Los Angeles upstart Billie Eilish was just 13 years old when she uploaded her woozy love song “Ocean Eyes” to Soundcloud, only to see it go viral almost overnight. Two years later, the song joins a host of other gloom-pop jams as part of Eilish’s debut EP, dont smile at me. ?
While on tour to promote the album, the burgeoning star took a moment with Billboard to talk breaking rules and breaking through.
GO-GETTER Homeschooled by actor/musician parents, Eilish (pronounced “eye-lish”) was taking dance classes and singing in the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus by 8 years old. With help from her older brother Finneas, a budding producer, she wrote her own songs for choreography. “I was always singing. People had to shut me up,” she says. “I’m still like that.”
BREAKTHROUGH She began to make moves at 13 with the moody “Ocean Eyes,” which she uploaded to SoundCloud to share with her dance teacher. The song went viral overnight and now has over 19 million Spotify plays. “Everything came to me at once,” says Eilish, who signed to Darkroom/Interscope in November 2016. “I just beamed [with] joy.”
RULE-BENDER “I hate the idea of genres,” says Eilish, whose August debut EP, dont smile at me, draws from trap, hip-hop and grunge. “I don’t think a song should be put in a category.” The approach is working: The set peaked at No. 20 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart and earned Twitter co-signs from Charli XCX and Tove Lo.
ON TAP Eilish is on tour to promote her EP, with hopes of eventually launching a clothing line and directing music videos. “People ask me what I want to have accomplished in 10 years,” she says. “What I say is, I don’t want to have taken all of this for granted.”