Birth name: Billie Eilish Pirate Baird
Birthplace: Los Angeles, CA
December 18, 2001- Present
Years Active: November 18, 2015- Present
By age 17, Billie Eilish had already made an impact on pop music history. In March 2019, she became the first artist born after 2000 to hold a #1 album, after her debut LP When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, shot to number one on the Billboard charts in Spring 2019. A few months later, Eilish would become the youngest artist in history to have been nominated for the “Big Four” Grammy Awards, consisting of Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. By the end of the year, Eilish was named the Billboard Woman of the Year and the Guardian artist of 2019.
Eilish was born in Los Angeles. The daughter of struggling actors, she and her brother, Finneas O’Connell, were homeschooled and surrounded by the arts. Their parents filled the house with instruments, and as a child Eilish would regularly create movies, sing in choirs, stage photo shoots, and write and perform music. As her mother, Maggie Baird, remarked, “We kind of had a rule in the house that no one would ever make you go to sleep if you were playing music– music trumped everything.”
As an adolescent, Eilish was passionate for dance, and it was through dance that she achieved musical stardom. In 2015, Eilish’s dance teacher inquired whether she could provide an original song to accompany a dance routine. Together with her brother, she produced the ballad “Ocean Eyes,” which O’Connell originally wrote for his band.
Once complete, they uploaded it to Soundcloud so that Eilish’s teacher could access it, and seemingly overnight, the song became a viral hit. A year later, she produced a video for “Ocean Eyes,” signed a contract with Darkroom and Interscope Records, and released a second single, “Six Feet Under.” Release through Darkroom and Interscope, Eilish’s 2019 EP Don’t Smile at Me featured collaborations by Khalid and Vince Staples. The EP reached the top 15 in charts in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
In 2019, Eilish and O’Connell produced the LP When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, much in the same way they produced “Ocean Eyes”: in their bedroom with minimal equipment. By June that year, the album became certified Double Platinum and was the best-selling record at that point of the year in the United States.
Musically, Eilish and O’Connell’s work has been termed “weirdo-pop,” “haunting,” “disruptive,” “creepy,” and “eccentric.” Eilish’s voice has been described as “whispery” and “ethereal” and compared to the work of Lorde and Lana Del Rey. While dismissing the comparison, Eilish has cited Lana Del Rey as an influence, in addition to Justin Bieber, SBTRKT, Aurora, Avril Lavigne, The Beatles, Amy Winehouse, My Chemical Romance, Daniel Caesar, Frank Sinatra, Tekno, Biig Piig, Scotty, The Killers, Zhu, Marina and the Diamonds, The Cardigans, Linkin Park, Rihanna, Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, and Childish Gambino. Live and in recordings, she has also covered songs by Drake, Michael Jackson, Elvis, Carla Morrison, Robyn, Labrinth, Rob Dickinson, Frank Ocean, and Phantogram.
Lyrically, Elish and O’Connell’s work has been recognized for its frank discussion of issues affecting adolescents that largely go unaddressed by industry-created teen-pop acts, such as mental health, addiction, and the climate crisis. Diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome and Synesthesia, Eilish has been an advocate for mental health, joining Aminé, Lindsey Sterling, Christina Perri, and Hayley Kiyoko in the mental health awareness Seize the Awkward Campaign. Eilish is also an advocate for addressing the climate crisis, marching with Greta Thunberg at student-led climate strikes and providing “Eco-Villages” at her concerts, where fans can learn more about becoming active in the fight against climate change.