Now approaching his 21st birthday, artist, songwriter and producer FINNEAS (née Finneas O’Connell) is a young songwriter with an old soul. Among his finely curated series of recent single releases, his song “Break My Heart Again” pairs a gorgeous melody to lyrics inspired by a series of text messages. At press time the track has earned almost six million YouTube plays and close to 900K Spotify streams.
Blessed with an expressive, pre-naturally mature baritone voice, FINNEAS says that he grew up listening to standards, Sinatra, film scores and musicals. “I love that melodic sensibility. If you let contemporary music inspire you too much there’s not a ton of growth––it’s so of the moment.”
With his single releases, FINNEAS concentrates on ballads. “I let lyrics dictate so much in my melodies,” he says. “Life Moves On,” his most recent single, pairs the eloquent sensitivity of his voice with live strings and opalescent production, while “I’m in Love Without You” features a massive choral intro and outro––all sung by the artist. “I grew up singing in the L.A. Children’s Chorus and it’s embedded in how I hear melody lines. If I were in some ‘Rick Rubin position’ in my life I would hire a choir. But I enjoyed singing it myself,” he confirms.
Downing iced coffee in a Highland Park panderia not far from his family’s house in rapidly gentrifying Northeast Los Angeles, FINNEAS is home between tour dates. Very notably, he co-writes, produces and provides onstage musical support for his sister, 16-year-old pop wunderkind Billie Eilish. “Ocean Eyes,” the prelude to her debut EP dont smile at me, was originally written by FINNEAS for his former band to record.
Although FINNEAS and Eilish, both home schooled, grew up surrounded by musical instruments and artistry, theirs was not a privileged existence. “Barely scraping by seemed perfectly appealing to me,” laughs FINNEAS. Movie viewers might remember FINNEAS as a student in Cameron Diaz’s class in Bad Teacher; from his co-starring role (with his mother, actress and singer-songwriter Maggie Baird) in the indie film Life Inside Out, or as Alister in the final season of Glee.
“I started acting when I was younger because my parents did,” he says. “There was no illusion of grandeur. Anytime my parents got a job they drove to the west side, parked five blocks from the casting office, waited 35 minutes, walked back to the car, had a parking ticket and drove home. For every 30 of those they might get one sweet gig.”
When FINNEAS and Eilish were onstage at the recent ASCAP “I Create Music EXPO” they noted how, early in their journey, suggestions had been made about songwriters and producers with whom they might consider collaborating. “But that’s not what got us here,” was their response. FINNEAS elaborates, “Early on, we’d sit with some great 35-year-old songwriters who would say, ‘Yeah, you know when you’re driving home from Tulsa…’ And Billie would be like, ‘I’ve never fucking driven a car.’ So that’s what I try to catalog as her brother: I know how old she is, and I know what she does and doesn’t do.”
In addition to Eilish’s songs, FINNEAS, who has placed a number of his tracks on television shows, co-wrote “Lovely,” Billie’s duet with Khalid from the 13 Reasons Why Season 2 soundtrack, and has collaborated with other artists including Lucas Nord and Noah Gunderson. Kobalt Music administers his publishing. “Amanda Samii is the reason I signed,” he notes, “but I love everyone there.” FINNEAS says that he met with a number of companies prior to finalizing the deal with Kobalt. “One of the deals I was offered was a 20-year deal––and I was 19! The advance was good, but 20 years is a crazy amount of time.”
With plans for three more singles to be released this year and currently recording Eilish’s Darkroom/Interscope full-length, FINNEAS clarifies that songs he creates for other artists and how he defines his solo identity are discrete entities. “I write obsessively all of the time,” he confirms. “The only songs I keep are really personal.”
Contact Ava Tunnicliffe, Tallulah PR + MGMT, [email protected]