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Hailee: 'I won't lie, I do often lose track of where I am'

Teen actress and musician Hailee Steinfeld tells Andy Welch why there are still so many opportunities for her to explore

Published 12/12/2015

Hailee Steinfeld combines acting and music
Hailee Steinfeld combines acting and music
Hailee Steinfeld in Pitch Perfect 2

Hailee Steinfeld was just 13 when she landed a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the 2011 Oscars for True Grit. Her response to the news? "Being cast in such an incredible film was an award in itself," the modest star insisted.

By then she was already five years into her career and today, at 19 (it was her birthday yesterday), she's a veteran. Now she's launching a music career, too.

While conducting interviews to promote her debut EP Haiz, she is sitting on the set of her latest film in Vancouver. Besties, in which she's starring alongside Woody Harrelson, will have finished filming by the time you read this. Steinfeld is currently on the Jingle Ball Tour around the major cities in the US.

"I won't lie, I lose track of where I am," she admits. "With the promo and travel, I don't know what's happening. Movies aren't so bad because you're stationed in one place for a while and that's good, but music, I'm all over the place. But I love being busy. It's certainly better than the alternative."

While she has been singing since she was very young, and film fans will have seen her earlier this year in Pitch Perfect 2 playing newcomer Emily, she didn't perform on stage until much more recently, although it was something of baptism of fire.

While most aspiring artists recount their stage debut in the upstairs room of a local pub, in a youth choir or karaoke, Steinfeld's first time on stage was in front of 20,000 people at the iHeartRadio Festival at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

"I got to perform with Shawn Mendes, one of my favourite artists, and I performed my single Love Myself. It was a surreal experience, people singing a song of mine back to me. They knew the words, it was amazing.

"I remember thinking beforehand that I was ready and prepared, but the second I got on the stage, I thought, 'I am so not ready and I am very under-prepared, what am I thinking? Who put me up for this?' I was completely thrown into it, it was on TV, my first live performance ever.

"That was my favourite performance yet," she adds. "But then I've only performed five times so I don't have much to go on."

She's still recording her debut album, which she hopes will be released in the spring, and enjoys the contrast between that and her acting.

"It's a place where I'm allowed to express whatever's on my mind and not be ashamed or afraid of it. It's all usable. I'm able to go into that environment, can look however I want, be vulnerable, be open, and encouraged to be so. It's very different to acting where you're given lines and get instructions on how to act."

Her first single was released in August, and Steinfeld believes it really set the tone for what people can expect.

"I hope that any fans would set their expectations or assumptions based on that track. But then I know people heard me sing in Pitch Perfect 2, so that's what a lot of people have to go off, and I can't blame them for thinking that I'll sound like that. It's hardly a bad thing to be associated with."

Indeed, Pitch Perfect 2 is the highest-grossing comedy musical of all time, and the perfect vehicle to launch a music career.

Of course, 'actor-turned-singer' is a tag not everyone sees as a good thing. Two other words, 'vanity project' spring to mind, and for every Jennifer Lopez, there's a Russell Crowe, Bruce Willis or Keanu Reeves.

"I think it can be done, acting and singing, and in terms of what I'm doing I just have to focus on one then the other," Steinfeld says.

"I've really focused on music in the last year, but now I'm making a movie. So I hope the music does well, and then I'll have the movie to promote and then we'll take it from there."

Having achieved so much already - she can also add an appearance in a Grammy-nominated video in the shape of Taylor Swift's Bad Blood - you might think Steinfeld is ticking items off a to-do list too fast. Not so.

"When I first got into this whole world, there was never a plan to achieve anything. When I told my parents it was the performing and entertaining that I liked, that was the interest, but ever since I got the opportunity to do those things, I've realised how many other opportunities there are.

"There's writing and producing and directing or whatever. There's so much left for me to do, so you might say that I've done a lot already, but there is still plenty left for me to achieve."

Extra time - Hailee Steinfeld

  • Hailee Steinfeld was born in Los Angeles on December 11, 1996.
  • Of her True Grit performance, her Rooster Cogburn co-star Jeff Bridges said: "What a tough, challenging role for a seasoned actor. All that dialogue, kind of tricky way of speaking. Thirteen-year-old girl, never been in a movie, and she comes up with that performance. Isn't that remarkable?"
  • In 2013, Steinfeld starred in Romeo & Juliet alongside Douglas Booth. Based on Shakespeare's classic, the film was written by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.
  • Her uncle is fitness expert and entrepreneur Jake Steinfeld, famed for his 'Body by Jake' method. He also founded the US Major Lacrosse League (MLL).

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