By Ruth Kinane
May 09, 2019 at 11:00 AM EDT
Kenneth Cappello

Billie Eilish cannot stop thinking about New Zealand. “The show in Auckland was the most peak-life moment of my whole life so far,” says the seventeen-year-old singer of a recent date on her current world tour. “Honestly, I can’t get it out of my head.” But Eilish’s affection isn’t contained to the southernmost country in Oceania: She’s also losing it over Australia. “That s— is so beautiful!” she says on the phone from Melbourne. “And the food is fire! Dude, it’s even good in the airport!”

It’s fortunate that the LA teen everyone’s buzzing about is a fan of traveling and airport grub. Her headlining tour in support of her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, is set to take her everywhere from Vancouver to Moscow to Berlin over the next four-plus months. So far, however, it’s been a pretty smooth ride. “It’s just been beautiful and happy, which is kind of a first for a tour,” she says. “A lot of time it’s really stressful, horrible, and evil — and also amazing at the same time. But everything is just kind of clicking on this one.”

Paras Griffin/WireImage

The joy she’s experiencing on the road is a reflection of the work it took to get there. Though her first album (a follow-up to her 2017 EP, Don’t Smile at Me) has been met with a resoundingly positive critical and commercial response — it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and is topping charts around the world; a whopping eight of its songs currently dot the Hot 100 — Eilish never fully believed the record would reach completion, let alone success. “There was just this sense of doom like, ‘Dude, this is never going to end,’” she recalls of working with her writing/producing partner and brother, Finneas O’Connell. “It has been kind of shocking that people f— with it, but also not. I never expect anyone to like anything I do. I think that’s good, because otherwise I’d seem like a f—ing jackass, so I make sure I stay in my own Billie brain of thinking no one cares.”

But people do care, and none more than Eilish’s peers, the teens who show up to her concerts knowing every word, avidly follow her on Instagram (around 20 million of them), and gave her that first taste of viral fame, streaming “Ocean Eyes” back in 2016. Since she’s the same age, the responsibility of being their idol isn’t lost on the young star. “It’s not something to overthink,” she says. “I mean, it is something to overthink when it comes to health and mental s—, but the thing is, when you’re looked up to as a role model, you can’t let that change the way that you live.” Otherwise, you’ll end up filtering yourself, she says. “You hold back or don’t say things, but the reason people are looking up to you is because you do say things,” she explains. “It’s fighting with the wrong tools. You have to be exactly what people love you for, even if that’s a f—ing psycho — people like you, girl!”

That’s a surprising amount of perspective for a 17-year-old. Then again, she has been releasing music since she was 14, and has enjoyed a huge year so far (“It feels like 40 years!”). Her lyrics and ethereal, haunting vocals belie a much older and more world-weary writer. Perhaps the key to that elevated understanding is that although everyone likes to remind her of her youth, Eilish doesn’t think of herself as young. “Yesterday I was listening to ‘Six Feet Under,’ which I recorded when I was 14. I was just thinking, 14?!” she explains. “I had no clue I was a child. I’m 17 right now and I know that in many years I’ll be like, ‘Whoa, I was only 17?!’ But right now, I’m like, ‘This is so old; I’ve never been 17 before!’”

Fortunately, to the rest of us, that is still very young, which means there’s plenty of time for more music — and she promises there’s some on the way. “I’m actually really looking forward to making the next project, and everything that’s coming,” she says. “I don’t know what’s next though, bro. I’m just alive and doing what I’m doing, and that’s that.” Who can ask for more?

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