A few years back my wife came home with a movie she rented for us to watch over a weekend. She has a good eye for choosing films that I enjoy. On this day she brought home the movie remake of the John Wayne classic, True Grit. Jeff Bridges reprised the role of Rooster Cogburn in the 2010 film. However, it was his young costar named Hailee Steinfeld who stole the show. That was my first introduction to the young actress who would go on to make many more movies before turning twenty years old. Steinfeld would not only excel in the film industry, but music would be a big part of her entertainment life. Yes, Hailee Steinfeld has a plan!
Since Steinfeld is so young, many of you may not be familiar with much of her work. Therefore it might be good to share her life and career highlights.
Steinfeld was born on December 11, 1996, in the Tarzana neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. Steinfeld began acting at the age of eight; she appeared in several short films, including in the role of Talia Alden in the award-winning She’s a Fox. She made several television guest appearances and commercials. Steinfeld was chosen for the role of Mattie Ross in True Grit when she was 13. The role earned Steinfeld a nomination at the 83rd Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress. In May 2011, five months after Grit was released, Steinfeld was chosen to be the new face of Italian designer brand Miu Miu. Since that time Hailee Steinfeld has appeared in twelve films, not counting short films, television appearances, and other miscellaneous roles.
When you look at Hailee Steinfeld’s background and work throughout her teen years, she appears to be ready for a successful career in film. How did she come to the music industry? It all happened suddenly.
In 2015, Steinfeld co-starred in Pitch Perfect 2, alongside Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and Elizabeth Banks, who also directed. In an interview with Popjustice.com, she described the series of events that led to her start recording music.
“Well I went to an event in New York City and ended up sitting next to Charlie Walk from Republic Records. I was with my mum; there was no strategic seating, he didn’t know us, we didn’t know him. We got to talking and there was a Pitch Perfect connection because Republic had worked on the soundtrack of the first movie. I expressed to Charlie how much I wanted to make music and he had headphones with him, so I played him a couple of things I’d done on my own, that I had on my phone. That’s kind of how the conversation started; we’d meet with him when he came to LA. And about four months later I signed with Republic, and I’ve been in the studio ever since.”
The part of the interview I found most interesting is that music was never just a hobby for Hailee Steinfeld. As we listen to her music, we are hearing years of preparation and work to make music. She continued, “music has always been something I’ve wanted to do. It’s always been part of my plan and I’ve been experimenting with it since, well, since I was like 12. In the last couple of years I’ve been working with a family friend, Chase Duddy. He’d produce the music and it was kind of an experiment to see if I liked it in the studio. And I loved it.”
Hailee Steinfeld’s interview revealed what talent evaluators saw possibly well before her 10th birthday. Remember, Steinfeld was eight years old when she started appearing in short films. Even at that tender age it was clear that Hailee Steinfeld had talent for acting in films. More than likely her musical talent was apparent as well. Nevertheless, her family and team devised a plan. A plan now paying dividends in successful music.
Is there enough musical evidence to suggest Hailee Steinfeld will become a recording superstar? It’s possible! Steinfeld already has a very large fan base because she is a major movie star. Obviously many of those fans have followed her to the musical side, and she has picked up a few new fans along the way. Is she a good artist? Is her music good?
Steinfeld released the EP Haiz on November 13, 2015, by Republic Records. The EP received mixed to positive reviews upon release and achieved modest commercial success in North America. Critics described the record as “fun” and empowering but felt that Steinfeld lacked personality. It debuted at number 38 on the Canadian Albums Chart and number 57 on the US Billboard 200. The Japanese edition debuted at number 76 on the Oricon album chart in 2016.
I listened to Haiz, as well as her single “Starving” which was released on July 15, 2016. The music is good, but her performances seem to be better. When I look at the music videos and live performances, there is no doubt Hailee Steinfeld has stage presence. Will that be enough to propel her to musical success? Time will tell. However, we are watching her plan at work.