Billie Eilish Is a 15-Year-Old Pop Prodigy—And She's Intimidating as Hell (2023)

Billie Eilish is constantly asked about her age. “That’s all I hear,” she vents during our interview, sitting pretzel-style on the couch. “‘What’s it like being 15?’ Oh my God, I don't know. It's the way that I feel. I've never been older. Ask me every single year and I'll give you the same answer.”

Later, she adds, “Why does it define me?”

One can hardly bring up Eilish—in headlines or through word of mouth—without mentioning she’s 15 years old. But how could you not? Considering she already has an acclaimed debut EP, a nearly sold-out tour, and more than 3 million monthly streams on Spotify, it’s almost impossible to ignore her young age. It makes her accomplishments all the more impressive.

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Billie Eilish Is a 15-Year-Old Pop Prodigy—And She's Intimidating as Hell (1)

Billie Eilish Is a 15-Year-Old Pop Prodigy—And She's Intimidating as Hell (2)

The singer, whose full name is Billie Eilish O’Connell, started gaining attention last year with the release of her debut single “Ocean Eyes,” a haunting, harmony-filled ballad written by her brother, Finneas, who is also a singer. Eilish recorded the song for her dance teacher, who wanted to choreograph to the track. She uploaded it onto SoundCloud in 2016; currently, the track has more than 2 million streams. A year later, Eilish is an Interscope Records signee, has a song on the 13 Reasons Why soundtrack, and is two months fresh off the release of her debut EP, Don’t Smile at Me.

Though she’s young, she doesn’t play the innocent card that other pop acts, from Britney Spears to Miley Cyrus, channeled as teenage stars. Aside from vulnerable tracks like “Ocean Eyes,” there are intimidating, at times even sadistic, themes in her lyrics—an unexpected match for her angelic voice. She plays a psychopath who’s just killed all her friends in her biggest hit, “Bellyache.” She sings of burning someone’s car down in “Watch.” She croons, “I want to steal your soul / And hide you in my treasure chest” in her song “Hostage.” The message is clear: Eilish is not your cookie-cutter pop star.

Her personal style sends the same message: unconventional, with baggy silhouettes, sneakers, layered coats, and track suits. When we meet, the silver-haired Los Angeles native is wearing a puffer jacket, turtleneck, a Louis Vuitton scarf around her neck, and a Gucci one at her waist. (It's mid-August). She toys with a pair of futuristic sunglasses that look like a prop from The Matrix.

Before kicking off her first-ever tour, Eilish talked to about her music, handling her sudden fame, and her daring wardrobe.

Eilish’s music career skyrocketed after “Ocean Eyes” went viral, and she’s still figuring out how to deal with her successes in the past year.

“Who knows how you're supposed to [handle it], you know? There’s no prep for anything like this at all, so I don't know. When stuff just happens you just kind of have to feel it out. It’s been freaking crazy, so I'm really happy about everything.”

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She's earned a number of diehard fans, whom she really treasures.

"It's insane. It’s really weird for me because I've been on the other side of it. Like, I'm 15, I know what it's like to be an insane fan of someone and to love someone's work, or to just have someone not know you exist. I feel like it's such a passion and the fact that people feel that way about me is so insane.

"It's really special for me. I don't like to call them my fans because they're my family; they're the only reason I'm anything. So when artists take their fans for granted it's like, ‘What are you? They are the reason you're a person.’ I love my fans so much, I try to devote all my attention to them, whether it's on social media or when I see them in person. I spend as much time with them as I can and make connections with them cause they're people.

“Getting recognized is insane. It just blows my mind, like someone who you don't know at all can just be like, ‘Oh my god are you Billie?’ And it's like, yeah, but why do you care? But people meet me and then they'll tell me things that are like, ‘Billie you got me through this,’ and they'll explain what happened and how I helped and literally, I just got shivers thinking about it, because it's something that I do because I love it. That's the only reason I do it, and that can change somebody's life, which is freaking crazy.”

She released a new song from her EP, Don’t Smile at Me, each week until it officially dropped on August 11. The singer shares there was “a lot of work” involved for years prior to that release.

“My brother and I always write together pretty much, and we write so much that it's never like we don't have new songs. So a lot of the songs on the EP we wrote a year ago or like a year and a half ago—and not that it took us a year to write it, we literally wrote it in like a day. And then we were like, ‘Okay let's find a way to actually put all this stuff out and show the world’ or whatever. So it’s kind of taken a while, but it's been cool and I'm f*cking glad that they're out.”

The title of her EP is literal.

“I hate smiling. It makes me feel weak and powerless and small. I've always been like that; I don't smile in any pictures. If you look at my Instagram, I have a resting bitch face and I guess I just look sad all the time. But you know how when you're walking down the street and somebody smiles at you? You're forced to smile back, that's the polite response. It’s like you have no control over it. If I don't smile back you're gonna think I'm horrible. Maybe I am for thinking this, but whatever. And if you don't smile at me, we're good. You can go on with your day.”

"I hate smiling. It makes me feel weak and powerless and small."

It's also reminiscent of song and album titles popularized by emo artists—both in 2000s punk and the current emo rap scene—that consist of long statements that are completely unrelated to the lyrics.

“I think it's really cool when artists have song titles or album names that are a really conversational sentence. Like Spooky Black [Corbin] is one of my favorite artists. He has songs that are called ‘Take the Blame so I Don’t Have To,’ that is so cool and I've never forgotten that. And he has ‘Blame the Internet’ and ‘Welcome to the Hell Zone’. I feel like it's so cool. So Don’t Smile at Me is abstract and you really have to think about it.”

Eilish started writing songs at the age of 11 as a way to express her thoughts. She says her first "real" composition was inspired by The Walking Dead.

“My first real song was about the zombie apocalypse actually, which is weird because it's out and nobody knows that that's what it's about. It’s called ‘Fingers Crossed.’ I literally just watched The Walking Dead and I took little lines from it. Just watch all of The Walking Dead and you'll find some things that are in my song and some episode titles that are in my song.

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"That was kind of my first song. But my brother also started writing at the same age I did. I feel like I was always I wanted to write songs just because my brother did, and also my mom did. She taught both of us how to write and so I always have high standards for writing. If I didn't, I'd have 2,000 songs."

She has a love-hate relationship with social media, but it's a helpful tool for connecting with her fans. (FYI, her Instagram handle is @wherearetheavocados.)

“I love it and I hate it. Social media can ruin something. It can completely ruin a relationship, a friendship, yourself. It can ruin how you feel or how you feel like you look. I feel like social media is insanely dangerous. Oh my God, things can go so bad. It’s just an insane thing that it's even real, because how? It’s just weird that people get famous or known off social media when it's not physical—you don't see these people in real life. It's such a weird thing. But I'm grateful for it because I'm nothing without it.

“Especially with Instagram, I love my fans. I talk to each and every one of them as much as I can, and I respond to all of their DM's—or at least I try to—and I comment on and like all their stuff. And Twitter is just my brain in one. There are some things I don't tweet because they're a little too Billie, and they can stay up in Billie’s brain. They're in my drafts. You should see my drafts on Twitter, like, yikes.”

She describes her personal style as “pretty weird”.

"I just like dressing out of my comfort zone. I want to dress in a way that if I was in a room full of people wearing regular clothes, I would be like, ‘Oh, I bet everyone's looking at me.’ I want to feel that way. That's my casual.

"My friend was explaining this to me the other day: ‘Most people feel like they need to dress casual and look like everyone else to fit in and that's where they feel comfortable. But the way people feel when they feel like an outsider is Billie's comfortable.’ I am not comfortable when I'm wearing just some jeans and a shirt. I just feel wrong and I feel like very not me and out of my place and just weird. So my friend said, ‘Billie just likes to feel super judged.’ I love being judged. I'm here for it."

Billie Eilish Is a 15-Year-Old Pop Prodigy—And She's Intimidating as Hell (8)

Though she does get constantly asked about her young age, Eilish acknowledges that people she's worked with usually take her—and her ideas—seriously.

"Usually if nobody asks me my age I'm not gonna say it. I feel like people judge you on your age when it's like, I could be any age. Of course someone older has gone through more than maybe somebody who's 15. (Maybe not, but probably.) But that doesn't mean they haven't felt that pain or that love. You can be any age to feel anything, really. So when someone says, ‘Oh well she's young she's never been through anything,’ I’m like, ‘Think again honey, I have.’ That's it.

"People actually have been great to me about it. They haven't really treated me like I'm a kid. Sometimes they treat me like I'm nothing and I'm like, ‘What? Why are you even here then?’ But mostly, people really respect what I have to say because they can tell that I know what I want and I know that they know I'm gonna fight for what I want."

After her tour, Eilish hopes to tackle even bigger projects.

"I just really want to get music out and tour and go places I've never been, and just do more videos. I love photography and videography and so I really want to direct videos when I can. I want to have a fashion line at some point very soon."

Starting her own clothing line, however, might contradict her style mantra of looking different from everyone else.

“Then people could buy what I wore. Ew, I never even [thought of that], ew. No but I will. I just won't wear it."

Stream Don't Smile at Me below.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Billie Eilish Is a 15-Year-Old Pop Prodigy—And She's Intimidating as Hell (10)

Erica Gonzales

Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at There is a 75 percent chance she's listening to Lorde right now.

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