Hailee Steinfeld is on a roll right now.
With three consecutive hits in the past year in "Starving," "Let Me Go" and "Most Girls," Steinfeld has taken her platform as a beloved actress in films like "Edge of Seventeen" and the "Pitch Perfect" franchise and turned it into genuine pop music stardom. And, with her debut album on the way, she shows no signs of slowing down.
Ahead of her performance at the Kellogg's NYC space in Union Square, AOL Entertainment sat down with Steinfeld to talk about her upcoming album, the reason behind her one-off single releases and reflecting on her Oscar nomination for "True Grit" seven years ago at Sunday's Vanity Fair Oscars party.
Check out our full conversation with Hailee Steinfeld below:
You're performing at Kellogg's NYC on "National Cereal Day Eve," which has to be one of the more unique performance opportunities you’ve had in recent memory.
Oh, yeah! Totally. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a very big fan of cereal, and to be here performing in this incredible space is amazing. I have a feeling if I weren’t performing, I would be here anyway celebrating as a tourist because where else would you want to be on National Cereal Day? This would be my spot.
Hailee Steinfeld performing at Kellogg's NYC for National Cereal Day. (Credit: Sara Jaye Weiss // Kellogg’s)
In the past year or so, you've had three massive hits back-to-back-to-back: "Starving," "Let Me Go" and "Most Girls." Do you feel like you're on a roll?
It’s crazy, really. It’s so exciting how the music thing has been working for me. To have one after another like that is not easy, and I owe a lot to my fans and my label. Mentally, I do feel like I’m on a roll, and I’m working on my album right now. With the EP and the last few singles, they’ve brought me all over the world, and I can’t wait to see where this album takes me.
Do you feel pressure to follow up one hit with another?
There is that sort of -- if you want to call it “pressure" -- in the way back of my mind, and it’s an obvious conversation of, “What are we going to follow this up with?” But I honestly feel like you can never go wrong with following something up with something else that means something to you. At the end of the day, if it doesn’t necessarily resonate with other people, it still meant something to you, and I always think that that’s the most important.
You've been releasing your singles mostly as one-offs, instead of songs that are part of albums or longer projects. Was that a conscious decision? That strategy seems to work for a lot of artists in this streaming-centric landscape.
It was sort of [conscious], but also I would go away for three months and make a movie and couldn’t commit myself to an album at that time or to more than one song at that time. Luckily, my fans are great and patient and loyal enough to live with one single for as long as they have.
You've also stuck to mostly pop-leaning tracks that are fun to listen and dance to. What attracts you so much to pop? Your material has really been able to stand out in a hip-hop-dominated world.
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with a song that makes you feel good -- sonically, anyway. If you hear a song and you can’t necessarily make out the lyrics or aren’t necessarily listening to the words or messaging right away, a song that can make you move and feel good is something that I love.
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Let's go back to the album for a second. Where does it stand?
I’ve been in the studio every single day for a while now, and it’s weird to talk about it wrapping up, because I’m getting closer and closer to narrowing down the songs, picking the songs and placing them on the album. It’s so weird, because it feels like I have ten more things I want to talk about [on the album], but I’ve really got to wrap it up. [Laughs] I’ve got people that are like, “We’ve got a date!” I’m also going on tour this year with Katy Perry in the UK and Charlie Put this summer, so I’m beyond excited to have new music to play.
What's it like having to find something to tie the album all together? You've never put together a full album before!
It’s constantly evolving, and sometimes I think I’m writing about something, but then the next day I’m writing about something completely different and I don’t even really realize the cohesiveness of it. I feel like my whole life is one thing happening after another. It’s definitely a challenge piecing it all together and making sure that the story makes sense start to finish.
What music have you been listening to? Has any of that informed how the album's going to sound?
Pop Rising on Spotify is like my go-to. I love how it gets everyone before anyone knows them on that playlist. I live on there! Otherwise, my playlist apart from that is all over the place. In terms of influences for the album, it’s everything from Fleetwood Mac to Lauryn Hill to Ed Sheeran. It’s all over the place, and there have been so many crossovers recently, so it works.
You went to the Vanity Fair Oscars party on Sunday night. Does returning to Oscars events bring you back to 2010, when you were nominated for "True Grit" and then your career really took off?
Absolutely. It’s so crazy to be there now, and I didn’t realize that it had been seven years, which makes me feel like I’m getting older in a weird way. [Laughs] That’s a big number! Part of me feels like it was just yesterday, but it was seven years ago! It’s really nostalgic to go back there and go to that party. It’s fun, you know, just to see the biggest movie stars walking around, some of them holding Oscars in their hands.
Obviously music if your focus right now, but is it a goal of yours to get nominated for another Oscar someday?
It’s funny because if you asked me that Sunday night, I would absolutely have said, "Yes!” But, honestly, that isn’t particularly my goal right now. My goal is to make a film that I’m proud of, and I have! But it’s more to just continue on. I also refer back to the fact that I was 13 when I made that movie, and I didn’t know that the Oscars were anything other than just a red carpet, you know what I mean? Getting nominated or having anything to do with awards season wasn’t even in my mindset until it happened, and I realized it’s the highest honor you can get.
Thinking back to that little girl at the Academy Awards, could she have ever imagined that she would one day become a hugely popular pop star?
I just remember leaving the Oscars [that year] thinking, “Whatever my next film is going to be, I’m going to be nominated for it and the one after that.” And I didn’t realize that was humanly impossible. I don’t know, though! I’ve always wanted to entertain and perform and, at that age, I didn’t know specifically what light that was in, but I’ve found my way and I feel really lucky that I was able to do that at such a young age. I thank God that I’m good at it, because if I wasn’t I don’t know what I would be doing right now.
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