Here is a sweet mini-portrait of growing up in a small, loving house in a great city and being given the time, space, and materials to do your work:
The video combines three of my loves: musicians talking about the recording process, unschooling, and how to make a creative environment at home.
Finneas O’Connell, a 22-year-old singer and songwriter, also co-writes and records the music of his younger sister, the 17-year-old phenomenon Billy Eilish. They grew up in a 2-bedroom in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, and were homeschooled by their actor parents, resulting in a musical partnership that thrives on their friendship and trust.
Their parents’ decision to homeschool was partially inspired by the fact that Finneas was born the year of “MMMBop” when the Hanson Brothers broke big. As their dad put it, “I was completely swept away by these kids. They were religious Oklahoma home-schooled, but nonetheless. Clearly what had happened was they’d been allowed to pursue the things that they were interested in.”
It’s interesting to me that homeschooling isn’t just part of their story, it’s central to their story. Finneas summarizes the results:
Being born when I was born, and just being able to afford a computer and Logic Pro, just being afforded the opportunities I was afforded, living in LA, making music, being homeschooled, having time in the day to make that music, it was this gift I was given of time and resources.
He talks about the importance of their home as a space:
“There’s a crazy intimacy to what we’re doing…. There’s such a private feeling. It’s our house. It’s where we’ve experienced everything. That allows us to make some kind of music that feels wholeheartedly exposed, as far as who we really are as people.”
His sister, Billie Eilish, says the first song she recorded, “Fingers Crossed,” she wrote at age 12, inspired by one of her mother’s assignments:
I was in the songwriting class my mom taught, and the little assignment was that you had to watch a movie or a TV show and then write down all the parts that you thought were good hooks or good lyrics. So, I watched The Walking Dead — like, why not — and then I wrote down all this stuff. People don’t even know that that’s what it’s about, because it sounds more like a longing heartbreak song. But nope, it’s about zombies.
Elsewhere, she talked more about their homeschooled childhood:
“When I see movies set in summertime, that’s what my life was like all the time, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t learn,” Billie explains. “My mom would cook and she’d be like, ‘How much goes into this?’ And that’s how we learned.”
Homeschooling was crucial partly because Billie deals with auditory processing disorder—it’s hard for her to listen and absorb meaning in standard ways—but it had the happy side effect of sharpening her sense of self. “I never went to school, so popular was never a thing for me. I don’t understand peer pressure,” she says.
Filed under: unschooling
PS. Just for fun, here’s Finneas vs. Owen in his studio: