Hailee Steinfeld Says Being In Taylor Swift's Squad Isn't As Glamorous As You Think

Photo: David Livingston/Getty Images.
Hailee Steinfeld gets cheeky on Haiz, her debut EP out November 13.

The first single, “Love Myself,” has thinly veiled allusions to masturbation tucked within an empowering message. The kiss-off song “You’re Such A" is a cheery anthem that skirts the word "dick." She has an air of cool detachment on "Hell Nos and Headphones," in which she decides to ditch the people "making love to Jack and Jameson" and do her own thing.

Steinfeld, 18, first rose to fame as the wise-beyond-her-years Mattie Ross in the Coen brothers’ 2010 film True Grit, which earned her an Academy Award nomination. But she's not trying on any alter egos in her music, she told us. “With the one thing that I’m used to — which is acting — I get to play these characters that are so well written, and I can tell their story,” she said. “With this music, I get to tell my own."

Steinfeld isn't leaving acting behind, though. She chatted with us on the phone from Vancouver, where she is working on a comedy known as Besties on IMDb, co-starring Woody Harrelson.
Was making music always a goal for you?
"Yes. Making music is always something I’ve wanted to do. I actually got started with it around the same time I started acting. Now is just obviously the first time anyone’s hearing it. But yeah, it’s really kind of crazy how it has all come together. I signed with Republic Records less than a year ago, released my first single within six months, and now have an EP coming out, which is insane."

When you say you started around the same time acting, were you pursuing it as a career then?
"It was definitely more of a side project [early on]. I recorded a couple of covers to see how I felt in the studio, behind the microphone. That’s when I got started, but my movies were taking up most of the time."

Are these songs autobiographical in a way?
"They really, truly are... The songs on Haiz are definitely very personal and mean a lot to me for very different reasons. That’s one of the most terrifying, yet exciting parts about releasing this. It is me and my voice and my take on things. It will be interesting to see how people respond."

Where does a song like “Hell Nos and Headphones,” which is about leaving a party, come from?
"With ‘Hell Nos and Headphones,’ that song actually got started when I went into the studio with Justin [Tranter] and Julia [Michaels]. I was talking to them about an experience I had where I found myself in a situation that I was completely uncomfortable in, and worked up the courage to leave and not feel like I had to conform to a certain behavior to be cool or be something that I’m not. I think there are times, often, where I am walking around in the world trying to figure out where I belong, and something that’s so important is noticing that it's okay not to feel like you have to do or say anything to do or be anything that you’re not. That's basically what 'Hell Nos and Headphones' is to me, is just saying, 'No, I'm going to walk away and I'm going to stick with what I love and stick with what I know, and in this case, it's make music.'"
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When “Love Myself” came out, a lot of people were talking about how it alludes to masturbation. You’ve confirmed that. How important is sex positivity for you?
"I was aware of the double meaning. When I first heard the song, it made me feel great about myself, about life, about everything that was going on. It has such an incredible self-empowerment message that I think is so easy for young girls or women of any age and guys to forget how important it is. Realizing that you can do just about everything on your own is incredibly empowering."

You’re famously friends with Taylor Swift and other young musicians, like Lorde. How have their experiences in the industry influenced or affected your journey?
“I’m so lucky to be able to call some of my favorite artists and human beings my friends. It’s so amazing that I’ve been able to make friends around the world and stay in touch with them and be inspired by them. Ella [Lorde] just turned 19, which is insane and so awesome that we’re [basically] the same age. She’s so incredibly talented. Even with Taylor and Selena and Demi — one of my favorite things about all of them is that when we hang out, it’s never a matter of anything other than relaxing and catching up and being ourselves and doing what makes us feel good. Then we go out and we do our jobs, we do what we love, and we pick up where we left off.”
Have you thought about collaborating with any of them?
“Have I thought about it? Yes. It’s definitely something I would love to do. My list of dream collaborations is very very long and they are at the top of it, but I would absolutely love to make that happen in the future.”

Who else is on the list?
“Oh my god, it’s so unrealistic. I’m almost embarrassed to share it. There are so many people.”

Who is the most unrealistic person?
“I don’t want to jinx it. Skrillex and Diplo. But yeah, I don’t want to think it’s unrealistic because I have to believe it, right?”
What is it like having friendships that are in the public eye?
"It's weird, I guess. It’s different. It's a weird sort of thing. I can tell you there's a lot that isn’t observed, and those are some of my favorite moments. I have found that I'm rarely at the same place at the same time as my friends. If there's a moment, whether it's an awards show or a girls' night in, no matter where or what it is, any opportunity to see my friends, I'm there. It’s exciting and it makes it much more of a thing when we’re all together and it is public."

"Haiz" is your fans' nickname for you. Why did you decide to call the EP that?
“I really felt that in releasing my first body of work, if I titled it Haiz, which is what my fans call me, it would feel like, 1) They named it; and 2) It was my gift to them. Especially after seeing the overwhelmingly positive and amazing response to my single “Love Myself,” giving this to them is the least I can do.”

Have the music-oriented films you've done influenced you at all in your musical process?
“I’ve always been interested in doing a film role in which I either sing or do something musical. When Pitch Perfect 2 came around, I jumped at the opportunity and did anything I could to be a part of it for multiple reasons, but mainly for the music aspect. It’s completely carried through and it's been the perfect segue into professionally recording music with the record label.”

Is there more music down the line?
“Yes. It’s all in the works and there’s nothing scheduled as of this second, but it’s all coming soon. I can’t wait to hold people over with the EP.”
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