially touring. You will never know what touring is like until you’re touring. You just can’t. It’s the same with being in the public eye in any way. That’s just how it is. I don’t know if there really is any way to process it or feel about it. When this kind of thing happens, you just have to be like, “Shit, OK. Great. Let’s just go with it.” I don’t even know. It’s a hard thing, it’s weird.
Do you feel a certain amount of pressure?
I don’t know if it’s pressure. I think I’m learning more and more. It’s obvious you can’t please everyone, like never in a million years will you be able to make everyone happy. That’s just how it is, and it’s such a hard thing to wrap your mind around, the fact that the bigger you get in any way, the more people are going to disagree with you and what you do. I have the tiniest amount of fame compared to really big names like Justin Bieber, the Kardashians or anything like that, but the amount of being under a spotlight that I already have is already so insane. Hate is a whole other thing but it destroys you, dude. Fame fucking sucks. I hate it. But it’s great, though. I don’t mean that to sound ungrateful. It’s a really hard thing and hurts, but who cares?
You seem very outspoken and to know what you’re about from your style to your lyrics, your aesthetic. Have you always been that way?
Pretty much, yeah. The thing is I’ve always done what I wanted to do, no matter what it was or who was telling me what to do. If you just do what everyone else does all the time just to please other people, it’s like what if everyone in the world dies right now? Then you’d be left with the thing you didn’t want in the first place that you didn’t want to work for but you did. It’s stupid. It’s like if you don’t want it, don’t get it. I’ve always known what I wanted — always.
It seems like you have a family that’s very supportive of that. You guys seem like a tightly knit crew, so I’m sure that definitely helps.
It’s definitely made me who I am, having the supportive ground that I have.
Are any of them on tour with you?
My mom’s on tour with me. My brother is, my dad is coming for the US part. My brother writes everything with me, and he produces all my stuff and plays with me live.
Is it weird talking to your friends back home, with you living this totally contrasting lifestyle?
It’s really weird. Nobody can really understand it. I understand that they can’t understand it, it’s just a pretty hard thing. I’ve definitely lost a lot of people. I would have lost them anyway no matter if I had what happened to me happen or not because that’s how lives work but it’s a really different thing. When I hang out with people I haven’t seen in a while, I say the things that are going on in my life and people think I’m bragging. I’m not bragging, I’m just telling you about my life. The things that happened to me are just part of my life and my experiences, and you ask me what I’ve been doing lately, so I’m telling you and I’m just being honest and telling you what they are — but it’s really different from what people are doing. I think the main thing to think about is for a while, people would get mad at me for not hanging out with them or not responding or being available but they don’t understand that what I’m doing is a job. It’s not some fun thing. It’s my job, and I actually have to do it. When I’m working, I’m working. Just because I’m 16 and it’s a different kind of job than working in an office from 9 to 5, it’s still work and it’s still my job. I still have to work hard.
It seems like you have a cool crop of artists surrounding you in L.A. Who else do you have your eyes on that you’d love to work with?
I have a lot of new artists that I listen to all the time. I really like finding new music. I found this guy, Bass Santana, that’s incredible. I really love Moses Sumney. He’s unbelievable. Brockhampton is incredible. Earl Sweatshirt. Tyler, the Creator. There’s really a lot. I could name a thousand people for you.
You’ve mentioned Tyler in a lot of your interviews. Have you met? What’s your favorite Tyler album?
Yeah, we met. It was really crazy and really random. I just met him because I was with my friend Leo, and Tyler was at the Golf Wang shop in L.A. that was pretty new. He was like, ‘Hey guys, come through,’ so we did. We just went and hung out with him in the back room of the shop and then we went outside. It was really sick and really random and so normal, which is crazy because he’s been such a big influence, and I know he probably doesn’t care at all but I care. He’s been such a part of my life, and he’s a genius.
The first album I heard of his, which really got me into his music, was Goblin, and especially the song ‘Goblin’ blew my mind a little bit because it’s so weird and so different, but I think Goblin and Wolf are so good to me. There are so many amazing songs on those albums, like, Jesus Christ.
On a different note, when did you start coming into your own as far as your style goes? Do you have a favorite piece?
I don’t know. I’m always changing. I think shoes are the best part for me. I love sports shoes and everything. I think my favorite shoes would be my black Air Jordan 15s because they’re so beautiful. I’m so in love with those shoes so that’s probably my favorite. With style, I’ve never really cared. When I was little, it wasn’t like I grew up caring a ton about fashion or beauty. I’ve never really cared about that stuff. It was more like clothes as a whole, not as fashion and that kind of thing. Clothing and fashion has always been my safety blanket. As Rihanna said as she was winning an award, she said that fashion is her defense mechanism, and I really resonated with that. That hit me, so clothing and visual art is the most important for me and always has been.
When you’re on tour, do you find that your fans are dressing like you?
Yo, what’s actually crazy is at all of my shows, like when I’m at a festival, if I see people wearing really sick outfits, they always are there to see me. I don’t mean that to sound cocky or anything. I just think it’s so sick because at all of my shows, my fans all look so sick and they dress so well. They always look really cool.
Do you feel like you know what’s coming next, or are you just creating and touring and whatever happens, happens?
It’s really that. What’s happening is happening. We’re definitely working on a lot of stuff, and there’s a lot of stuff coming.
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