In the last decade, Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld has made her name as both an actress and pop singer.
With the recent release of her sophomore EP, Half Written Story, she adds another title to her resume – director.
The 23-year-old co-directed the music video for I Love You’s, one of the singles for the EP, together with director Sarah McColgan.
“I’ve grown up on film sets and I’ve worked with some of the most incredible directors of our time,” she tells The Straits Times in a recent Zoom interview. “I almost feel like I’ve sort of shadowed the directors that I’ve worked with in a way. And so when it came to co-directing the video, it was just so fun to be in that position where I could throw my hat in and share input.”
At the age of 14, Steinfeld received several nominations, including for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars, a Bafta and a Screen Actors Guild award, for her role as a tough teen in acclaimed Western True Grit. The 2010 film was helmed by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen.
The last few years have also seen her taking on starring roles in blockbuster films such as Oscar-winning animated flick Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and Transformers spin-off Bumblebee (both 2018).
More recently, she played the titular role in Apple TV+’s Dickinson, a 2019 series based on the life of the iconic American poet Emily Dickinson.
Asked if she is taking the current downtime in Hollywood – filming has largely been put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak – to focus on her music career, Steinfeld says no.
She finished filming the second season of Dickinson before the pandemic shut down many industries around the world and it had always been her plan to spend time on her music in 2020.
“This time was always carved out for music so I do feel grateful that I have the time to continue making more.”
She has been staying busy while under lockdown at her family home in California, where the guest room has been converted into a music studio.
“I’ve been having a really good time just figuring out how things work with certain software and I’ve been recording and learning how to cut my own vocals so there’s definitely a lot to learn and a lot to do.”
While she started acting at age 10, it was a chance encounter that led to her getting a music label contract.
At an event in 2015, she found herself seated next to Mr Charlie Walk, the former president of Republic Records. She played him some of her music and within four months, she had signed with the label.
Her debut single released in August that year, Love Myself, peaked at No. 30 on the United States charts. She put out her debut EP, Haiz, three months later.
“That was such an incredible and wild experience because of how quickly everything came together.”
She was a lot more involved in the writing process of Half Written Story, which comprises love songs such as Wrong Direction and End This (L.O.V.E.). I Love You’s samples Annie Lennox’s 1995 song No More “I Love You’s” and is about Steinfeld recovering from a break-up.
“I wanted to be incredibly transparent for myself in this music and I feel like I was able to do that.”
She envisions this EP as the first of a two-part project.
“I am so proud of them,” she says of her new songs. “And just excited as I continue working on what’s to come. I wanted to put these out for people to enjoy and continue working towards a bigger body of work.”