Interview: Los Angeles Singer-Songwriter FINNEAS Releases Wistful New Single "Hollywood Forever"
Growing up in the buzzing, bustling Los Angeles, home to tons of overwhelming creativity, it's no wonder that Finneas O'Connell has since gone on to guest star on television (Glee, Modern Family), lead a feature film with his mother (Life Inside Out), and pen chart-topping hits for the greats (like his sister Billie Eilish). Perhaps his greatest feat, though, is what he's accomplishing with his solo work.
A prolific singer-songwriter, Finneas (stage name stylized as FINNEAS) has been releasing smooth pop anthems tinged with R&B flavor for the last two years. Today, he's back with his latest single, "Hollywood Forever," a lush ballad sweetened by a vintage treatment. The song opens with a gorgeous bloom of soft keys before FINNEAS' stunningly steady vocals come in singing a dreamy request: "Bury me in Hollywood, forever, underneath the starry sky." From here on, the track pumps along like a slow burn, swells of strings and impassioned flourishes floating beneath FINNEAS' silky voice. The arrangement is stripped-down for the most part, hints of crackling and humming tones lurking in the corners of its piano-led rhythm, but there are moments when grandiose crescendos envelop FINNEAS' impassioned delivery, a burgeoning orchestral piece of a much simpler, softer puzzle. For four minutes, FINNEAS treats us to a smoky reverie awash in an understated elegance.
The Music Mermaid: Can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourself and your music?
FINNEAS: My name’s Finneas, I’m 21, left-handed, I have a lazy eye, and I make a lot of music.
TMM: You grew up in Los Angeles. It’s obviously such an over-saturated, but vibrant, hub for music. What has your experience been like coming into your own as a musician in the LA music scene?
FINNEAS: I looooove Los Angeles which is not a super trendy opinion to have, funnily. I think you can honestly do anything you want to do here and be anything you want to be. I love that about this city. Being from here is awesome because it just means I didn’t have to move away from my whole family to be here. I still live at home.
TMM: Your sound is so refreshing and different. You’re not exactly tackling generic radio-recipe tunes. Can you talk a little about how you’ve come to develop your sound and what you’re hoping to accomplish with your music?
FINNEAS: Considering that I also produce and write for a bunch of other people, when it comes to myself, I only want to put out music that really feels unique to who I am and what I have to say. The only things I concern myself with as a solo artist are writing songs that feel honest and confessional and authentic and making them sound unique. For instance, "Break My Heart Again" was inspired by a text conversation I had with an ex so I recorded myself sending and receiving texts of every line in the song and put them in the background of the recording. To me, that made an otherwise traditional production of piano and strings feel new and current.
TMM: You’ve got a bunch of delicious singles out but we want an album! What’s the strategy -- or rather the advantages and disadvantages -- behind dropping individual tracks opposed to putting out a full release?
FINNEAS: I’m a pretty prolific writer. I’m not saying everything I write is good, by any means, but I do write a lot. I wanted to give people a lot of music this year but I didn’t feel I had enough of an audience to justify putting out all the songs at once under an album. I also selfishly wanted different artwork for every song to give them all their own unique feeling and flavor... but there is definitely an album to come in the not too distance future!
TMM: You’ve penned a bunch of brilliant tracks for talented musicians including your sister Billie Eilish, Khalid, Tori Kelly, and more. What’s the songwriting process typically like for you?
FINNEAS: Different every time which is how I like it! When you’re working with an artist as a producer or co-writer, it’s all about helping them express themselves and helping them realize their vision. Usually the first hour or two of a writing session, I treat like a therapy session. I ask questions and let them talk and just listen and take in their stories. That way, I'll know when we’re writing something honest and authentic.
TMM: In addition to your music endeavors, you’re also an accomplished actor. In what ways has acting influenced your music and vice versa?
FINNEAS: I just love playing different characters and being expressive and performing from different perspectives. I think that’s helped a LOT with writing for other people specifically -- being able to put myself in their shoes.
TMM: We know it’s an evil, unfair question but which song that you’ve written (for yourself or others) do you feel closest to and why?
FINNEAS: "Break My Heart Again." Every line of that song is true and it’s not a bitter or angry song in any way -- it’s a song about accepting the consequences of giving your heart to someone else. Falling in love is a dangerous thing.
TMM: What has been your most memorable music moment so far?
FINNEAS: Billie and I had dinner at Jared Leto’s house last year because he liked our songs and he asked us to perform "Ocean Eyes" for him and his guests. Leonardo DiCaprio was there too. The whole thing felt like a dream that we never woke up from.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for FINNEAS?
FINNEAS: New songs all year long and maybe even a tour...
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Featured photo of FINNEAS by Cameron Postforoosh