Pop piracy

Billie EilishImage copyright
Hannah Sider

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Billie Eilish: “Lyrics are so important. I don’t think people realise how important they are”.

Billie Eilish may only be 15 years old, but she’s already a formidable talent (and a real-life pirate, but more on that later).

A member of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, she wrote her first song – about falling into a black hole – when she was four.

But it was her dance instructor who unlocked her talent for smart, dark pop songs when he asked her to submit a song for class.

Along with her older brother Finneas, Billie came up with Ocean Eyes – an astonishingly assured ballad which compared falling in love to falling off a cliff under “napalm skies”.

She posted it on Soundcloud so her teacher could hear it, went to bed, and woke up to a flurry of emails about her burgeoning music career.

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Jack McCain

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Ocean Eyes has racked up nine million plays since Eilish uploaded it to Soundcould last summer

Since then, she’s been on a steep upswing, signed by Interscope Records and releasing one head-turning track after another. The highlight (so far) is Bellyache, in which she sings from the point of view of a conflicted psychopath.

“Where’s my mind?” she trills as an acoustic guitar trades blows with a gut-punch drum loop. “Maybe it’s in the gutter, where I left my lover.

It’s the pop equivalent of a Tarantino movie – finding comic absurdity in the midst of eye-popping gore. The lyrics might keep it off the radio, but Billie isn’t too worried.

“I don’t need many people to care,” says the singer. “Even if other people don’t like it, I like it.”

As she gears up to release her first EP, Eilish sat down for a frank chat with the BBC about her lyrical fantasies, getting to grips with the music industry and her very unusual middle name.

Hello Billie Eilish… Have I pronounced that right?

Yes! It’s eye-lish, like eyelash with a lish.

Your family name is O’Connell, though, so is that a stage name?

It is my middle name. So I’m Bille Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell.

Pirate! That’s an amazing name.

Pretty weird, right? Pirate was going to be my middle name but then my uncle had a problem with it because pirates are bad. Then Baird is my mother’s name.

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Billie Eilish / Instagram

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The singer co-writes most of her material with her brother, Finneas, who you may recognise as Alistair from the TV show Glee

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