Finneas Plots Full-Length Album, Talks Grammy Wins
The producer, who released his solo EP ‘Blood Harmony’ in October last year, picked up Producer of the Year and shared five more Grammys with sister Billie Eilish earlier this year
A five-time Grammy winner and part of a multi-platinum selling record, 22-year-old Finneas O’Connell is straightforward when he says the acclaim doesn’t make him “feel better than any other musician.”
The producer, singer-songwriter and vital hand on sister Billie Eilish’s 2019 breakout album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? actually cites some pretty interesting inspirations when he’s talking about the Grammys. “Sometimes I forget that the Grammys even exist, because some of the artists that have mattered the most to me in my life, like the band My Chemical Romance, or The Airborne Toxic Event… They’ve never been even nominated for a Grammy, I don’t think, and they’re still [behind] the most important albums to me,” FINNEAS says over email.
By the time he attended the Grammys in January in Los Angeles, Finneas was also riding high on the success of his debut solo EP Blood Harmony, which released in October. It features songs like the buoyant earworm “Let’s Fall In Love for the Night” and the dreamy yet melancholy-heavy “I Lost a Friend,” allowing the singer-songwriter to place himself as an important artist in his own right. “I wanted it to sound very different from what I was doing with Billie, Camila Cabello and JP Saxe. I just wanted it to feel very much like its own thing, so I hope it does,” he says.
Along the way, Finneas has produced and written for everyone from Selena Gomez and Tove Lo to Halsey, Bruno Major and Celeste, walking the tightrope of mainstream yet finessed pop. In an interview with Rolling Stone India, Finneas talks about his future material, carrying on as an actor (he’s appeared in shows such as Modern Family and Glee) and India. Excerpts:
How have the last few months been, going from the high that was the Grammys and then have a lot of stuff put off because of the pandemic? Everyone talks about how they’ve either lost track of time or just impossibly aged. What’s it like for you?
I think both are true; it feels like it has gone by quite quickly, and also feels like it’s taken forever. It’s like, “Wow, this is going on for so long,” and then you’re also like, “Oh my god, it’s already the end of June? That’s crazy!” We had a really fun first couple months of our year and mainly, I just feel really lucky during this lockdown because my family is healthy. And that’s the main thing I worried about — I worried about my mom or my dad or my sister or my friends getting sick. None of us have, so I feel very grateful for that.
You’ve been juggling a lot even before producing, like acting for example. And this is still at a fairly young age. How did you decide to make these shifts or indulge your mind in multiple creative/artistic spaces?
I just do stuff that sounds like fun to me, or that people ask me to do. For example, I’m working on a movie this year. I didn’t volunteer, I just got asked to do it. And I think the person that asked me thinks that I’d do a good job, so I trust him and try my best. It’s important to let people believe in you and go like, “You can do this!” And you go like, “Okay! I’ll try not to let you down!”
You’re one of the youngest Grammy winners for Non-Classical Producer. It’s something that gets attached to your name everywhere. What kind of misconceptions have you had to dispel right after that?
I don’t know if there are any misconceptions. I never really thought I would win any Grammys in my life. I thought I would go through life Grammy-free. The fact that we have won a couple is really crazy and I feel really grateful and thrilled that people like our music that much. But I feel like it doesn’t change anything in any other way.
The fact that we won them is still very important to me because I feel very grateful, and I think it’s a great “I made it” moment. When we first started making music together, I was like, “Maybe one day we’ll be able to sell out a show,” and then when you sell out a show, you’re like, “Maybe we’ll be able to sell out an even bigger venue someday.” The idea that you could win a Grammy with an album you made in your bedroom makes me very emotional. It’s very exciting to me.
You and Billie of course have quite a listenership out here in India. Have you got any offers already or any connections made in India so far?
Our goal is to go everywhere. We want to play for anyone who wants to hear our music all over the world. I really hope we get to go to India; we’ve not been there yet in our lives, so it’d be a really exciting experience. We’re obviously not touring at the moment, and we’re trying to figure when it’s safe to tour places again. Whenever that is, I’m sure we’ll have a conversation with our team and booking agents about when we can play India. I think it’d be really exciting, I’d love to go there. That’s the best part about being a touring musician; I never thought I’d go all the way to India in my life, but now because of music, I might be able to. I think that’s so cool, and I feel really lucky to get to go to India.
You’ve produced stuff with Bruno Major, Celeste and mentioned that Billie’s next record was making more progress than your own material. What’s coming up in 2020, considering live shows might take a while to start back up?
I’m working on my first full-length album. I was actually going through every song that I’ve started and figuring where I am with all that. I’m feeling pretty good about it! I’m definitely a long way from finished, but I’m also a long way from the start. I’m right in the middle, I think, and that makes me feel really happy. Some of the songs I wrote before quarantine, and a lot of them I’ve actually written in quarantine. I don’t have any idea when it’ll be ready to come out, but I’ve really enjoyed working on it, so I’m excited to just keep making it.
Watch the video for “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night”