Creating music can be an amazing way to channel emotions in a productive way. Music is also a conversational art form, meaning it is designed to foster a connection between the person expressing their emotion and the person listening and empathizing with that emotion. This is in part due to the reaction that human brains have to melody; the ear can differentiate between so many unique melodies and sounds, and the ability to associate different kinds of sounds with very distinct emotions is such a uniquely human thing. The beauty of that connection is unparalleled.
One of the best ways to create music is collaboratively; hardly any musicians write, record, mix, edit, and produce their own songs entirely by themselves, and especially none of the famous or successful ones. Creating a wide range of songs is an intensely complicated process and requires serious skill beyond just the ability to sing or play an instrument. Many artists rely on an entire team of professionals who are dedicated to creating with and for them, replicating and refining the sound they want to produce to ensure that the artist’s full vision is realized. However, some artists only create with a very small team of maybe one or two other people. Someone who is an almost perfect example of this is the new music sensation Billie Eilish.
Who Is Billie Eilish?
Billie Eilish was virtually unknown to the world a mere 4 years ago. When she was only 14, she uploaded the song “Ocean Eyes” for her dance teacher to see. Within 24 hours the song went viral and launched Billie into the world of music. She is now the first artist born in the 21st century who has topped a Billboard 200, and she almost swept the 2020 Grammys, winning five awards including Best NEw Artist, Best Song, and Best Album. Her songs have the unique quality of being able to subvert any genre and appeal to people of all ages. But what a lot of people don’t know is that Billie did not actually write the song that got her famous. It was her brother, Finneas O’Connell who wrote it for his band. He wanted to use Eilish’s vocals for the recording, so she performed on the track. If Billie got her start from her brother, people may wonder; does he write all her songs? How involved is he in her creative process?
Billie and Finneas Early Life
Billie and Finneas grew up in East Los Angeles in a suburban town known as Highland Park. They were both homeschooled by their mom, Maggie Baird and their dad, Patrick O’Connell. Their parents were both actors, and mostly did voice-over work. However, this did not pay the bills, so Billie’s dad also worked construction. One key factor in their upbringing though was the encouragement of their creativity to follow their interests and pour their emotions into something constructive. As a result, both Billie and her brother were both constantly surrounded by music in their house. Their mother wrote songs, and her father loved to play instruments like the ukulele and the piano. When she was eight years old, she joined a choir and started to develop her skills as a vocalist. She also took up dancing and acquired a passion for film. Around the same time, her brother Finneas formed a band of his own and started making music.
Finneas and Billie’s Album History and Awards
After “Ocean Eyes” went viral on SoundCloud, in 2016 Billie was signed to a record label. She then released a music video for the song that jump-started her career. The next year she released an EP called Don’t Smile at Me, and by the time she was 16 she was headlining a worldwide tour. She collaborated with Khalid in 2018 for the single, Lovely.
In 2019, she released Bad Guy which hit number 2 in the US on the singles chart. Later the same year, she became the youngest female solo artist to get a number one album in the UK.
At the beginning of 2020, Billie won a whopping 5 Grammys, becoming the youngest person to win Album of the Year. Finneas won Producer of the Year and Best Engineered Album in the Non-Classical genre. They also performed “When the Party’s Over” together at the award show.
Thought-provoking Music Video Concepts
One of the most interesting things about Billie’s career is her bold decisions when creating her own music videos. They all tell a story through visual artwork that compliment the sound and emotion of her songs. Her music video for “When the Party’s Over” is particularly haunting, and emotional for viewers to watch. Finneas wrote the entire song for Billie to sing. She has said before that either she writes her songs, her brother writes them or they collaborate 50/50 on them. Billie has said that she was inspired by a fan’s drawing that featured Billie with black ink dripping from her eyes. She was completely in awe of this imagery and decided she wanted to make a music video just like the drawing.
Her music video for the song “All the Good Girls Go To Hell” is about climate change. It shows imagery of oil spills and wildfires blazing. Eilish has spoken out before about her feelings toward the environment. For her 2020 tour, she has announced that there are no plastic straws allowed, and fans are encouraged to bring their own water bottles.
O’Connell’s Solo Career
As a producer and songwriter, Finneas is mostly known for his work collaborating with Billie. However, he does have a somewhat successful career creating solo works as well. He has released several non-album singles, starting with the song “New Girl”, which he released in 2016. His “stage name” is FINNEAS, and that is the name under which he releases all his music. His most popular song as a lead artist is the song “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night” which was released in 2019 on the album Blood Harmony. He also has several guest appearances and also has been a featured artist in works with Eli Way, his sister Billie Eilish, and Maggie Baird. However, the majority of his recognition comes as a songwriter and producer, writing for Billie, Rebecca Black, Camila Cabello, and Selena Gomez. He has won five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.
Creating music is a journey, and one that Billie Eilish knows very well. Her personal journey has involved heavy influence and collaboration with her brother, and the two have soared to heights that neither of them could have ever imagined. From here, they have nowhere to go but up, and their careers will be absolutely phenomenal if they continue to work together, to create unique sound, and to only create things that they believe in. Creating authentic, vulnerable, and relatable music is what got them where they are, and it will carry them into the future.