Billie Eilish is publishing her family photos: ‘It made me miss a lot of parts of my life’

·4 min read

The small girl in the photo, sitting at a piano while singing into a toy microphone, could be any child. But she is Billie Eilish: one of the world’s biggest stars from the age of 14, famous for her dreamy and moody brand of pop, the singer of the next James Bond theme. Now just 19, she is on the precipice of launching her second album, Happier Than Ever, and fresh from relaunching herself; her bleached locks and vixenesque makeover on the cover of Vogue this week launched a thousand thinkpieces. But before the album, she is releasing a quieter project: a book of her family snaps that gives fans glimpses into her childhood, and non-fans a rather poignant insight into the strangeness of fame.

Eilish loves her family photo albums, but she won’t risk taking them on the road with her as “they are way too valuable,” she tells the Guardian. “I love going through them when I’m home though, I always make a point to sit and go through them every now and then.”

The book feels necessarily intimate, especially so for a young woman who has spoken about her struggle to maintain a balance between her need for privacy and her fans’ appetite for everything Eilish. (“It’s too much for them and it’s too much for me and it’s not healthy,” she told Vogue this week.) Every photo in the book is selected by her – and carefully. “It was really difficult going through and deciding what to include, but I feel like I shared a lot in the book,” she says. “There was some stuff that I almost put in but kept out, after I realised people didn’t need to know.”

Unlike so many young popstars, Eilish did not come out of the Disney pipeline or child actor route and appears (from her family snaps, at least) to have had a remarkably normal childhood. The strangeness of her ascent – uploading a song to SoundCloud when she was 13, a record deal at 14 – is embodied in one blurry shot taken not long before, on her 12th birthday, which she chose to spend standing on the side of the road among a gaggle of fellow Justin Bieber fans, waiting for a glimpse of the singer driving past. Just a few years and pages later, young fans are shown crying at her own concerts, waiting hours for a signature, reaching out to brush her arm.

Family has been a steady presence in Eilish’s career; her older brother, Finneas O’Connell, produces and writes many of her songs and her parents join both of them on tour. Her mum Maggie and dad Patrick also appear on the audiobook being released alongside the book, sharing their memories of their famous daughter. Now she’s 19, will she keep her parents involved? “Definitely,” she says. “I love my parents and I choose to be around them. They understand I need space, and they give it to me when I need it. They don’t do everything with me now but I like them, so I want them to be around.”

One photo shows her napping on a train, under the caption “back when I could use public transport without being mobbed”. It’s hard to imagine feeling nostalgic about snoozing in a cramped seat, but then again, not many of us are as instantly recognisable as Eilish. Rather than making her feel frustrated about the shackles of fame, revisiting photos from the time before her meteoric rise to fame at 14 “honestly just made me grateful for it”.

“I spent so much time looking through old pictures throughout my life for this book and there were many things I looked through that made me nostalgic and made me miss a lot of parts of my life,” she says. “But overall it made me more grateful for the life I have now, and made me realise I wouldn’t want to go back. I wouldn’t do it differently.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting