Billie Eilish on Paul McCartney: “The Beatles were what raised me”

“My name next to theirs and being on the same level as them… it’s bonkers”

Billie Eilish has expressed shock and excitement over her headlining spot at this year’s Glastonbury festival – particularly over the fact that she was billed alongside Sir Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar.

Eilish closed out the Pyramid Stage on the first night of the festival yesterday (June 24), performing 21 songs in a set that NME’s Thomas Smith said “felt like proof that the future is here”. Before the performance, she spoke to NME for this week’s Big Read cover story (which is also being printed in a special edition run of 1,000 copies), declaring that she feels “so honoured to be a part of” the festival.

With her set, Eilish became the festival’s youngest ever solo headliner, and the first born after 2000 to top the bill. Contrasting this is the fact that McCartney will be Glastonbury’s oldest solo headliner, having turned 80 last weekend. On the significance of both occasions, Eilish told NME: “It doesn’t matter how old you are, where you’re from, what you look like or who you are: you can do this shit.

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Billie Eilish on the cover of NME
Billie Eilish on the cover of NME

“My name next to theirs and being on the same level as them… it’s bonkers. I remember Kendrick headlined a festival I went to when I was 14, and I couldn’t believe he was headlining this small festival because he was so huge. And now I’m headlining the same festival as him and Paul McCartney… are you kidding me? The Beatles were what raised me. My love for music I feel 95 per cent owes to the Beatles and Paul. It’s insane to think about.”

Eilish was the first of the three headliners to perform, with McCartney’s set slated to go down tonight (June 25), and Lamar’s tomorrow night (June 26). This year’s Glastonbury was the second that she’s appeared at, having played The Other Stage in 2019. According to NME’s review of the set, if you weren’t in attendance, “you fucked up big time”.

During last night’s set, Eilish spoke out against the overturning of Roe v. Wade – the 1973 court case that made abortion legal in the US – which was finalised hours before she took to the stage. Eilish pre-empted an acoustic rendition of ‘Your Power’ by explaining that the song is “about the concept of power and how we always need to remember not to abuse it”, before telling her audience: “Today is a really really dark day for women in the US. And I’m just going to say that because I can’t bear to think about it anymore in this moment.”

Billie Eilish
Credit: Matty Vogel

Elsewhere in her Big Read chat, Eilish commented on the expectations put on female performers to have “the biggest show”, sharing that she remembers thinking, “I would never be able to headline anything.” She expressed that she felt it “was so cool to be a young woman and headline festivals, because it’s so male-dominated,” adding that she had felt “hopeless” for the future of women in music in 2017 and 2018.

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She continued: “I would see these line-ups for festivals and it was all dudes. And it was all artists I liked, but it was just like, ‘When will women be involved?’ Women have to have a million back-up dancers and a million costume changes and their hair done, and crazy costumes and stage set-up. I love male performers, but they barely have to do shit to have a show that people like, and women are expected to have the biggest show.

“I’m tired of feeling like we have to do that to feel adequate. If you want to do that, then that’s so great, but I remember thinking that I would never be able to headline anything because of those expectations.”

Billie Eilish
Credit: Matty Vogel

Eilish recently added another leg to her ‘Happier Than Ever’ world tour, announcing six tour dates in Asia this August. The shows will mark her first-ever headlining shows in the continent, having previously performed in Singapore, Tokyo and Osaka in 2018 as part of the Laneway and Summer Sonic festivals.

Eilish is currently on tour through Europe and the UK, with a previously announced tour of Australia and New Zealand set to kick off in September.

Check back at NME here for the latest news, reviews, interviews, photos and more from Glastonbury 2022.

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