Hailee Steinfeld on Her Anderson .Paak Collaboration “Coast” and How She’s “Building Out a World” with New Music

"I'm so excited to share more where this came from," Steinfeld teases

hailee steinfeld interview
Hailee Steinfeld, photo by Katia Temkin/Illustration by Steven Fiche

    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.

    “Coast” definitely feels influenced by Los Angeles and Southern California. Was there anything about writing and recording that song that felt specifically “LA” to you?

    There’re a few things that come to mind. First of all, just on the subject of the Beach Boys, I originally recorded “Coast” in my “guest room” studio in Malibu which I feel like I hear… I hear being in this place that I grew up in that always represented freedom. In this little neighborhood, there’re street lights that will obviously go out at a certain time and it sort of reminded me of being young and riding a bike around the cul de sac until the street lights would go out and then you’d have to go home. There’s this sort of nostalgic feel to it in that way. It feels like the sun on your skin and the breeziness of that ocean air.

    But apparently, my little home studio wasn’t sufficient enough — it wasn’t incredibly soundproof, gardeners would come and kids on skateboards would go by and it was all over the track. But I then took it to EastWest Studios in LA, and I actually re-recorded it in the room that The Beach Boys did 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?” I wondered, “In what area of this small room did that idea or that song stem from?” to be ingrained in that energy, in that world, to immerse myself in all of that.


    And then of course, Anderson .Paak being born and raised not too far from me in Oxnard, California, he really cements that West Coast vibe, that West Coast energy, and he just has the most incredible, infectious energy, the amount of passion that he has… he is a true artist through and through, there’s so much substance in every line he writes and everything he does, I felt so lucky and so honored to have him on this song and to have his support on the song and beyond.

    “Coast” also feels like you weren’t just trying to make a catchy song, but craft a unique experience. Is that something you relate to? Does it apply to the rest of the new music you’ve been working on?

    Yes, and I am so grateful that you’ve picked up on that. I think having written these records in my room, in this rather confined space, when we were all sort of stuck at home, I wanted to paint this picture of what a night out might look like, or what life might feel like if we could go anywhere and be with whoever we wanted to and do whatever we wanted to do, travel to anywhere — I’m very much a homebody. So for me, this was all about painting that picture of an ideal world, if I could do anything and everything in this moment, what would it be? What would it look like? What would it feel like? What would it sound like?


    It was one of my favorite things about this whole process and this new music, and I’m so excited to share more where this came from. With my producer being in Canada, me being in Malibu, the writers on this record mainly in the UK, some in LA, everybody was everywhere… in the past, when I’ve gotten in the room with Koz, my producer, we sit and chat and we start playing something, whether it’s chords, or some ideas or concepts we came up with — it’s relative to the day. But as far as the songwriting process goes, it always kind of varies. But with this, knowing that I’m a visual person, Koz and I were not in a physical room together, our internet connection wasn’t great. You’re trying to play things, it’s laggy, and we’re not catching a vibe… it was really hard. So I told him I was gonna go away and figure out what this whole world looks like.

    From that point, to literally 20 minutes ago, I’ve had these boards up that take up way too much room from the floor to the ceiling, and I’ve just been pinning inspiration and building this world visually. And from there, Koz was so influenced and so excited about what this whole thing looked like, that he was like, “I think I know what it sounds like.” And it’s just been an incredible collaboration between the two of us and everyone else that we’ve gotten involved. From there, we went to concepts and titles and lyrics and built it all out from there, it all stems from the visual side of things.

    I’m not surprised! Koz is a pop music genius.

    One hundred percent. I will say, on that note, he has been so patient with me from the beginning. I think when we first met, a first session is like a first date, it’s awkward, you don’t know the people, you’re dying to get into it and tell them everything about yourself. But you’re also incredibly hesitant. I mean, I should be saying “I.” But with Koz, he just truly believes in me and in this project that we’ve created, and to have his patience and his guidance through all of this has been something that I’ve not had in the past.

    And I’m so, so grateful for it, because with all the deadlines and the cut-offs in the world, it’s so important just to focus on the work at hand and what it is we want to create and the feeling that we want to leave people with, and that can override a few hours of missing a deadline, right? So he’s stressed that importance to me and made me realize that it’s about creating an experience. So that’s what we’re doing.

    With all this new music coming soon, how has it been to balance crafting this “body of work” with your hectic filming schedule?


    I’ve got a wonderful team that helps me out with all that. There’s no denying it’s a challenge. But I think I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I’m able to… don’t get me wrong, I still stress out like no one else — but I’ve gotten a lot better with it and I’ve gotten to a point where I feel like I’m open and aware enough to let one influence the other without it taking away from either. And I don’t know that I had the mental capacity or sort of strength to do that before.

    But I feel like I’m in such an amazing place where I’m working with so many amazing people all the way around, I have the honor of playing these roles that I find so fascinating, and I’m so excited about the fact that I’m constantly learning, I’m constantly growing, I’m constantly being fed inspiration, whether I’m looking for it or not, whether I’m aware of it in that exact moment or not. It’s all around me. It’s all in front of me. And I feel like I’m able to see how it all works together, and I’m able to take advantage of that in the best way.