Hailee Steinfeld is in Rogers, Arkansas, and she’s super pumped about it—as she is about every part of being on tour. “Being in a different city every single night and performing for a new crowd is so exciting,” says the singer and actress, whom you miiiiiiiiight know from her star turn in True Grit, her plucky-newcomer Pitch Perfect 2 role, or, in fact, any one of her Hollywood hurrahs. (Psst: She’s got a new movie coming out in September, the hilarious-looking The Edge of Seventeen.)
But right now, Hailee—or Haiz, per the name of her debut EP—is on the road with Meghan Trainor, plying the crowds with her very own frank, emphatic pop tunes. The two singers bonded after Trainor gave Steinfeld a pep talk during last year’s Jingle Ball—”she’s so cool and so genuine”—sparking a friendship that’s turned into a national tour.
“Starving,” Steinfeld’s newest single, is a pretty, guitar-laced collaboration with Zedd and production team Grey that gives us major “More Than Words” vibes—updated with some nifty electro touches, of course. The dream team came together over the Zedd-penned ballad, which Steinfeld said she “immediately fell in love with” when she heard it, and it’s not hard to see why. We asked the teen wonder about the five albums that changed her life, and you might be surprised at just what’s influenced her musical taste. (Here’s your official “major throwback” alert.)
‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles
This album represents so many things—family memories, and family vacations and trips. I saw the Eagles perform years ago and I remember not really paying much attention to what was going on with the audience, but I knew every word to every song. I was too young to have an attention span long enough to sit still through the entire show, but I remember looking at my parents enjoying this show and the music. This album is represented in so many family memories that, to this day, they come back to me like nothing else, when I hear songs off this album. We would take boating trips every summer, my family and I—every time I hear “Hotel California,” I think of being on the boat and being with my family.
These days, Hailee Steinfeld’s on top of the world. She’s an Oscar-nominated actress, hit musician, and now a Seventeen cover star—but in our September issue, the 19-year-old reveals life before mega-fame was anything but easy.
“There was a period of time where every morning at 7:02, I’d get a prank phone call at my house,” she says. “That’s how I’d start every day, with a threat saying, ‘Come to school now. We’re going to kick your butt.’ So I went to school early and went in the back way. And there would be times when I’d come back to my desk and have hand sanitizer all over my books and in my water bottle. People would come by and slam my locker shut when I was still putting my books in it. It was just the most absurd things that you are supposed to see only in the movies.”
Fortunately, those mean girl days are way behind Hailee, but there are still times when she doesn’t feel 100% confident. “I have definitely had moments where I’m scrolling through Instagram and see these drop-dead gorgeous models, who we tend to forget are genetically a certain way, and think, Why can’t I or don’t I look like that?” she says. “It’s so easy to forget that we are all so beautiful because we’re unique.”
That’s why she was drawn to her upcoming role as a super-relatable teen in The Edge of Seventeen. “This girl goes through experiences I totally went through, where it felt like it was the absolute end of the world,” she says. “Just having so many moments where you question who you are and what it is that you’re good at and what you feel good in.”
Now, Hailee knows she has a support system of friends she can lean on when things get tough. And yes, that does include a certain popstar named Taylor Swift — but there’s a catch. “I think people think we spend a lot more time together than we actually do!” Hailee says. “She’s amazing though.”
One thing she does have in common with Taylor? Plans to dominate the music industry in a serious way. “I want to make the best first album I can possibly make,” Hailee says. “And I want to get to a level where I can headline my own arena tour. I know that I can make it happen. It’s just the beginning. I see the future being really big.”