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Finneas Has Lots More in Store

It shouldn’t surprise you that Finneas is a great interview. Like his sister, Billie Eilish, he’s incredibly engaging and charming, and he’s more than willing to sit down and dive into his creative process, whether it’s on Eilish’s excellent new album, Hit Me Hard and Soft, his solo work, or scoring gigs for TV and film. We spent several hours with him for Eilish’s recent Rolling Stone cover story. Last week, we shared some of the outtakes from that story — but there’s even more. Here’s everything Finneas revealed to us, including some hints about his next solo move and how he sees the future of his collaboration with Billie.

He’s working on a new solo album.

Finneas told us he’s going to dive into his next solo record this year — the follow-up to his 2021 debut, Optimist. He made the predecessor on his own during the early phases of the pandemic, so he plans on recruiting some helping hands this time around. “I made my last album completely alone in a room,” he said. “And that was satisfying to some degree, because I just worked on it until it sounded how I wanted it to sound. But it was really lonely and I didn’t feel like, ‘This is the best possible way it could sound, I’m so glad I made it alone.’ I thought I did an OK job. So on this album, I’ve made a point to be hyper-collaborative. Fortunately, most of my friends are producers.”

He’s been in the studio with Jack Harlow and Sara Bareilles, too.

At the time of our interview in late February, Finneas said he had just hung out with the chart-topping Kentucky rapper in the studio. “He’s a friend of mine,” Finneas said. “He’s a sweet guy.” He also had plans to work with Bareilles following the Oscars in March. “I’ll do whatever she wants,” he said. “If she wants to write for her thing or a musical. But if she goes, ‘What should we do?’ I’ll be like, ‘Let’s write for my thing.’ Because I want to be super collaborative. I’ve learned more from it.”

He doesn’t get weirded out when he hears his sister’s love songs.

You might think Finneas feels a slight cringe when producing his sister’s more intimate lyrics — like that line in “The Greatest,” where Eilish sings, “All the times I waited/For you to want me naked.” But he said he treats her just like any other musician he’s collaborating with. “The only way I can describe it is that I just see her as a person,” he said. “I’ve never had any form of relationship [or] dated anyone I work with, and writing any song like that, I have to let them be super intimate and vulnerable. So it doesn’t feel any weirder than it does with any artist that I work with. [But] if she filmed some super salacious content piece, that might be a thing I skip.”

He never wants to be a workaholic.

“That’s a thing that I don’t have the same appetite for that that other people do,” he said. “That’s not how I want to spend my life. The days are getting a little longer. If I’m in the studio and the sun is going down outside, I’m off. I want to be out. I like to think that I have a good work ethic and I meet my deadlines and I don’t flake, but I’m not a workaholic. That’s not how I want to die. I love making music, but I’ll do it when I’m bored and I have free time. I don’t need to do it at the cost of everything.”

He cited a recent example, when he was working on the score for Alfonso Cuarón’s upcoming Apple TV+ series Disclaimer at the same time as Hard and Soft. “I’m very proud of the work, but I felt like both people wished I had even more time to devote to it,” he said. “If I take on another scoring job like that, I’m going to not make a record while I do it, and vice versa. When Billie and I make her next album, a cool opportunity will come knocking hopefully, and I’ll be like, nope. I don’t want to hate myself. I want to just love making that.”

He’s OK with the idea of Billie making records with someone else someday.

Can Finneas ever see a world in which the brother-sister duo who rewired pop don’t work together? “I was thinking about that,” he said. “I really want to always be of service to her. I think what it would take is her wanting to operate in a way that I supported, but couldn’t fulfill. Do you know what I mean?” He offers an example of a situation where he might step aside: “Let’s pretend I had a kid and we worked on an album and she immediately wanted to make another one. I can imagine a world where I was like, ‘I have to be a present parent,’ or something. But that’s so far off, and even then I would probably still be like, ‘I’ll be involved in whatever way you want.’ Totally up to her.” He adds: “Hopefully, she’ll just want to keep making albums with me.”

He’s glad they got to make the new album the way they wanted to

Hard and Soft was made differently than Eilish’s first two albums. Instead of working on one song at a time and only moving on when it was done, the siblings worked in chunks, putting some songs on hold and revisiting when they felt ready. “A big flaw in making one song at a time is that, by the last song, the first song you made is a year old,” Eilish told me. “What was really, really great about the making of this album was that everything moved at the same pace.”

The result of this, however, was that her label, Interscope, and her management heard only half the record last summer, because the rest was still in varying states of completion. (They got the full version at the top of this year.) Finneas made a point of sending a letter thanking the label’s CEO, John Janick, for granting them the creative freedom. “I was like, ‘It’s not lost on me that most people are not allowed to operate that way,’” Finneas recalled. “We love those guys and they’re really generous and kind to us, but Billie is legally signed to them. They could, if they wanted to, be like, ‘We’re not putting this out unless we’re involved every step of the way and A&R-ing it.’ … So I was just basically thanking him. I was like, ‘It’s very cool that we got to make this album the way an indie artist would make an album.’”

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…and he knows not everyone might love the result.

Finneas may have 10 Grammys under his belt, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t worried about the reception of Hard and Soft. “I had this thought last night, like, ‘Oh, people might really hate this, right?’” he said. “I don’t, and it’s the album I wanted to make and it’s the album [Billie] wanted to make, and I’m really proud of it, and our friends like it. But I did have this feeling of, ‘We might’ve made JNCO Jeans.’ We might have taken a real swing. We’ll see.” (Thankfully, so far the early reaction to the album has made clear that they did not make the musical equivalent of ultra-wide-leg Nineties jeans.)

He acknowledged that the beloved Barbie hit “What Was I Made For?” was an incredibly accessible ballad. “It’s pretty traditional songwriting, and this album is not traditional,” he said. “It may run the risk of people being like, ‘I don’t get this at all.’ [But] if they don’t get it, they shouldn’t pretend to.”

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