Billie Eilish’s ascension to superstardom is as fascinating as it is historic. After a series of injuries sidelined her dance aspirations in 2015, the homeschooled wunderkind soon discovered her passion and talent for music. Her life changed forever when she and her older brother Finneas O’Connell self-published her performing a song he’d written called “Ocean Eyes.” Billie, still just 13, became a viral sensation overnight.
The siblings continued writing and recording music at home and in the span of a few short years she’s put out a string of hits amassing over a billion streams and has also became the first artist born in this millennium with a no. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
On Monday, the 17-year-old pop star made her first visit to the Stern Show studio. Howard was enthralled by her story and curious about her meteoric rise to success.
“Do you ever worry that it happened too fast?” he asked her.
“I did for a second,” Billie revealed. “There’s a part of me that feels like … I didn’t get to be a teenager— like, a normal one.” Ultimately, however, she told Howard she’s grateful success came-a-knockin’ so early on. “If this hadn’t happened at that age, I would’ve been doing some reckless shit,” she said.
Finneas joined Billie in the studio on Monday. While the two spend a great deal of time together writing music and touring packed arenas across the country, she’s the one with millions of online followers who gets to perform upside down on “Saturday Night Live” while performing her hit track “Bad Guy,” which they both wrote. Howard wondered how Finneas felt about his younger sister getting the lion’s share of the limelight.
“Honestly, I think she so deserves it,” he said. “When I’m on stage with her … I just watch her, like, kill it every night and it’s very inspiring for me.”
Billie doubted her brother would even enjoy being the center of attention. “I think Finneas would hate the shit out of my life if he had it,” she told Howard with a laugh.
In addition to getting candid about her relationship with her brother and her parents—who later joined their children in the studio to say hello to Howard—Billie opened up about the one and only date she’d ever been on, which ended in disaster.
One of the only dates @billieeilish has ever been on ended with the boy being brought home by his butler and a random baby crying in the future pop star's face. https://t.co/SpqWbe5noK
“It was when I was 13. It was at the movies … it was the day before Valentine’s Day, and then he kissed me and said, ‘That was not as magical as I thought it would be,’” Billie recalled. The guy wound up ditching her at the theater, leaving with his butler. Billie then tried to find comfort in the smiling face of a nearby baby—who screamed, cried, and ran away as soon as Billie looked in its direction.
“No wonder she doesn’t like to date,” Stern Show co-host Robin Quivers remarked.
No one runs away from Billie these days. She has more fans than she can count as well as relationships with a variety of entertainers, from her recent “SNL” co-conspirator Woody Harrelson to Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and Grammy-nominated singer Avril Lavigne. Eilish said she’s generally calm and collected when interacting with celebrities she admires, but less so whenever she crosses paths with singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey.
“I love Lana,” Billie told Howard, adding, “Around her I just turn into a little, floppy, baby child.”
All those nerves seem to go away when Billie takes the stage. Her concerts have been described as mesmerizing, and on Monday she and Finneas were kind enough to give Stern Show listeners a taste of what it’s like to see them live, performing two tunes in the studio beginning with “All the Good Girls Go to Hell,” the sixth single off her debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”
“We wrote the chorus, like the hook, in 2016, but then we wrote the rest last year,” Billie explained before she and Finneas wowed Howard with an arrangement of the track they'd only recently finished.
Before digging into the next song, “When the Party's Over,” Howard asked Billie about the making of the music video, which memorably featured her crying out a viscous black liquid. She confirmed the shoot was grueling and the fake blood they used stung her eyes but said making music videos is still one of her favorite things to do as an artist.
When Howard asked her about the meaning behind the song, however, Billie was reluctant to overshare and potentially deprive her fans of their own interpretations. “I’d rather shut the fuck up and let you decide,” she laughed.
After dazzling listeners with two of Billie’s most beloved songs, Howard asked her and Finneas to peel back the curtain on their writing process. So, Billie began to improvise with her brother right then and there, writing a tune on the spot about the difficulties of sleep paralysis.
While that song might not appear on Billie’s next album, she told Howard she was grateful for the opportunity to write music for his audience live on the air. “I love this interview,” she told him. “We did things that I very much enjoyed. I hope you know that. This whole song thing? I liked that a lot. Nobody ever makes us do anything interesting.”
“We also grew up listening to this show all the time,” Finneas added, explaining their parents are Stern Show superfans. As they were listening in the green room, Howard decided to bring them in for a chat and congratulate them for raising such talented children.
“Look what you produced, you two!” Howard excitedly told Billie and Finneas' mom and dad.