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Billie Eilish has reason to smile these days after her sophomore album Happier than Ever held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart for three consecutive weeks. Not that she’s paying attention.
“I’ve been ignoring it,” the 10-time Grammy Award winner told The Hollywood Reporter during a recent Disney+ press day for Happier than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles, the cinematic concert experience that finds Eilish performing the album start to finish. “I’ve been scared that people are going to hate it, so I don’t really know how well it’s doing. People keep asking, ‘So, how do you feel about how well your album is doing?’ I’m like, ‘It is?’ I know that that’s stupid because it’s like, ‘Well, pay attention,’ but it’s scary out there — scary and mean — and I don’t want to see it.”
The 19-year-old is eyes wide open on the Disney+ special, directed by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez in collaboration with Oscar-winner Patrick Osborne. Eilish is proud of the work, a mix of live-action and animation, and calls it “an incredibly surreal” experience that translated to a beautiful film. She performs from the stage of the Hollywood Bowl alongside songwriter-producer brother Finneas, the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, the L.A. Philharmonic (conducted by Gustavo Dudamel) and renowned guitarist Romero Lubambo.
Ahead of its Sept. 3 debut, Eilish talked about her vision for the special (“It deserved something like this”), collaborating with Rodriguez (“One of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met”), and whether she would make the leap to acting one day (“If I fall in love with something”).
You have such a clear vision for all the filmed projects that you do. Why did you decide to partner with Disney on bringing Happier Than Ever to life in this way?
It deserved something like this. For me, at least. I don’t know if anyone would agree, but I love this project. I knew that I wanted it to have some other life in some other dimension that I’ve never experimented in, and that’s Disney. I wanted to do a concert film, and I’ve never done anything like this. It was an incredibly surreal experience. I hope that it’s going to be a really beautiful experience to watch because it’s my whole album in order, which I’ve never done before, which nobody does. I’ve always wanted to do that. It’s going to be beautiful. I mean, it’s really going to be beautiful.
You’ve also got an eye for directors. How did you land on Robert Rodriguez and Patrick Osborne?
It was, for me, a big multimedia thing because we knew that we wanted it to be interspersed with animation. We wanted somebody that knows how to make a beautiful film and somebody who also knows how to make a beautiful animated piece at the same time. They were just perfect choices, really. They really took the lead. I was like, “Guys, please do your thing. I don’t want to intervene. I trust you, and you’re going to make it look beautiful.” Of course, they were always coming over to me and asking, “Does this feel good? What about this…” I love that so much and appreciate it when people do that because it means a lot to me when I am asked for my input at all. It was great. Robert is one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met in my life, for real.
It feels special to talk to you right now after the album is continuing its No. 1 streak on the Billboard charts. What does that mean to you?
It means the world. I feel like I should go in and find out how well it’s actually doing because I’ve been ignoring it. I’ve been scared that people are going to hate it. So, I really don’t know. I don’t really know how well it’s doing. I really don’t. People keep asking, “So, how do you feel about how well your album is doing?” I’m like, “It is?” I know that that’s stupid because it’s like, “Well, pay attention.” But it’s scary out there — scary and mean — and I don’t want to see it. I’ve been trying to not look. But I love to hear any of the things that people have to say, good things. What I have heard has been amazing and just have made my life. I’m over the moon happy that this album has done what I wanted it to do, mostly.
Is that a shift for you?
Kind of. I used to literally read every single comment on every single platform — YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, all of everything. That’s not worked so well for me lately. When you get bigger and bigger, more people know you, therefore more people hate you. That’s just how it goes. Because it’s so scary and mean, I don’t want to see it.
It is scary and mean.
Yeah. But it’s okay.
How did the pandemic impact your creative process in putting the album together?
Honestly, it feels bad to say this, but I couldn’t have made this album if it weren’t for COVID. Even if I had been able to make an album, it wouldn’t have been this one. I wouldn’t have been this person that I am right now. I have been going and going and going for years, and I’ve not had a moment to breathe and process my life. Lockdown was the first break that I got in years. Actually, it was appalling because I was like, oh, my God, how many things have gone on that I haven’t even been able to look back on and breathe? I was always looking at the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. [This time period] led to a lot of self-realization. I made an album because of it, because of literally realizing what I’d been through in the last four years and finally processing it. I have to thank the world for giving me that, I guess, even though… I don’t know.
I wanted to ask about one line on the album, which hit me hard and I’ve seen a lot of people zero in on it: “Things I once enjoyed just keep me employed now.”
I don’t know what to say because that’s it. I basically said it. To an extent, that’s how life is. That chorus always bums me out when I hear it, especially the second half, because it’s one of the most truthful things I’ve ever said. “Things I’m longing for, someday, I’ll be bored of.” Really gets to me every time I hear it. I’ve always been a person who focuses on the things in the future to keep me going or to get excited for. Thinking about what’s going to be really fun, but when it’s over, or even when it’s going on or you’re used to it and it’s not as fun anymore, all of these things. That’s just how life goes. It keeps moving and things keep being exciting, then lame, then exciting, then lame. It’s so weird. Life is weird.
Life is weird. Speaking of the future, do you have aspirations to act? It would seem a natural next step.
If I fall in love with something, I would love to act in it. It would only have to be the right thing because I’m not an actor and I’m not… It’s not my calling, but I’ve always loved acting. I loved acting as a kid. I would have to really, really feel a connection and have a moment of just, I don’t know, love for it.
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