How Did Billie Eilish Get Famous?

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Have you ever wondered how your favourite artists got signed, went viral or amassed so many followers on social media?

She’s recorded a Bond theme song, blown up on SoundCloud, won Grammys and collaborated with some of the coolest names in the industry. All while still in her teens and from a humble start, producing tunes in her bedroom. So how did Billie Eilish get famous?

Read on to find out how the singing-songwriting sensation got noticed and made it big in the music and movie composition world.

What is Billie Eilish famous for?

How Did Billie Eilish Get Famous?
Photo: Justin Higuchi

Billie Eilish (full name Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell) was born in Los Angeles on December 18, 2001. She’s just 5ft 3ins and known for a confident demeanour that belies her 19 years.  Billie’s net worth is already around 6 million dollars. She’s also a passionate vegan, conservationist and environmental activist.

But it was her debut EP that took the music world by storm in 2017 when she was just 16 years old. At the February 2020 Grammys, Billie took home five awards, from six nominations, cleaning up and setting a record. One of the gongs was for the song Bad Guy, written with her brother and recorded in a bedroom at their family home.

She’s known for tracks including Bellyache, Bag Guy and Lovely (feat. Khalid).  Much of her appeal is in the way she puts her heart and soul into the songs, with a sense of poetry and deep meaning. Heartbreak, loneliness, jealousy and pain are recurring themes in her relatable lyrics.

When did Billie Eilish start singing?

Eilish was homeschooled, something that many say contributes to her independent and unique style It’s her. She’s certainly carved out her own place in a tough industry and endeared herself to an entire generation. In an interview with NME she talked about singing from an early age:

“When people ask, ‘When did you start singing?’, I think that’s a dumb question. I was always singing and making up melodies and that was normal for our family to do that. I’d meet families who didn’t do that and I’d think ‘what the hell?”.

Is Billie Eilish signed to a record label?

Yes, but she started writing and singing (and dancing) from a very young age. And Eilish wasn’t shy to take music-making into her own hand. She began producing her first full song at 11, for her mother’s songwriting class.

It wasn’t until her dance teacher asked her to record a number to choreograph to, that she took to a streaming platform and released a number, that became an overnight hit, going on to feature in the movie Everything, Everything. It was through the service SoundCloud that Billie Eilish made it in October 2015. She recorded and uploaded the song for free download. It went viral almost immediately and later that year the song was released as her debut single.

Billie Eilish’s record label  

Few people are picked up just from releasing music on a streaming platform alone. But it does happen from time to time. As Billie’s song attracted such attention from subscribers and listeners so quickly, she caught the eyes of major record labels. While landing a record deal is hugely competitive, talent scouts from these organisations are dedicated to discovering new talent.

This means anyone making a splash on streaming sites is likely to be noticed by someone, somewhere. Billie’s track was different, exciting and innovative, just what this label was seeking. The star not only caused a stir on streaming sites. Her YouTube channel quickly gained traction and now has over 39 million subscribers.

Who signed Billie Eilish?

Releasing the home-recorded number as a full single she then went on to record her first EP: Don’t Smile At Me with Darkroom in 2017. This was just two years after being spotted on Soundcloud. Darkroom/Interscope Records (label for artists including Eminem, Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, Maroon 5, Selena Gomez, and U2) noticed this new young singer and snapped her up.

Billie Eilish’s record deal   

Eilish signed with Darkroom/Interscope in November 2016 just ahead of her 15th birthday. This year she embarks on a major international tour: Where Do We Go? Her first studio album by the same name reached the number one spot in the Billboard 200 chart after being released in March 2019.

Bad Guy took number one place on the Billboard Hot 100 in August of the same year. And she’s the youngest female to have ever had a number one single at age 17. It certainly takes a special kind of talent to achieve this kind of fame and respect from the music industry.

How did Ocean Eyes go viral?

This first ‘proper’ song was Ocean Eyes. It was written by her brother, but he thought it suited her better, so Billie sang, with both of the siblings producing the track.

In an interview with Teen Vogue, Eilish talked about the meteoric rise of that first track:

“We had no intentions for it, really. But basically, overnight a ton of people started hearing it and sharing it. Hillydilly, a music discovery website, found it and posted it and it just got bigger and bigger. It was really surreal. Then, Danny Rukasin, who is now my manager, reached out to my brother and was like, ‘dude, this is going to get huge and I think you’re going to need help along the way. I want to help you guys.’ We were like, ‘that’s swag!’”.

With so much new music appearing on platforms, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. Sites like Hillydilly help music lovers find the hottest new tracks, sifting through tunes and producing recommendations, playlists and charts. It’s a great way to keep up with the latest trends. Hillydilly is no longer in operation (it closed its virtual doors after 13 years), but there are plenty of other sites for discovering new music.

How Billie Eilish rose to fame

Billie has amassed over 54 million monthly listeners on the streaming service Spotify and over 50 million followers on Instagram. While her music is stand-out fantastic, she has many other aspects of her image that attracts fans. Her ability to emote songs is superb, and she rocks her own style – Eilish has often said she might have become a fashion designer, if not a singer. She also dances, has a distinct air of self-assuredness and has tons of attitude – especially when it comes to being a trailblazing woman in music.

“I’ve spoken a lot to female artists about this because if you’re not a female artist you probably don’t think about this. If I was a guy and I was wearing these baggy clothes, nobody would bat an eye. There are people out there saying, ‘Dress like a girl for once! Wear tight clothes you’d be much prettier and your career would be so much better!’ No, it wouldn’t. It literally would not.” (This was Billie Eilish speaking to NME in 2019).

Billie Eilish’s musical influences

Early influences and the acts we listen to have a big impact on our music – this especially applies to songwriters. So who were (and are) Eilish’s influences? She loves rap music and R&B, as well as some pop singers. Here are some of her favourites:

  • Tyler The Creator
  • Earl Sweatshirt
  • Odd Future
  • Brockhampton
  • Lana Del Rey
  • Amy Winehouse
  • Chance the Rapper
  • Ski Mask
  • The Slump God
  • Xavier Omar
  • Nicki Minaj
  • The Beatles
  • Marina and the Diamonds
  • Aurora

Your biggest influences in music will often have a huge impact on your creative output. So consider who you’re listening to and how they are moulding your songwriting.  Billie has playlists of songs that inspired her very first album.

Does Billie Eilish write her own songs?

Yes, but she doesn’t do it alone. However, unlike many major artists who have teams of collaborators plucked by their record label, Eilish likes to shut herself away with her nearest and dearest – brother Finneas.

The record-breaking artist has said that she likes to write in the treehouse in her backyard. It was made by her father and is a favourite haunt especially when it’s stormy outside. Taking just a ukulele and notebook, she finds this great place to be inspired. As she creates her own music, she’s able to sing it exactly as she imagines it sounding, and can write numbers that suit her to a tee, as opposed to adapting other people’s compositions.

Billie Eilish’s brother

We couldn’t talk about Billie without mentioning Finneas, her now almost as famous brother. She often described him as both her ‘big brother and best friend’. He’s her older sibling – five years Billie’s senior. Both have Scottish and Irish Heritage, which may play into their musical style. Finneas is an actor and musician who co-writes much of the pair’s music. He has been near as responsible for their success.

Finneas has suggested that around 75-80% of their songs are written with them sitting next to each other at a piano or with a guitar, singing a melody together. They have a relay type method, where they ‘kill it’ to the end.

Billie Eilish’s parents

A creative career runs in the family. The siblings’ parents are both successful actors (Maggie Baird and Patrick O’Connell) and their mother is an accomplished screen and songwriter. Baird spoke to Variety, of her time teaching her children to pen songs, in one of her own classes.

“I always say it was actually the Beatles who taught them to write songs. Because the class was for kids, I had to simplify it: ‘Here’s “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” let’s give these pieces of the song a name.’ The class was just an hour a week for 10 weeks or so — but Finneas was like [mimes ‘Eureka!’ moment], and in a few months he formed a band. All I had to teach him was the basics, and he immediately got it — and the same with Billie.”

The Billie Eilish documentary

Directed by R.J Cutler, The World’s a Little Blurry, presents the singer-songwriter’s story, charting her rise to becoming an international superstar. It’s an Apple Original (so you’ll need a subscription with them to watch it) and was released on Apple TV+ on 26 February 2021. Netflix often buys up content from other providers though, so there’s always a chance you’ll get to see it there later if you’re not an Apple user.

The star spoke about the documentary with Vanity Fair.

“It’s really about my life, me, in such a way that I was not expecting, and was pretty brutal to relive. I was going through hell in certain parts of my life, and I had no idea anyone was seeing it. The fact that they have footage of it and you can see my emotions…”

Billie is exceptionally talented, innovative and also lucky. Expect to have to plug everything you put out there non-stop. Ensure it’s all over social media and gig wherever and whenever you can (online and in-person). You can keep ahead of her next moves by following Billie on all the major social media platforms: @wherearetheavocados on Instagram, @BillieEilish on Twitter, Billie-Eilish on Snapchat and on her Facebook page.

Related Questions

  • Who is Billie Eilish best friend?

Zoe Donahoe is one of her BFFs. They met as children and share the experience of both having being homeschooled. Avril Lavigne and Justin Bieber are among her well-known music industry celeb friends.

  • Who is Billie Eilish’s boyfriend?

A documentary entitled The World’s A Little Blurry, revealed the star’s romantic relationship with Brandon Quetion Adams. Eilish has a nickname for him  – Q. He’s a songwriter and rapper who records as 7: AMP. But it was reported that the pair have recently broken up.

  • How do I get discovered in music?

You must have a steely determination to succeed, commitment to your work and show real talent. Billie’s and Finneas’ strengths are a really unique style and the ability to write their own ground-breaking music. Creating your own, original sounds is far more effective for getting noticed than covers

Would you like to become a viral success like Billie Eilish? Haven you composed some distinctive tracks? If so, post links to your then in the comments below.