Hailee Steinfeld reveals how her past relationships have changed her and releasing music in the middle of a pandemic
After being nominated for an Oscar at only 14 years old alongside Oscar winner Jeff Bridges in the critically acclaimed movie True Grit, it’s safe to say that Hailee Steinfeld’s career in Hollywood as an actor was cemented.
However, it quickly became apparent that Steinfeld possesses many talents. Since her incredible smash debut hit Love Myself in 2015, it is clear Steinfeld’s love for music only continues to grow and is nothing short of genuine.
In her latest EP Half Written Story, Steinfeld reveals a more personal side to her as she pens her own melodies and even dabbles in rap. We talked to the actor and singer on how she is staying creative in quarantine, self-love and juggling her two busy careers.
First off, we just want to say congratulations on your latest EP, we’re really loving it! You said that you were able to be vulnerable and honest with this EP because no one needed to hear these songs. Which song was the hardest for you to put into words?
“They were all fairly easy in a sense because I knew exactly what I wanted to say—I told myself that because I realised that if I thought of it that way, I really wouldn’t hold back. If I told myself that I could just put it all out there and if I was uncomfortable with it by any means, nobody would have to hear it. But I think that pushed me to be even more transparent in these records.
“In some ways, there were moments of writing each song that were hard and difficult because the process forces you to relive certain things you don’t necessarily want to hold on to. But I would say for the most part, they all happened organically; nothing was forced, nothing was too complicated.”
It’s been five years since Love Myself and there’s an obvious shift in focus from that single to your current EP. What is the process of growth between your relationship with the people around you and your relationship with yourself in the past five years?
“I think I’ve grown a lot as a human. A lot can change in five years especially at this point in my life—actually, I do think the next five years will really shape who I am more than the last five years have, although I have definitely learned a lot. I’ve gone through a lot in my experiences of growth in my personal life and professional work life.
“Every relationship teaches you something about yourself which is the best part — if it’s good for something, we always walk away learning something about ourselves; good, bad or indifferent, we learn something and there is a purpose for going through what we go through. At the end of the day, we never know what the reason is but I truly believe everything happens for a reason.
“I’m thankful for the stepping stones and everything that’s happened in the last five years—I know it’s been a while and they’re very different records but that’s the beauty of music: everything is constantly evolving.”
Was there a blueprint and clear direction that you were planning to go in, especially since Half Written Story feels like it cuts a lot deeper for you personally? Was it always the plan to do this kind of sound?
“Music for me has always been a constant experimental process. Since I started making music, I’ve been doing it simultaneously with film and TV. These records came out of a period of time where I was focused solely on music and not a million things at once. So it was really fun to dig deep and figure out lyrically, melodically and sonically where I wanted to go. Every time I sit down in the studio, it’s always a different conversation as far as what I’m doing—the possibilities are really endless and that’s what makes it so fun.”
Going back to the idea of vulnerability, you previously described music as a platform that allows you to be truly vulnerable and open. What was the learning process like channeling this vulnerability from your established acting career that relies on masks and personas?
“One thing about music is that it’s my own story. As an actor, I take other people’s words and resonate with them, of course, and justify what they mean for me. But it’s ultimately my interpretation of what I am delivering and like you said, it’s almost as if I’m masked by these characters. It’s a very similar, if not the same, level of vulnerability but you wouldn’t necessarily know what was running through my mind when I was acting out a certain scene because you’re (hopefully) buying what the scene is playing out, so I’m protected by that.
“But with my music, it’s a direct line into my soul and mind which only gets deeper the more that I write and the music I create—which I love, it’s a scary and weird thing but I think people know when something is authentic and when it isn’t. As a fan of music myself, I am drawn to what is real and genuine so I feel that it’s my responsibility to be honest with myself and in my work.”
As someone who has each foot planted well in both industries, which do you personally enjoy more—acting or writing music?
“There are definitely different parts to each that I really love and some parts that I don’t necessarily love. But really, with every day that I get the chance to do what I love, I’m constantly reminded of how lucky I am and how much fun I have. I’m always being challenged, going new places, meeting new people and experiencing life in a way I never could have dreamt of—so, I don’t know if I can choose one over the other but I am super lucky to be able to do both.”
Since we’re living in a pandemic right now, what is it like to reach out to fans digitally during this quarantine time?
“It’s kind of insane—I think we’ve all realised over the last decade how social media and digital interaction have truly taken over. I mean, this interview wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for Zoom and our computers!
“I’ve spoken to my family more during this quarantine than normal because we can’t just drive by and see each other, so we had to make more of an effort. A lot of my friends are going through this alone as well so this is their only way to stay connected. So the fact that everybody is in the same position almost makes it easier to connect. I’m also known to come online and then drop off because I get distracted and it’s hard to keep track of a million things at once. I do take my connection with my fans very seriously and it has given me an opportunity to really be present so I’m thankful for that.”
Lastly, do you have any words for your fans in Malaysia?
“I love you guys so much and I genuinely hope this comes to an end soon so I can see you all in person and perform these songs live. But in the meantime, stay safe and positive! We’re all in this together and I’m sending all my love. Thank you for all your support.”