It’s hard to believe Finneas O’Connell — the multi-Grammy winning songwriter, producer, and musician who’s worked with everyone from Justin Bieber to Tove Lo to his younger sister, Billie Eilish — ever doubted a successful career in music; a profession he was motivated to achieve following a Green Day show, Finneas’ first live concert, at the age of 11.
“I just remember thinking, ‘That’s clearly the greatest job there could possibly be,’” Finneas says. “And, it just never left me.”
Throughout the remainder of his childhood Finneas honed his craft, stressing over a self-dubbed calling. “I only defined professional musician as not having to have another job; that seemed like the dream,” Finneas says. “And, I didn’t know what that looked like; I thought maybe that would be being an assistant engineer or, you know, working as somebody’s guitar tech or something like that. But, my fantasy was that I’d be able to make a living from writing songs.”
Capping off a whirlwind year that included a Billie Eilish world tour, wins at the Oscars and Golden Globes, and a solo Coachella debut, Finneas sat down with Rolling Stone to reflect on his career milestones, the craft of songwriting, and influences from artists who came before him, some of who are featured within Audible’s trailblazing Words + Music series.
The 32-volume Audible Original series is a cross-genre, cross-generation listening experience where musicians ranging from Billie Joe Armstrong to Brandy share personal stories with exclusive performances woven in. The coming-of-age stories in St. Vincent and Beck’s Words + Music particularly resonated with Finneas.
“I loved hearing the context and back story to songs I’ve loved for so long, and really feeling like I was around for the ride for how his career must’ve felt going through it for the first time,” Finneas says of Beck’s Words + Music. “As a listener of just the music, I think he’s making it for the right reasons: self-expression, enjoyment, fulfillment. To me, that’s why you should make art.”
Watch highlights from our conversation with Finneas above, and discover the full Words + Music series on Audible.