Headlining Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage – the most recognised festival platform in the world – has always been a career-defining moment. When 20-year-old Billie Eilish makes history as the youngest ever solo headliner on Friday, one familiar face is guaranteed to be there among the hundreds of thousands – her mother.
“It’s definitely amazing but very hard to process at the same time,” said Maggie Baird. “It’s a very pinch-me moment. People always ask, ‘How do you feel on this momentous day?’ But as a parent, everything your kid does from the beginning is kind of amazing. I was blown away when she was playing the little club in our tiny area of Highland Park [in Los Angeles]. It just stays mind-blowing.”
The Glastonbury moment is the latest in a long list of records for Eilish. She is the youngest artist to reach 1bn streams on Spotify, the youngest record-of-the-year winner in Grammy history, and the youngest ever headliner of Coachella festival.
“All these amazing, incredible moments in a career are also surrounded by a tremendous amount of stress, pressure, hard work and exhaustion,” Baird said.
“And so it’s really important that you not let these big events just become something to check off your list. And this is just me watching! But even for Billie, you have to keep thinking, ‘wow, here’s where I am right now, and this is happening.’ We see her doing it all the time, she stops on stage and is like, ‘wow’, which I love.”
Baird, an actor, screenwriter and former theatre troupe teacher, has accompanied Eilish on her Happier Than Ever global tour, visiting 47 cities over six months. Both Billie and Baird’s son, Finneas O’Connell, are multiple award-winning singer-songwriters. The family, whose creative productivity knows few bounds, have often collaborated together, with Baird editing Billie’s 2016 music video for Six Feet Under, and writing and co-starring with Finneas in the 2013 film Life Inside Out – to critical acclaim.
Baird, 63, is also the founder of Support + Feed, a plant-based food initiative to combat food insecurity and the climate crisis, and is one of the executive producers of Overheated, a documentary being screened at the Greenpeace field this weekend.
The film, directed by Yassa Khan and co-produced with Eilish and Naza Alakija of the Sage Foundation, is a commentary on the climate anxiety spreading across the world. It features Baird and Eilish alongside Vivienne Westwood, the climate activist Vanessa Nakate, Yungblud and Emily Eavis, among others. “The film is really beautiful and artistic,” Baird said. “I hope it will make people feel they’re being seen and heard.”
In the documentary, Eilish discusses her personal experience of climate anxiety and condemns systemic inaction. The singer – who began her career at the age of 13 – is one of today’s most vocal public figures in the fight against the climate crisis. Recently, she fronted the multi-day Overheated events at the O2 in London, which bring together climate activists, musicians and designers for panel discussions.
“I think the climate emergency is really affecting the younger generation,” Baird said. “Billie has a song, All the Good Girls Go to Hell. Finneas has several songs about the end of the world, including Die Alone and Till Forever Falls Apart. The end of the world, or the end of life on Earth, is very much on their mind all of the time.”
Baird, who manages the environmental impact of Eilish’s live shows, paused her own acting and writing career to focus on her daughter. But working so closely together has its ups and downs. “I feel for her a lot, it would have been hard for me at that age to have my family around,” she laughed.
“But on the other hand, when you’re going through these kinds of things, it’s helpful and important. I think it’s a real balance. We’re very lucky. Finneas and Billy make each other laugh like nobody’s business. It’s also really important to have one person who’s your advocate in a larger sense, not just what you need in the moment but what you need in the larger picture of your life. I hope she thinks it’s a good trade.”
Amid all the glamour, she said, there will always be your typically boring conversations. “Billie, don’t forget the steamer, and where’s your laundry. But I think everybody’s like that. You have these super glamorous, powerful moments, and the next day you’re packing your bag and watching The Office over dinner.”
Eilish is due to perform alongside Finneas, who collaborates with her on her songs – including the Oscar-winning James Bond theme No Time to Die. The siblings recorded Eilish’s hit Bad Guy in Finneas’s bedroom before it went to No 1 in more than 15 countries and became the best-performing single in the world in 2019.
Speaking about her Glastonbury headline slot, Eilish recently said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I’m constantly feeling like I’m undeserving of everything, and I think that’s a good thing,” she told Apple Music 1.
“But first of all, it makes you doubt everybody because you’re like, ‘Why would you choose me?’ But with that being said, that’s why I’m even more excited about it and stoked to be the youngest headliner ever.”