Billie Eilish’s new book details a sneaky Halloween costume, her love of moshing, and more
- The ‘Lovely’ and ‘Ocean Eyes’ singer-songwriter shares the story behind some of her book’s photos in an audiobook ‘Billie Eilish: In Her Own Words’
- She discusses performing at a slumber party and being inspired by the 2014 horror film ‘The Babadook’
At only 19, Billie Eilish is already one of the most famous singers on the planet.
She’s charted a string of hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100, racked up more than 80 million Instagram followers, taken home seven Grammys and sold out headlining tours. Most recently, she’s graced the cover of British Vogue and is gearing up to drop her second album, Happier Than Ever, on July 30 .
But in her first book, titled Billie Eilish (Grand Central Publishing), Eilish lets fans into her life like never before, sharing a collection of pictures from her childhood, vacations, shows and more.
Though the book is largely a photo collection, Eilish offers candid commentary and reflections on some of the photos in an audiobook, Billie Eilish: In Her Own Words. Here are some highlights from the two projects.
She was almost Pirate instead of Billie
The book includes many tidbits about Eilish’s childhood, including adorable baby memories from her parents, Maggie Baird and Patrick O’Connell. One fun fact is that Eilish almost had a different first name, thanks to her older brother and future songwriting partner, Finneas O’Connell.
While Baird was pregnant with Eilish, then-four-year-old Finneas, who was going through a major pirate phase, would call his baby sister “Pirate” — and the name almost stuck.
“They called me pirate for months, and they were kind of planning on naming me Pirate,” Eilish said. “And soon before I was born, my grandfather died, and his name was William, aka Bill, Billie. And that’s where my name came from.”
But the Pirate suggestion wasn’t totally shot down. Instead, it became one of her middle names, making her full name Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell.
One of her first gigs was a slumber party
Some singers are lucky enough to launch their careers on massive platforms, like American Idol or The Voice. But Eilish got her start at a venue that was much more low-key: a slumber party when she was 13.
“We were throwing glitter,” Eilish said of the sleepover, which included girls from her dance company. “It was very cute.”
Toward the end of the night, each girl shared a talent, prompting Eilish to pick up her guitar.
“We’re all sitting in this circle, and they’re like, ‘Billie, sing a song for us!’ And I was gassed up,” she said. “It was the first time I’d ever performed for a group of people that I knew really, besides talent shows and stuff on my own.”
But singing for fellow teens was also intimidating. “I looked up to all these girls,” Eilish recalled. “I thought they were all cool.”
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Eilish sang Secret by Missy Higgins. Though she swears she sounded “so bad”, everyone at the sleepover disagreed.
“I was so nervous. My voice was all shaky. My voice cracked like five times. I was terrible. And I remember thinking, ‘Oh God, they’re gonna think I suck,’” she said. “And I remember at this sleepover, they were like, ‘You could be up there with Tinashe.’ And I was like, ‘Never. I would never.’”
Singer-songwriter Tinashe also has roots at the teen dance company that Eilish was in, though Eilish never expected to follow in the R&B singer’s footsteps.
“They would always talk about how Tinashe used to dance at this company, and they would always be like, ‘It’s so crazy she got so famous,’” Eilish said. “And I remember being like, ‘Wow, that’s so cool. Nobody’s ever gonna top that.’”
She copes with fame in creative ways
Being mega-famous has its perks – but a downside is getting swarmed by fans when out in public. So when Eilish set out to trick-or-treat for Halloween in 2019, she knew she needed a costume that could double as a disguise. She took a note from Charlie Brown and cut holes into a bedsheet for a homemade ghost costume.
“I was like, ‘I need to make a costume that I can hide in,’” said Eilish, who found the extra sheet in her attic. “And so I actually did go trick-or-treating that year and was a ghost, and it was really fun.”
Though Eilish wanted to conceal her image, her friends and family decided to embrace it by dressing up as Eilish for Halloween.
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“I had this party, and I was like, ‘Everybody has to dress up,’” she said. “And, of course, without any of them communicating with each other, they all dressed up as Billie Eilish. It was very funny.”
The best Eilish costume of the night, however, went to the pop star’s mom, who had the advantage of her daughter’s wardrobe.
“She had the best Billie Eilish costume on Earth because it was literally the exact outfit that I wore,” the singer said.
She’ll jump into any mosh pit
Eilish may be known for her soft vocals and intimate lyrics, but that doesn’t mean the teen doesn’t like to get rowdy. During the summer of 2016, Eilish attended her first music festival, FYF Fest, where she discovered her love of mosh pits.
“It was one of the most fun moments of my life,” she said of her first time moshing. “It was the day that I realized that a mosh pit is really the only place that I will ever feel that type of freedom.”
Ever since that festival, Eilish says she’d “go in any mosh pit” – the wilder the better.
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“I don’t care if I would break a bone,” she said. “It’s the most freeing feeling to be just in a group of people that don’t care about you... It’s such a good vibe when it’s good people.”
Eilish loves moshing so much she’s made it a personal goal to start a pit at all her shows, so her fans can “be the same way I was at this festival.”
“I’ve really chased that feeling,” she said. “And I can’t stand a crowd that won’t jump. I’d rather just not do a show than have a crowd that won’t move. And it all comes from being a fan when I was younger and wanting to move and jump in a crowd.”
A horror movie inspired her first album – and synesthesia inspired the release party
According to Eilish’s mom, the 2014 horror film The Babadook inspired her daughter’s debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Later, Eilish even received her own copy of the creepy pop-up book from the movie.
“She was so excited to get a copy of this book because she was obsessed with the movie,” Baird said. “She made me watch it, and it was so good. It was so interesting and psychological.”
When the album came out, Eilish threw quite the release party. She said every room at the venue had “a number, a color, a shape, a smell, a temperature – everything you can imagine that goes with synesthesia”.
Psychology Today describes synesthesia as a neurological condition: “when one sense is activated, another unrelated sense is activated at the same time.” Eilish experiences this and says it helps her write music.
“(The party) was so much fun,” she added. “I hope to do something like that for every drop I do.”