On tour and at home with teen Grammy winner
For those wondering who this young woman is and why she’s music’s newest hot talent, “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” offers clarity.
Premiering Friday, Feb. 26, on Apple TV+, the two-hour, 20-minute documentary from Emmy-winning filmmaker R.J. Cutler (“Belushi,” “American High”) tells the coming-of-age story of the singer/songwriter behind such hits as “Ocean Eyes,” Bad Guy” and “No Time to Die,” who to date has won five Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards and is 26th-highest-certified artist of the digital singles era.
In cinéma vérité style, the intimate portrait follows the then-17-year-old as she navigates life on tour and at home with parents Maggie and Patrick Baird and brother/songwriting partner Finneas O’Connell as she’s writing and recording her debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”
Cutler, who first met Eilish and her family at their Los Angeles home in August 2018 to discuss the film, was immediately struck by her authenticity – and an unusual feature in the backyard.
“There’s a giant trapeze,” he says, “because Billie’s trained on the trapeze and Maggie both teaches and exercises using the trapeze, so there was this giant trapeze out back. And I was instantly struck by the fact that this artist whose work I admired so much who clearly was having a kind of profound connection to her audience was also an extremely real teenage girl. … It all felt very down-to-earth, very real, very grounded. And when I asked Billie what she thought about doing a film or what she would want it to be like, she said, ‘I want it to be like “The Office”.’ “
Specifically, Eilish was referring to John Krasinski’s character of Jim Halpert, whose skeptical glances to the camera in the NBC mockumentary series offered silent commentary on the crazy goings-on around him. But here, it’s used more as a device to underscore Eilish’s relationship with the audience.
“I think it’s really Billie reaching out to her audience in a way,” Cutler explains, “and recognizing them recognizing her in those moments.”
Ultimately, though, viewers will meet a young woman seemingly destined for music success, someone taught the basics of songwriting at a very young age by her mother, also a songwriter. Years later, those lessons have borne fruit in a major way.
“The results are Billie Eilish and Finneas, and thank goodness,” Cutler says. “And also you add on top of that they’re good at it, great at it. You add on top of that, Billie’s ability to articulate her inner emotional life through her lyrics. … You add on top of that her deep empathy, her connection to the audience, her understanding not only of her own experience but of the experience of those who love her music so much. It gets very deep very quickly.”