Billie Eilish on her Apple TV+ docu The World’s a Little Blurry, and why she keeps going back to Frank Ocean's album Blonde
'It’s really nice to get to watch myself go through all these amazing things from another point of view,' says Billie Eilish on her upcoming Apple TV+ documentary The World’s a Little Blurry.
Billie Eilish can’t stop making lists.
“I’m just finding ways of enjoying life,” the 19-year-old singer-songwriter said late last month. “I really like cleaning my room and rearranging things.”
She’s also been working on the follow-up to her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? from 2019, which helped her win all four top Grammys — best new artist, record of the year, song of the year and album of the year — and made her the youngest person ever, and the first woman, to pull off the sweep.
It was the latest milestone in a meteoric rise chronicled in a new documentary, Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry, out on Apple TV+ on 26 February. But that doesn’t mean Eilish’s rapid ascent is easy for her to watch. “I’m watching it like, ‘Shut the [expletive] up,” she said. “It’s brutal. I’m like, ‘Don’t talk about that!’” (“It’s really nice to get to watch myself go through all these amazing things from another point of view,” she added of the “painfully honest” movie.)
The film, directed by RJ Cutler, traces a fairy tale career that has seen Eilish’s homemade songs streamed more than 1 billion times on digital platforms while she’s collected over 75 million followers on Instagram. It chronicles the creation of that award-winning LP, and was filmed from 2018 through early 2020.
Eilish has spent the past year enjoying recent milestones like voting, driving and accidentally ordering 70 boxes of Froot Loops online. She also wrote a song with Rosalía, 'Lo Vas a Olvidar' ('You Will Forget It'), which premiered during a special episode of the HBO series Euphoria.
In an interview from Los Angeles in late January — punctuated by occasional barks from her rambunctious pit bull, Pepper — Eilish shared her cultural essentials, including her lockdown listens and her dream first date.
Edited excerpts from the conversation.
1. The Strokes’ The New Abnormal
When I first found the album, I was going on a lot of bike rides. I would play the whole album on my speaker backpack and ride around random neighbourhoods, and it was always sunny and breezy and pretty and green. Julian Casablancas is just a genius — every time I hear his lyrics I think, “I would never think to say that.” That’s what I love about them — they’re so unexpected, but also relatable. Every single song is good.
2. Anything Scented
When I was growing up, everybody said I had a “Super Sniffer,” which is a phrase from the show Psych and basically means you can smell really well. I don’t know how, though, because my nose is very small! Mine is kind of extreme because I also have synesthesia, which is when your brain pairs two things automatically — every smell has a certain colour, number and day of the week. I have probably 100 perfumes, and I label the bottles with little pieces of paper so I can remember what they smell like to me. Some are very specific, like, “This one smells like a ballet class I used to be in,” or “This one smells like that one day we went to this person’s house and this person said this,” and some are more vague, like, “This Hawaiian Punch perfume I got at CVS (US drugstore chain) for $1 smells like 2015,” the whole year. Some are so strong that I can’t smell them at all anymore because I get overwhelmed with the memory.
3. Crossroads Kitchen
I’ve never been on a date — no one has ever taken me on a [expletive] date before! — but if I were to go on one, Crossroads would be the dream. It’s a vegan restaurant in Los Angeles, and it’s bomb. It’s the most delicious food ever. The meatball sub and chicken waffles are my go-tos. They’re both entrees, so every time I go they’re like, “What do you want?” and I’m like “The meatball sub,” and then they want to move on to the next person, but I’m like, “Also, the chicken waffles.” And I eat them both right up. I don’t have any leftovers afterward.
The first time I heard this song was on “The Little Rascals,” which was my favourite show when I was kid. All I wanted was to be a Little Rascal; I wanted to kiss Alfalfa so bad! There’s a scene where Darla sings 'I’m in the Mood for Love,' and I remember thinking it was such a pretty song. Then years and years went by, until one day, I was like, “What was that song that I thought was so pretty when I was little?” And I found a really beautiful, but low-quality, Frank Sinatra version on SoundCloud, which I listened to when I was traveling through Europe on tour. And then recently, I found this Julie London version, and she just murders it. She has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. It’s just such a perfect love song. Every time I hear it, no matter what I’m feeling, it makes me want love.
On tour we have a lot of waiting time — yes, tour, a thing from the past! — and I can’t really go outside because the fans are lined up around the block. But we come up with things to do. Our go-to game is Speed, which is a card game my assistant tour manager, Lauren Millar, taught me how to play on this really long bus ride in Russia — we played it for like two hours straight that day. And from then on we just played it nonstop. It started as kind of a time-taker-upper and ended as a thing we’d do when we were supposed to be doing other things.
6. We Need to Talk About Kevin
This movie has the most beautiful cinematography I’ve ever seen — everything about it is perfectly done, from the framing to the colours. It’s been one of my biggest inspirations for my own music videos. Every time I watch it I see something new that’s genius about the way it was shot.
Once I learned how to drive, it was all I wanted to do. It’s a place where I feel very free and anonymous and in control. I drive a black Dodge Challenger, which was my dream car growing up. I saved my money for years and years, and I used to be like, “I don’t want anyone to buy it for me because I want to buy it myself with my own money.” But then Justin [Lubliner], my label guy, a couple months before my birthday was like, “What do you want for your birthday, Billie?” and I, just jokingly, was like, “A Dodge Challenger, in matte black.” And I was like, “Just kidding, don’t get me that, obviously.” Then the night before my birthday, we did a photo shoot for the cover of my album, and at the end of the day Justin drove up in my dream car — I cried for probably three hours straight.
8. Weighted Blanket
My mom got one when I was 9 or 10 because she can’t fall asleep without a lot of weight on her — one time when she was younger, she woke up between her mattress and her bed frame! I had just been using hers, and then eventually I got my own. I get so much better sleep under it, and it’s a good physical affection tool when you don’t have any.
9. New Girl
I’ve seen this show like six times, and I just started rewatching it again. It’s just very entertaining and stupid and I love it. I watched it like 10 minutes ago right before I got on this call. I don’t ever get tired of it because the actors are so hilarious. Max Greenfield is just one of my favourite people — he’s so funny and so specifically himself. But Nick Miller is really just top-notch and is the best character. He’s trending on Twitter right now for some reason; I don’t know why. But I don’t blame Twitter. Nick Miller’s the GOAT.
10. Frank Ocean
Blonde is my go-to album to play any time at all, but especially when I need to relax. When I had a plaster mould made of my head for a photo shoot for the cover of Garage magazine a few years ago, I played Frank Ocean the entire hour so I wouldn’t have a panic attack. I haven’t gotten to meet him, but I don’t expect him to ever even come near me. He can stay being God up in the clouds.
Sarah Bahr c.2021 The New York Times Company
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