In the latest episode of the Song Exploder podcast, Billie Eilish reveals the nightmare fuel behind her hit “Everything I Wanted.”
Brother/collaborator Finneas told host Hrishikesh Hirway that song, which dropped last November, almost didn’t get released at all. “We were at the tail-end of working on Billie’s debut album and we were having that sort of second-guessing moment where we thought, ‘Do we have every song for this album? Should we try writing one or two more?’,” Finneas said in the episode, which included a discussion about the original voice memo that helped birth the song.
The siblings said they first began working on the track near the end of Sept. 2018 as they were wrapping work on Eilish’s Grammy-winning debut, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, with Finneas noting that they were wondering if they needed a few more songs to fill it out. Eilish said he’d had a dream the night before in which she jumped from a building to her death. “The whole dream was me watching how everything went after I’d died,” she said.
“I was there for it and I could see everything. I remember in the dream there were newspapers that said, ‘Problematic 16-year-old Billie Eilish has finally killed herself,'” she added. “And my best friends were doing an interview and they were like, ‘Oh, we never really liked her’.” If she’s being honest, the dream was kind of a compilation of all her dark thoughts at the time put into a “horrible, horrible reality.”
The scary thoughts stayed with her all through the next day, which made her feel “caught up” and “distracted” as they were trying to work her fears into a coherent track. So she did what she always does: she sat down with Finneas and they worked it out, spinning it into a single. The brother and sister also discuss how their close relationship and intimate understanding of what musical moods and lyrics make sense together have helped them become an unstoppable dynamic studio duo.
And while Finneas was happy to break down how he built the haunting piano into and low-key kick drum sound of the song, Eilish said he didn’t want her to write about the dream at first. “I think it was actually really scary to me to hear her articulate her depression in a way that was more obvious than she was making it on a day-to-day basis,” Finneas said, dissecting how their copious use of voice memos helps them corral their ideas and collect weird sounds that might be something in the future.
Listen to the episode, which includes the ghostly original voice memo recording, below.