Billie Eilish remembers who she is on 'Hit Me Hard and Soft' Speaking alongside brother/collaborator Finneas, Eilish says she discovered a new self-awareness on Hit Me Hard and Soft, after years of seeing herself through others' eyes.

Billie Eilish finally remembers who she is

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1251790138/1252012853" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Billie Eilish has won nine Grammys, two Oscars and every single album she's released has hit No. 1. She did most of those things before she could legally drink. She was just 13 when her first song went viral, which means she's grown up in the public eye and social media spotlight.

BILLIE EILISH: It's literally horrible. I struggle with, like, you know, I'm figuring myself out and this is something I learned about myself, and instead of just getting to feel how it feels to learn something about myself, I have to hear about what everyone else thinks about it.

FADEL: Today, at a more self-assured 22, Eilish releases her new album, "Hit Me Hard And Soft."

EILISH: I think for this album, I finally got over the need to prove everyone wrong, and it wasn't about explaining myself. It was just about expressing myself.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BIRDS OF A FEATHER")

EILISH: (Singing) Birds of a feather, we should stick together. I know I said I'd never think I wasn't better alone.

FADEL: I spoke recently with Billie Eilish and her brother/producer/co-writer, Finneas.

EILISH: My voice has just completely matured and changed and grown, and I'm able to do things that I never thought I would be able to. And it's been, like, the most amazing journey ever. And I think with "Hit Me Hard And Soft," that's one thing I feel very proud of with this album.

FADEL: Is there any one song where you were like, hey, I did that with my voice.

EILISH: Oh, my God, yeah. The main one that I couldn't even believe that I hit was in "Birds Of A Feather. " There's , like, a belt kind of at the last chorus. I remember just being like, oh, I should probably go up there, but I don't - I really don't think I can. And I remember, like, trying everything else that I could possibly do instead of that. And then I was like, you know what? I'm just going to have to try. And I never thought I would have gotten it, and I sat there, and I did it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BIRDS OF A FEATHER").

EILISH: (Singing) But if it's forever, it's even better. Till the day I die.

And I really, like - oh, my God, I felt so accomplished. I was so excited about it. I feel so proud of that moment.

FADEL: Finneas, I want to bring you in here. Some of these arrangements are spare, Billie's voice really shining, some are very lush and layered. I'm interested to know about the secret sounds a producer layers into a mix. Do you have a favorite example here?

FINNEAS: I don't have a favorite example. I think that what I always try to go for - anything production-wise that's going to inspire her. If it's a song like "Skinny" where I'm sitting with a, you know, electric guitar, playing as we're sitting there writing, to me, it's just about helping to articulate what I think of as, like, the story and the sentiment of the song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SKINNY")

EILISH: (Singing) People say I look happy just because I got skinny. But the old me is still me and maybe the real me. And I think she's pretty.

FADEL: How has your approach to working together changed since "Ocean Eyes, " that first single of years?

FINNEAS: The real sort of truth is that we've just gotten better and better at communicating and articulating. And just like Billie's talking about with her vocal confidence, you know, "Ocean Eyes," we're talking about a person who had, like, barely ever produced anything. And now we've made her albums together. I've produced some other music for other artists. And I've just had more hours behind the keyboard, so to speak. Making this album felt for me like two people who had the opportunity to learn their craft over the last seven years.

FADEL: I mean, I'm one of five kids, and I love my siblings, but we also fight like crazy. Do you guys ever get sick of each other? Do you ever fight over the process?

EILISH: We don't get sick of each other, but we definitely fight. It's almost, like, better that it happens because you can't really burn bridges. I mean, you can, but it takes a lot more effort. And, you know, I think that when Finneas and I have a disagreement, we don't waste time trying to be nice. We kind of just, you know, politely-ish say, I don't like that. If we do get into an argument, we're siblings and we'll get through it because we love each other.

FADEL: Is there any specific song on the album where you kind of duked it out and the finished product was a product of you guys working through it?

FINNEAS: I feel like the song "Blue" was a song that really puzzled us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLUE")

EILISH: (Singing) Too afraid to step outside, paranoid and petrified of what you've heard. But they could say the same about me. I sleep about three hours...

FADEL: And I heard you on that one, right?

FINNEAS: No, I think that's...

FADEL: Oh (laughter).

FINNEAS: I'm glad we're talking about that. That's Billie. OK, so we wrote that part in a different key and then we shifted it. And when you shift a vocal, it changes the formant, you know, to lower it down. And so it's just Billie's voice pitched down.

FADEL: Oh.

FINNEAS: But, you know, I'm prepared for everybody to think it's me. But it is Billie.

FADEL: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLUE")

EILISH: (Singing) And I could say the same about you - grew up famous, too. Just a baby born blue, now.

FINNEAS: "Blue" has elements of a piece of music from before Billie's first album came out. It has elements of a piece of music from Billie's second album that never came out. We were both so puzzled by it that I think we had a lot of sort of debate about what to do for various parts. And the first half we were like, you know, like, doesn't feel right. And I remember I just layered, like, drums on it and it, like, changed the whole vibe for Billie.

EILISH: Changed everything.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLUE")

EILISH: (Singing) But I'm not what you need, not what you need. I'd like to mean it when I say I'm over you. But that's not true, true.

FADEL: That must be a blessing, to have that safe space with somebody you've known your whole life that you know you can trust in those moments that you're experimenting and figuring it out with the music before anybody else ever hears it.

EILISH: Oh, my God, it's awesome. You know, when I talk to fellow artist friends of mine in the studio with some random person they don't know, I'm like how the even hell are you going to do that? I think that being with my brother and having him be someone who knows me so well and sees me so well - sometimes he can see something that I'm doing or something I'm feeling before I even know that I'm doing or feeling it. And that is really powerful and special. And I think without that, it would be really different.

FADEL: That was Billie Eilish and Finneas. They have collaborated once again on a new album. It's called "Hit Me Hard And Soft." Thank you both and congratulations on a beautiful album.

EILISH: Thank you.

FINNEAS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUNCH")

EILISH: (Singing) Call me when you're there. Said, I bought you something rare and I left it under Claire. So now she's coming up the stairs, so I'm pulling up a chair and I'm putting up my hair.

Copyright © 2024 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.