Hoopla

16-year-old Billie Eilish takes on the world stage

Debut single, 'Ocean Eyes,' has gone gold in North America

Rising star Billie Eilish, 16, of Los Angeles, is selling out venues around the world and is landing in Iowa City on Monday night for a SCOPE concert in the Iowa Memorial Union. (Photo courtesy: High Rise PR)
Rising star Billie Eilish, 16, of Los Angeles, is selling out venues around the world and is landing in Iowa City on Monday night for a SCOPE concert in the Iowa Memorial Union. (Photo courtesy: High Rise PR)

When many teens are thinking about getting their driver’s license, Billie Eilish’s career is driving her around the world.

Just 16, the Los Angeles singer/songwriter is selling out venues in Europe, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. The North American leg of her tour, which began in her hometown on March 7, sold out in under an hour.

And on Monday night (4/2), she’ll bring her electropop sounds to Iowa City, for a SCOPE concert in the Second Floor Ballroom at the Iowa Memorial Union. Opening act is Reo Cragun. Tickets are still available.

“When people come to my shows, I don’t want them to watch me do a show. I want them to be with me and perform with me."

- Billie Eilish, singer/songwriter

Hoopla caught up with Eilish as she was arriving in Washington, D.C., after spending a day and a half on the road from Atlanta. She travels with her parents and her brother, producer, co-writer and performing partner, Finneas O’Connell, 19. No sibling rivalry there. She likes that their writing methods vary, from working independently to working together.

“It’s always different,” she said. “If you write in the same way over and over again, like in the same place with the same techniques and with the same people, you’re sort of writing the same song over and over again. To kind of refresh your mind is sort of fun, and he’s my best friend, so that makes it easier.”

She’s working on her debut album, riding a wave of popularity off her debut single, “Ocean Eyes,” which has gone gold in North America. So how are fans finding her? Online. Last year’s debut EP, “dont smile at me,” has amassed 363 million streams worldwide.

It’s a little heady and a little puzzling for her.

“I don’t really know,” she said, “because I feel like there are a lot of different ways to find any type of (music). Obviously people started to get to know me when I released a song called ‘Ocean Eyes’ on SoundCloud. That was ‘it,’ but since then the growth has been from so many different areas, which I think is really cool.

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“A lot of it is my Instagram. Some people will see videos of me singing on YouTube, and I see comments like, ‘Wait, this is that girl on Instagram? I didn’t know she was an artist.’ ‘Well, that’s what I am, and I also have an Instagram.’ It’s kinda cool, because if people like me, I don’t care why they like me.

“It’s been wild. There’s a lot of different ways to find people now. The internet is (expletive) insane.”

And those fans who flock to her concerts run the gamut.

“I see tons of different people, like all ages really,” she said. “The only thing they have in common is that they all dress really well. This is what I’ve noticed: Whenever I have a show, and we’re driving to the venue, if I see a bunch of teens, mostly, who are waiting in line, I see a bunch of kids that look really tight; they look sick. They’re dressed, like really, really dope. ... I realize they’re there for me, which is (expletive) crazy. Those are people that I think are cool — that’s the world that I’m from.

“It’s really all over the place. All kinds of different people come. ... They like the art that I make because of the art that it is, instead of any hype or any kind of social climbing element. They’re just there for the art, which I really respect.”

She eschews trying to describe her music in terms of any certain genre.

“If it’s good music, it’s good music,” she said. “If I’m inspired to make a certain kind of song, I’m going to make that kind of song, no matter if it’s what they know me as or think I am. I’m gonna make what I want to make, and other people are gonna like what they’re gonna like. It doesn’t really matter. My sound is up to everyone else to feel out and make it their own.”

She’s been writing and performing her own songs since age 11, drawing inspiration from everywhere.

“My inspiration comes from literally anything you could name,” she said. “I can be walking down the street, see a flat tire, and it could spark something in my brain that reminds me of (something).”

The daughter of musical parents, she’s home-schooled. She can’t imagine being anything other than a singer. “What was weird was meeting people who didn’t have music around them.”

In concert, she wants to bring the audience into her world, creating an experience for them.

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“When people come to my shows, I don’t want them to watch me do a show. I want them to be with me and perform with me. I’m not above anyone, I’m not below anyone — we’re all equal. I just want to have fun and for people to just feel me. If I have a song you feel is like your life and involves you in any way, then it does. Pretend I wrote it about you, because that’s what I’m going for — you.”

Get out!

WHAT: Billie Eilish with Reo Cragun

WHERE: Second Floor Ballroom, Iowa Memorial Union, 125 N. Madison St., Iowa City

WHEN: 8 p.m. Monday (4/2)

TICKETS: $20 students, $25 general admission, Imu.uiowa.edu/tickets

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