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VIVENDI EXPLORING MORE SALES OF UMG
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Great Scott! (10/16a)
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RIHANNA PREPARES TO RULE THE ROOST
What shoes go with dancehall?
WHAT'S NEXT FOR R&B?
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THE K-POP LANDSCAPE
농담은 한국어에서 더 잘 작동합니다.
THE NEW GRAMMY POWER
Change is nigh.
THE B-SIDE
GRAMMY PREVIEW: FINNEAS
9/25/19

OH, BROTHER

Finneas O’Connell just turned 22 in late July, but his résumé is already jam-packed. As a kid, he followed in his thespian parents’ footsteps, landing his first sizable role in 2011’s Bad Teacher, co-starring in the indie feature Life Inside Out (co-written by and starring his mom, Maggie Baird) and joining the Glee cast for its final season in 2014-15. But music, not acting, was Finneas’ primary passion. In 2012, he formed the high school band The Slightlys, who played the Warped Tour and the Santa Monica Pier Twilight Concert series, and released the first single under his own name three years later.

Those early experiences helped prepare O’Connell for his current gig as producer, co-writer and tour mate for younger sister Billie Eilish, whose literally homemade debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Darkroom/Interscope), isn’t just a commercial giant but a once-in-a-generation game-changer. At the same time, FINNEAS—as he styles his name—has been devoting himself to establishing his own career, with an EP, Blood Harmony (AWAL), dropping on 10/4, followed by a run of headlining dates. He and Billie will perform on the 9/28 season opener of SNL, and he’ll celebrate the release of Blood Harmony with a 10/5 set at Austin City Limits. We caught up with the gifted multitasker near the end of his European tour.


How have you been received on the European tour, and has it provided any revelations for you as a performer? 
The crowds have been perfect on this tour—so energetic and engaged—and we’ve just been having the best time onstage each night.

The synth riff of “bad guy” will likely go down as the most iconic hook of 2019, along with the chorus of “Old Town Road.” How long did it take you to come up with the track, and at what point did you know you’d nailed it?
As with most things I’m proud of, this song happened incredibly quickly. We wrote almost all of it in an hour or two, and I was producing it as we wrote it.

You made Billie’s album in the house you grew up in. Do you anticipate continuing to work outside of the traditional studio?
We made it in my bedroom. I have my own house now, and I’ve been recording there a lot recently, but I just work wherever I am, honestly. I’m not precious about acoustic spaces. I’ve actually been recording the EP on this tour—dressing rooms, bus lounges, hotel rooms—and it’s going great.

What are the challenges of conducting your own career while collaborating with your sister?
Just time management. It never feels like there’s enough time to do everything I want to do and also spend time with friends and family. But my work makes me feel super-fulfilled.

You’re experiencing what you described to The Wall Street Journal as “selective fame,” but that’s sure to change in the coming months, with the Grammys looming. How are you bracing yourself for the dramatically ramped-up attention?
Honestly, I don’t know how much it’ll actually change. I basically have like one person a day come up to me and say something nice—that feels great. I just don’t ever want to be so famous that it’s hard to go out to public places; that sounds like a nightmare. If it does happen, it’ll be because my music is famous, and that’ll be totally OK. I do want everyone to hear my songs.

Do you have any interest in producing and/or collaborating with other artists? If so, who would be at the top of your wish list?
I work with other artists all the time, actually—it’s really interesting and exciting. Adele is on top of my dream wish list; I’ve never met her or worked with her.

What artists or records have you been most inspired and influenced by in your music?
[Bon Iver’s] 22, A Million, [The Beatles’] Abbey Road and [Coldplay’s] Viva La Vida.