From the first notes of “Coast,” Hailee Steinfeld‘s latest single, we are beachside, beer in hand, with waves crashing distantly ahead, the golden sun slowly inching toward the horizon. It could be Malibu, or it could be any other location that this feeling calls to mind. Though for Steinfeld, who was born and raised in Southern California, it almost certainly is Los Angeles, the song a conduit for the nostalgic, delightfully chill energy of the west coast.
It wasn’t enough for Steinfeld to take “Coast” solo; she brought along fellow SoCal extraordinaire Anderson .Paak to give the song yet another dopamine boost, and Paak, as always, delivers. But “Coast” definitely marks a new era for the singer, songwriter, and A-list actress. After her second EP, Half Written Story, came out in May 2020 — her first release since her 2015 debut — Steinfeld knew it was time to change things up from the EP’s vulnerable, heart-on-her-sleeve approach.
“I didn’t want to live in that space anymore of feeling confused, sad, frustrated and, you know, maybe a little angry,” she tells Consequence. “I wanted to feel good, I did feel good. And I wanted to make music that felt good.”
In between releasing Half Written Story in 2020 and “Coast” back in July, Steinfeld kept busy with her various TV and film projects — perhaps most notably her role in Disney+’s Hawkeye series, where she plays the smart, athletic, and hilarious archer Kate Bishop. But in all the various cinematic worlds that Steinfeld finds herself in, she’s the most eager to explore her own. “Coast” is set to be the lead single for what Steinfeld calls a new “body of work,” a new collection of music that she constructed throughout the pandemic with esteemed producer Koz, known for his work on Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia.
Though “Coast” was initially recorded in Steinfeld’s makeshift studio in her Los Angeles home, she took the song to EastWest Studios to re-record it, and ended up working in the same room that The Beach Boys recorded Pet Sounds in. “I would just sit there and think ‘what the hell was Brian Wilson saying to everybody in this moment, right now? What were they talking about? What were they fighting about?’,” says Steinfeld. The Beach Boys and their California jams certainly loom large in Steinfeld’s new project, and their signature idyllic energy is exactly what she’s looking to recreate.
Consequence recently sat down with Hailee Steinfeld to discuss “Coast,” writing and recording new music during the pandemic, her sonic inspirations, and what this new direction means for her music. Check out the full Q&A below.
You released your second EP, Half Written Story, back in May of 2020. What was the transition like from finishing that EP to starting over again with “Coast”?
Yeah, I had released Half Written Story at the top of an era in which we had no idea was about to happen. And it was due to a few things as far as timing goes, but I felt like I accomplished I needed to internally with Half Written Story. But there were songs that needed to be worked on that I could have taken my time to finish with my connection to them growing more and more distant as the days would go by, or I could put this newfound energy and excitement and these new feelings that I was having into this bigger picture of a different body of work. I very quickly felt like when Half Written Story had come out, I didn’t want to live in that space anymore of feeling confused and sad and frustrated and, you know, maybe a little angry, the list goes on. I wanted to feel good, I did feel good. And I wanted to make music that felt good.
And then, shortly after, I think a lot of us found ourselves in what we refer to as “an unprecedented time” searching for inspiration, searching for answers, searching for a lot. And I was like “okay, if I’m going to be here, and I’m going to have this time, I’m going to get lost in this world that I want to create.” I’ve never done what I’ve done with this new music and with the process of making it all. I was at home in my room — I actually didn’t even call to ask but I moved all my guest room furniture into my brother’s house and I created my lifelong dream of a makeshift home studio, and stuck myself into the corner of the room, stacked a bunch of pillows and cushions and got a rug and kind of had to deaden the room a little bit. But I started working on this music with my producer who was on Zoom in Canada. So yeah, I very quickly got into this new world of light, and one that I felt really good about being in and feel even better about the music that’s come out of it.
Since you were a bit more isolated than usual while working on the new songs, did you find yourself reconnecting to music in a different way?
Oh, absolutely. I mean, my experience listening to music, and making music, was far different than it’s ever been at any other point in my life. I was able to go back and take a deep dive into the music that I grew up listening to, and I connected to it in a way that I think you do inherently just by it being the music you grew up listening to, but I was able to understand these songs in a different way and be inspired by these songs in a way that I could only hope to be inspired by and influenced by. And I was able to put that into the music I was making, and also look around and let myself be influenced by where I’m from and where I grew up. That’s a huge part of who I am and I don’t know that I ever realized that as much as I do now.
Which artists specifically influenced “Coast” and the new music to follow?
The Eagles and The Beach Boys are maybe two of the biggest influences as far as the music to come, but that’s what I grew up listening to. I can’t tell you how many life memories are connected to certain albums, individual songs… music has that magical way of just taking you right back to that moment. And there’re so many of those moments within the music that came from both The Eagles and The Beach Boys. A lot of Daft Punk. I hung some records on my wall that I had. Some Stevie Nicks, Blondie, some Madonna, and then the music that I listen to now — the discoveries just keep happening. We’ve got a ton of Steve Lacy right now. I went to the Kendrick Lamar show, so Kendrick’s been on repeat.
Before, I would listen to music and just fall in love with an album or an artist, but now I see a much more well-roundedness that comes with maybe just a song, or a lyric within a song. And I think that’s maybe coming from a point of wanting to write an album, wanting to create a world within an album. I’ve been so lucky to release singles over the years while simultaneously making movies and shows, and I’ve never quite had the opportunity to sort of build up this world that’s been in my mind for years now. So I looked to these other artists and the artists that I just mentioned, with so much more respect and admiration than ever before, knowing the detail that goes into building out a world.