Billie Eilish on the cute but 'excruciating' process of putting her first book together
The pop star's eponymously titled project is filled with never-before-seen photos from the Eilish family archive.
Before the whispered vocals, Grammy gold, and (formerly) neon-tinted hair, Billie Eilish had dreams of becoming a photographer. "I used to steal my parents' camera all the time when I was a little kid and just take pictures of random stuff," she says one afternoon in early April. "I remember my dad used to make folders of the pictures that I would take and he called it Billie's World. I loved looking through a lens."
The obvious irony — as she notes in the intro to her just-released eponymous book — is that all the cameras are now focused on her. Yet with the fittingly titled Billie Eilish, she is once again flipping the idea of pop star imagery on its head, sharing never-before-seen photos from the Eilish family archive. "I think I did a good job of not overexposing myself and putting things in there that genuinely didn't want to come out," she says, of curating the extensive collection in a way that kept some of her earliest memories to herself. "I mainly just set boundaries of what I'm comfortable with."
The project is another impressively unfiltered look from an artist known for her unvarnished commentary. It's also the latest in a line of major creative updates for Eilish; earlier this month, she revealed the July 30 release date for her highly anticipated sophomore album, Happier Than Ever, along with a striking British Vogue cover that once again positioned her as a pop star very much in charge of her own image. That narrative that is once again furthered with the release of Billie Eilish — though, she's the first to note that the book wasn't her idea.
"It was something that just came up in conversation and I was like, 'That's cute,'" she says. But the process of putting it together was a lot more than she bargained for. "We definitely thought it would be way easier than it was. It took months and months of me spending hours and hours on the computer. Honestly it was very fun and cute, but it was pretty excruciating at some points because I was going through my old camera rolls from throughout my life [like] puberty and remembering how it felt."
A very brief offering of what readers can expect from it: Newborn Billie in a pirates' hat; toddler Billie in a tutu ("I remember thinking I looked so old and mature [in these photos], and I see them now, and I'm like, I'm literally 4," she says); Billie recording "Ocean Eyes;" Billie when she "could use public transportation without being mobbed;" Billie and her injured foot, and Billie meeting the first fan to wait outside the venue after one of her shows.
"I was shocked; I got out of the car and I was like, oh my God, who is that?" recalls Eilish of the interaction. "My first thought was something like, She doesn't know who I am. She's not there for me. She's waiting for something else. I mean, as a human, you don't look at someone and think, 'Oh, they're here to see me.' I went over and hugged her and talked to her. It was so surreal to me at the time."
Of course, no Billie photo project could be complete without her unique sense of fashion. A personal favorite: the picture of her sporting a Teletubbies sweater around the age of 3. When prompted, Eilish recalls blaming the once-popular children's characters for a mess she made a a child: "There's a home movie of me when I was 2 or 3. I had thrown balloons and a million crayons all over my floor. And my mom came in, she was like, 'Billie, did you make this mess?' And I pointed to the Teletubbies and I was like, 'No, no. They did it. I was naming them like, 'This is the one that did this.'"
The book moves through globetrotting, arena-packing world tour in 2018, all the way up to adopting her pet dog Shark. But if there's one unifying theme — other than, you know, the pop star's life — it's family. "I get so happy when I see the pictures of me with my mom when I was a little kid," says Eilish, about her her favorite parts of the book. "I also love pictures of me smiling with my brother when we were three and five or whatever, because kids don't really fake how they feel a lot of the time. A smile is really a smile when you're a little kid."