Billie Eilish’s Mom REVEALS Parenting SECRETS | Rich Roll Podcast
They're taking kind of all of it out on you, and you're like, oh my gosh, I really wanna run away, but I have to stay here because I actually have to protect you. (gentle music) Anybody whose a parent knows that it's hard. It's really hard. Even under the best circumstances, but imagine parenting two kids, two artistic, musical, homeschooled kids, and keeping them grounded as they skyrocket to just insane fame.
I can't imagine that, but this week's guest can because she lives it. Her name is Maggie Baird and if that name sounds a bit familiar, it could be because she's an actor, a performer, with a very long list of credits to her name, but more likely it's because she's like the coolest mom ever to two of the biggest musicians in the world. Billie Eilish. Yes, that Billie Eilish, the seven time Grammy award winning 19 year old, Billie Eilish, and Billie's equally talented eight time Grammy winning 23 year old brother Finneas. All of whom are portrayed alongside Maggie's husband, Patrick O'Connell, in the recent and amazing documentary on Apple TV Plus called, "The World's A Little Blurry," which is to my mind at least, this beautiful story about coming of age, but also about family.
It's about parenting and the challenges faced by a mom and a dad trying to consciously guide their talented kids through this vertigo inducing ascent to super stardom. Maggie is a long time vegan, animal rights and environmental activist. She's also the founder of something called "Support and Feed," which is an incredible non-profit that partners with restaurants across America and soon the world, to provide plant-based meals to those experiencing food insecurity.
We get into all of this and so much more, so kindly hit that precious subscribe button, pull up a seat, get comfortable, and enjoy time well spent with the wonderful Maggie Baird. Awesome, well, so nice to meet you. So nice to meet you.
Thank you for coming out here. I'm actually surprised we haven't met previously in the kind of extended vegan mafia universe that we sort of occupy. We've got lots of mutual friends in common. I tried to get Toby Morris out today to join us. He wanted to, but he had band practice.
He texted me a few times. So yeah, he sends his love and also John Lewis who I know you're close with he's a good friend. Oh yeah, well. A lot of these people, to be honest, I've only met this year through the incredible Jeanette, and although I've been like a lifelong almost vegetarian and vegan, I just wasn't that well versed in the larger community. The ecosystem of Los Angeles veganism.
Yeah, I was busy doing other things, kind of some in sad ways, kind of being a solo person in that. So it's been really fun for me to connect with that world. It's a tight knit, small community, but very mutually supportive.
Yeah, I wish I had found it sooner. I really didn't. John just premiered the new movie, "They're trying to kill us a Tribeca."
You've seen it. You're involved in some capacity, I don't know. Billie is an honorary executive producer.
I didn't know if that was public yet. And I think I'm on a producer thing. It is, yeah. It came out with the Tribeca thing.
Yeah, it's gonna be great when people see it. I can't wait for people to see it. It's so important. It's just, it's very eye opening.
It deals with the issue of food poverty, and the inequalities with respect to how we're feeding the population, food deserts and how that disproportionately impacts people's health in lower economic strata, especially in urban areas, which dovetails pretty nicely with Support and Feed and everything that you're doing right now. Yeah, it's kind of right up our alley. John came out and he did film a little bit of what we were doing.
I think that's in the movie. Yeah, it's right in line with what we're trying to do. Right, so explain to people what it is.
So Support and Feed started at the beginning of the COVID crisis, really, as a response to the COVID crisis. We realized that, I was on tour with Billie, a lot of what I do is Billie, I do a lot of things, but a lot of the things I do are centered around helping her, everything she does be sustainable and green socially conscious and everything else. So we were on tour. We had a very green tour. We had a company called Reverb with us. We had all vegan catering for everyone, the most amazing catering, by the way and we had our venue, everything set up recycling centers for water filling COVID happened we came home was a bummer on every level and then we just started talking like, wow, this is gonna be so bad for so many people.
So many people are gonna need food. So many people will be out of work and oh, the plant-based restaurants, all that we depend on so much that we love so much because they help people learn about plant-based food they're so important. They're so small usually.
So we like ordered a bunch of food from Sage actually. The Sage in echo park. The Sage in echo park yeah and we had it delivered to the Midnight mission. We're like all that we could do that, and then it was like, that's a good idea, but that's not, that's not really gonna do it. So overnight I kind of had this moment, my mind of like, ah, this could be a big thing, this could really do something. You know that feeling when you're like about to step into what you know is gonna be major project your like do I really wanna do better? Better get your growth mindset on? Exactly. Yeah.
Exactly, you're like, I could just walk right by that idea, but the next morning I made a few calls. Those calls connected to me, a few more people, including the amazing Jeanette, Rose and Nick, all these incredible people who just jumped right in, Justin even at Billie's label and within a week we launched, we had not only launched a website, we were delivering meals. The premise being, we would buy plant-based meals from restaurants.
So super high quality, delicious nourishing, take them to people experiencing food insecurity through community organizations, helping people meet their need for food that's healthy also supporting the local community and economy and exposing people to plant-based food, helping the climate because we know how important. That was the idea and that's what we did and it was pretty amazing. We had 100% volunteer operation and still do actually until next month when we finally are gonna have some paid employees and as we did that now to align more with what John is talking about is, once we stepped into the world of food insecurity and I'm gonna admit, I was very naive about it. I just didn't know enough, you step into that world.
You realize where your mission can be most effective. In the beginning, we were also feeding frontline workers, which was great because they really needed the help and they really needed the vegan food. They were getting inundated with pizzas, et cetera and when our food would show up, they would be so overjoyed. Oh, that's great to hear.
Surprising cause you'd think like, oh, these guys need me. Oh, that's what people would say to us on that. Yeah I know there were so especially the hospital workers, and I would get messages from other people like, oh, I heard that the best day is when the Support and Feed meals come, but we did realize that the biggest mission we could address was food insecurities in food apartheid's places where people had lack of access to healthy food and there's so much hunger, there's so much food insecurity. So where could we make the biggest impact, help people the most, help the planet the most, help everything associated with plant-based eating. So we really focus on community orgs that serve communities that have lack of access to healthy food.
Then those organizations started asking for more information for their community. The people were loving, the food. Many people had never had plant-based food.
Some of them frankly didn't want it in the beginning. So that was part of the mission of like giving them the best food, like the highest quality delicious food and they got turned on to it. The line started getting longer on the days our meals came and they started asking for information just about the health benefits, how to make it at home, et cetera. So we really started addressing that and now we've really pivoted to not really pivoted, but like transitioned as we move forward out of COVID crisis to really climate crisis and food justice is really our mission. So on that arc of learning about food injustice and food apartheid, et cetera, what was the, what did you learn that you didn't know going into it? I had a vague knowledge, but it's a really deep subject and it was an incredible year as we know the whole George Floyd horrific, the summer, all the protests, it was a learning time and I was immersing myself in that as well and learning about the systemic racism in the food system.
I mean, I knew a little bit, but to really have at the same time that we were doing support and feed to really be learning about red lining and either the lack of even grocery stores in communities and why that exists and why the fact that there was a grocery store and then it closed in there now can be a grocery store for 15 to 20 years. This was really eye-opening to me and at the same time, I was actually physically making the deliveries in LA with our other amazing volunteers and going to communities and, I remembered literally driving to the boys and girls clubs of challengers of the Metro LA for a delivery and at the same time, listening to an NPR story about how the temperature in that very community would be one to two degrees higher in the summer for the lack of plants and trees, et cetera. So it was all kind of coming at the same time and I've always been really obsessed with, climate change I mean, for 35 years, 35 years ago, I was wearing a shirt that said, stop eating McDonald's the Amazon rainforest, I had stats 35, this isn't like new. Yeah, you're not Johnny come lately to this. This is bred into you from the get go.
Yeah and also I think it's crazy Like there's a certain idea now that it's like new information. It's like, this is not new Bano was shouting about this 35 years ago. We knew what we were headed for. People just didn't wanna make a change. Government didn't wanna make a change.
We all know about the suppression of information and the heavy power that the lobbying industries of meat and dairy industry have, but we've known this was coming. We have known, and it's really criminal that we've gotten this far, but all that was kind of happening at the same time, it was almost like it was being fed to me and then at the same time, this crazy thing happened. I was like trying to find a book to listen to, to go to sleep and I happened to have on my like audible list of books, I had gotten on tour, "The Tipping Point" and I was like, oh, that'll probably put me to sleep, but no, it didn't to put me to sleep at all. I was like, why do I going, oh my gosh, this is where we are and these are the things we could do to help this tip.
There's so many things right now happening. So it was all very concurrent for me. Yeah, well, what's powerful about that is just taking that step I mean, for many of us, if not most of us, the problem just seems overwhelming if you acknowledge it and it feels like we're powerless to actually do anything, so we just continue to live our lives.
But here in the midst of the COVID year, you have this idea, you executed on it with just the, hey, let's go to this restaurant and get some food to these people and it's scaled up now into this real thing where you, I mean, this is happening in like, we have like four cities right now that are doing this. We have four cities and we're gonna be on tour next year on Billie's tour, she has an eco village with Reverb will be part of the eco village, We'll be meeting people, getting in all the cities, we'll be able to do deliveries. So we are scaling up. We have in our five-year plan to be a presence in all 50 states, at least doing some activations, 'cause a lot of what we're doing is we're feeding people, but food is part of the step of what we're doing, right? People really need the food, but if we can empower people to know, oh, plant-based food is good and plant-based food is healthier for me and the planet I'm gonna ask for plant-based food. A lot of organizations feed people. They need to be including plant-based food as part of their strategy. Sure.
If all the organizations that feed people, could switch to having at least 50% plant-based meal that could make a major impact on people's health and the climate. So part of what we're doing is just trying to be a part of that culture of change of like eye opening, like, oh, this is a thing I want this, I deserve this, you know? Yeah that conversation would have been sheer lunacy even 10 years ago. It's crazy how much things have changed.
I'm thinking of not just what you're doing, but John's movie, that's on the precipice of coming out. I know Jaden Smith has his, "I love you Truck," he goes down to Skid Row and delivers free plant-based meals to people there like, oh yeah so good. I literally talked to Jaden yesterday yeah. He's the best. He is the best I just. That kid is incredible. I love him.
Yeah and we were just talking about all the ways, we could help him, he could help us. We could, what he's doing is amazing and he has attitude of like, he just sees a problem and he's like, how do I fix this? How do I do it? What do I throw at this? That guy has no problem getting into action. It's unbelievable what he's capable of manifesting. Like he's doing so many things, It's amazing.
And the water thing too, which is a big deal when you're on tour and all the plastic bottles and all of that, all the waste. It's crazy, right? Well, that's how it started for me. Like the first tours, when you're touring in the beginning, I mean, you literally are in a van, you're in a white sprinter van. Well, at first you're just in a car and you're just hauling it, to San Diego, but then you're in a white sprinter van, and you get to a venue and it was just, it was quite shocking to me, to go from my little life, where I've been using cloth grocery bags for 35 years and reusable bottles, it's been such a part of my life and then to go out and be like, what is with this? what is the plastic water bottle? Where's the recycling, where is the, this, you know? And in the beginning, I kind of encountered an attitude of like, that's how it's done.
That's how it's done, that's how it's been done. Nothing you can do about it and I was like, I don't think that's true, like, I think we could do something about this, but yeah, it's a real, I mean, it's a major switch right now in the touring industry and Reverb, which is an incredible company, is a lot of that. I got, I just started asking a lot of questions and I'd asked this and then somebody say, oh, you need to talk to so-and-so. And actually Chris Martin called me one day and I was like, I was walking around like Chris Martin is on my phone. I was so excited.
That's exciting. But he was calling me to recommend, cause I'd said, who can connect me with somebody? And he connected me with Reverb. So that's an organization that creates sustainable solutions for touring. Yeah sustainable and they have the music climate revolution starting this year, all these artists, including Billie, Finneas have signed on to have carbon positive tours, with all the various things you have to put in place to do that. But that's, their whole mission is greening touring and advising like the help advisers on, honestly, like what kind of vinyl, what can we use 100% recycled vinyl? Can we use this? Can we use that? You know that the trick is there's never a perfect answer and you have to be, yeah, you have to kind of weigh stuff and we don't live in a society right now that's great with that, you know? No everything's binary. Yeah and people are super judgmental, like, it's like, oh, you did this and you didn't do that.
It's like, there's subtleties in this and you're trying to make change and it doesn't all happen overnight and it doesn't happen 100% and I think it's really important that we look at, we look at what is in a positive way and kind of what I'm trying to say like, there's this, there's some reluctance on some people to take any steps for fear that they will be cut down for not being 100% perfect. Sure if you just adhere to the status quo, nobody says, boo, the minute you try to change something for the better you get criticized for not doing enough or doing it wrongly and that's not a very encouraging environment. Exactly. For people who might be interested in participating in that positive change. Exactly, it's like, oh, you're a hypocrite 'cause you did this.
It's like, these other people are literally doing nothing. We're really, really trying. So just to say that, but Reverb helps us make those decisions, because it's always a decision like, should we make the tour bus Bio-diesel, here's the pros and cons or should we do this? Which will not be that, but it'll offset in another way.
Those are the kinds of decisions you gonna make. Yeah you go bio-diesel then you're opening yourself up to all the criticism about that but there is no electric truck and even if or bus, and even if there was, then it would be like, well, do you know how they create the electricity for the bus? Like you really can't win. So the only way to move forward is to make those best decisions and immunize yourself from all the chatter that goes on around it.
Was Reverb part of the live nation decision to go plastic free, like with the water bottles and all that. Yeah I mean, I think, I'm really happy to say I think a lot of some of that has come from Billie, we've been pushing for a long time to have these things and Rev and Live Nation has been very, very responsive. Shout out Michael Rapino. Yeah, I mean, they've been really responsive. We went in with a lot of concerns and they've listened and I mean, some very cool things are happening, even just, on Billie's tour, some of the arenas are actually kind of changing their names to be away from names that are associated with meat and they're adding vegan substitutes and they've really come a long way and what's been really cool is that in the beginning, in the beginning it was kind of me being a nudge, I mean, I was annoying. I mean, I'm sure everyone found me very annoying.
Oh no, Maggie's on the call, what's she gonna ask? But it's gone from me going like, what about this? And what about this? And can we do this to them literally presenting us, they've laid it out there like they're coming to us with, we found a way to make this sustainable and we found a way to do this and we know you might be concerned about this, so we've already addressed it. It's massive yeah. That's pretty cool. Well, that's the responsible effective use of the power that you wield to be in this very privileged position with everything that's going on to be able to create those kinds of changes in the world.
I mean, if you're not gonna do that, then what else are you doing? What else is? And also to be honest the challenges, listen the life of my family it's great there's so many perks, but there's challenges to that kind of thing too and what makes it worth it is you can do some good, it's kinda the only thing to do in life I think, and my brother always says, Billie and Finneas have a superpower and it always depends on how you use it and it's that super power is having a platform and having, being able to take action and a lot of that's not super visible to people. It doesn't need to be visible. It's what you're doing behind the scenes that's really changing, but it's also what you actively promote as well.
Sure, I wanna talk about the family piece. I'm just obsessed with your family after watching the documentary, which I absolutely loved as somebody who's been an activist and feel strongly about so many of these issues that we're talking about and as this Uber mom who, raise their kids with this ethos, how did you, my feeling is that kids go one or two ways with this stuff, either they're on board because they revere their parents and they wanna model their behavior after the example that their parents set or, and at some point they need to kind of push the envelope and stretch their own limbs a little bit and separate and they do that by rebelling or doing the opposite of the example that was set to distinguish themselves in their individuality. But it seems like with Billie and Finneas, they're on board with all of these idea that there's passionate about this stuff as you are. Yeah, I mean, I think you're absolutely right. Those things can go either way and I mean, we're lucky.
We definitely always talked about these things, there was, they got the message of why always why, so if you're hearing the reason behind it, people used to say, when they were little, like, why don't you let them eat meat? I was like, well, because I'm responsible at this point for their health and their wellbeing and that includes their moral and mental health and when I look back at my life, I regret having ever eaten meat, right? And so at this point, when I believe ethically, morally for all the reasons we know that it's correct to not eat it, that's what we're gonna do now, when they grow up, they have a right to change and think whatever they want, but they won't look back and regret not having done something you know what I mean? Like having done it, you can't take that back, but having not done it, you can do it later. So that was kind of the philosophy there. But then along the way you talk about why, you talk about why do we do it and they hear it and are they indoctrinated in it? Yes, but you're indoctrinating as opposed to an entire culture, that's trying to indoctrinate in a different way, right? So, yeah, I think it's just that they learned about it.
I mean, I remember watching a documentary with Billie, a David Attenborough documentary. I mean, it was radical to her, really, really affected her. So it just was kind of part of our family and I think it was, it got into their mindset and is there probably a little bit about like, oh my gosh, what would my mom think? Yeah, a little bit. But they have other things that they do that are, not something I would do.
I have no tattoos. Right yet yeah Maggie there is still time. Yet that's what I meant to say. Well this goes back along time for you as you mentioned, you grew up in Colorado, your dad was like a hunter and a fisherman. So were you the odd duck out to say, I wanna be vegetarian as a kid. My brothers became vegetarians too.
My father fish, we always went fishing. His indoctrination didn't work the same way. Didn't work yeah. My dad was awesome by the way and he loved the outdoors. He'd been an asthmatic kid on the East Coast, got sent out to the West to go to boarding school 'cause he would literally die in the East and he discovered the outdoors and he loved it, he loved fishing. He went hunting every year. It was in and I grew up in Western Colorado.
That was a big part of the culture. I loved going fishing with my dad 'Cause it meant sitting in a boat outside all day. He threw all the fish back, eventually and he had three kids who didn't wanna eat meat or fish. Isn't that funny? That is.
Like, no, not one of us would ever eat a fish ever and none of us would eat a deer. We all issued, I don't think any of us ever ate steak. Like those things I don't know, something in our DNA that we were kind of made to eat meat, but like the only thing we would do is, the most burned kind of unrecognizable. I remember the only time I was ever kind of punished, I sat at a table for many, many hours. I have a very, very clear memory of sitting at a table 'cause I would not eat a bite of venison. So I don't know why we all, my brothers are not vegan, but they're still vegetarians. So interesting
are they still are to this day? They're still vegetarian. They've never eaten meat, ever since there teenage years. Some weird, like a DNA fragment or something that happened along the way.
Yeah I've met other people like that who for no kind of obvious reason from early on, were like, I'm not eating that. And, at the time it was really 100% the animal component, it was, I'm not gonna eat an animal and then of course later it became about the environment. And then very sadly, my mother died of a heart attack at 57 suddenly and my mother had been in a family where heart disease was very prevalent. My brothers and I all have extremely high cholesterol.
So, the health component definitely came in at that point. I think there is something about growing up in proximity to animals though so many vegan activists grew up on farms and perhaps something about your dad going out and hunting and being around those large animals or, in a different way from the way you experienced them, when you just go to the grocery store or the restaurant. For sure when you see Bambi's mom, dead your like. Well, it goes two ways either you become the hunter and the fishermen, and there is a beautiful appreciation for nature and a deeper connection to the food that you're eating. So I wanna make sure I say that, but also that sensitivity to the fact that it is essential being that didn't exactly sign up for being eaten. Yeah and interestingly, I would agree with you about the hunting.
I mean, a lot of people over my lifetime, I've heard say things like I would never hunt and I'm like, but you would buy it in a package at the grocery store and to me, if I'm gonna have an opinion, I'd be like, I would respect someone who hunts it more than someone who would never hunted, but would eat it. That they're being honest about the equation. To be honest. And they're doing the terrible, dirty work themselves. Not expecting someone else to do it.
And I will say that in my father's later life, he died of pulmonary fibrosis 20 years ago. He, did not feel good about the hunting. He, he kind of regretted it. So he came to a different place with it.
In his older age. He wasn't that old. Is he still around? No he died at 74. So he didn't love it.
He didn't love looking back at it. So he came somewhere with it too. That's interesting. Yeah.
If he had stuck around a little bit longer maybe he would have gone in your direction. I think It'd be interesting and also for his health, here's something kind of interesting, I was a vegetarian for many years. Well, since I was a teenager, but and when I became a vegan, it was all the reasons, it was, I learned about the animal agriculture, the dairy and eggs, and it just became unavoidable. It's like, you can only deny it, oh, it's cage free eggs, oh, it's this and then you go, oh, all of that's kind of nonsense, right? So I did it massively changed, I had really been developing arthritis in my hands that went away.
Then my family who was all vegetarian, Patrick, Finneas and Billie, they came to it separately later and each of them had a major health change from it. Each different. My husband had had a lifelong problem choking on food and it was like quite serious. He'd had to have several medical procedures and it was like a daily occurrence, so did Finneas and when he gave up dairy, it went away basically overnight, it turned out is a condition called eosinophilic esophogitis and at the time they didn't know what it was, but subsequently have discovered it.
It's an allergy in your esophagus primarily today dairy, eggs, fish. Wow that's wild. Also yeah, isn't that crazy? So crazy, you got all his medical stuff and he first went to the doctor and he was like, he told the doctor, like I cured it and doctor of course didn't believe him. And then, eventually within the next year or two, they discovered it.
Wow, that's wild. Isn't it? Sorry to interrupt the flow. We'll be right back with more awesome.
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Again, that's meals.richroll.com promo code RRhealth for $10 off in annual membership. All right, let's get back to the show. So where does the performer emerge? How does that happen in Western Colorado? I don't know, I looked at the TV at age two and said, that's what I wanna do apparently.
That's what my parents always said. All I ever remember saying was I wanted to be an actor. I don't know where I even got the idea. I just, I mean, I grew up in a small town, so yeah, just always wanted to be an actor and Lily Tomlin was on Laugh-In that looked like the greatest thing in the world and I loved Cat Ballou with Jane Fonda. Do you wanna be an actor? I don't know, never, I never wavered either. Was there a local theater in your town or how were you able to apply that trait at an early age or not until college.
High school yeah, Junior high, high school, the minute there was a play. I remember doing like a drama contest in high school. You know how you do, which seems so stupid.
Like, you're take your play to the stage. I remember before going on just like sobbing and the director was like, what's going on? Was like, well, nobody else really cares about it, but this is like my life. Like it was so serious. So yeah, I did like all the high school plays, then it went to college to study acting.
Sure and then you end up in New York at a pretty young age. Yes I quit college. In the Broadway Iceman Cometh. Well, I did well, I was an understudy and the Iceman come with me and Stanley Tucci actually were the understudies in the Iceman Cometh yeah.
Yeah, I quit college moved to New York, went to a Shakespeare company, then lived in New York city, worked in regional theater. That's what you do when you're a young actor in New York, you work at Cincinnati Playhouse in Florida in Seattle and all, I met my husband working in Alaska. So that was my early years. It's interesting if you pull up your IMDV, I mean, you have a zillion credits. Yeah if you spread them out over a large time.
They look impressive, but they are not. For like every TV show from "Six Feet Under" to the "L.A. Law" and "Everything in Between", "West Wing", you're on "Friends." Like it's crazy how many shows that you've been on, but I think it, there is a sort of a myth dispelling that we could do, the contrast between looking at all those credits and what the reality of that life is. I mean, you're very much a journeyman actor, living from gig to gig in a situation where you have very little control over your destiny. Like there's so little control over the arc of your career.
It's the worst, It's really the worst. It's a little different for actors now because there's ways to create content more easily. But yeah, I mean, you spread, it does look impressive on, IMDV, but you're like, well, that's like, how many jobs in a year and how much did it actually pay and what was your role? And some of those were really nice roles. I was cut out of more movies than I've ever been seen in, there's that and yeah, the working class actor is a real, it's much more of a thing than people know.
I think, LA is full of working class actors, people who managed to make a living, not a great living. Maybe they supplement that living by teaching or working another job. But, they managed to kind of keep their foot in the door and that's what I was, that's what Patrick was and you're always one call away from, I remember saying to my dad. That's the crazy thing. It's like pulling the slot machine because it's that, oh, here comes pilot season and if this one goes like, everything changes it keeps you in. I did, two or three network deals. Network is when you're like, you've auditioned, you've auditioned, you've had callbacks and then they're like, they literally write out your deal.
Yeah. So you know what you're gonna make if you get the job, but you have one more step, which is going to network and I never even went to network because the two times that are coming to mind, both of those fell apart right before the audition because, oh, so-and-so wants somebody to get it and they don't want you in the room because you might get, it was like craziness crazy and those are like, you're this close to like a major change of your life. And it's impossible to not like forecast into the future, what that life is gonna look like. I have in my past life, I was an entertainment lawyer.
So I've negotiated pilot deals before and it is crazy, like, it's literally, okay, this is what your life is gonna look like for the next seven years, what you're gonna get paid every year. It has to be fully negotiated and signed before the network even has decided whether the show is gonna be a thing. That's true. So that plays into that fantasy.
That more often than not is dispelled, because those shows end up in the graveyard. The show ends up in the graveyard. You don't get it. something happens. Yeah, it's a very weird world and it's also very not, listen there's amazing people who do incredibly well.
I don't wanna put, take that away, but there's also incredible talent out there that just never gets a break. Never gets a chance, the things fall apart, the show closes, all those things happen and it's not like a merit-based career, it's not like if you do this, this and this, this will happen. No, not at all. It's really, when my dad was alive, we were talking about the psychology experiment where the pigeon pecks at the door and the pigeon pecks the door and every time the pigeon pecks, the door opens there's food, right? So the if, but then if they take the food away, the pigeon stops pecking, unless the pecking is random, like the pigeon pecks, sometimes the door opens the pig in pigeon pecks. Sometimes it doesn't, if it's random and then you take the food away, the pigeon will just keep pecking forever and I was talking about what that was my dad and he goes like, well, that sounds kind of like your business. I was like, oh my God, dad we just keep pecking thinking that the door is gonna open.
Gotta keep that health insurance going yeah. Well, that's really, that's literally been my life for 23 years since I had children, especially just, can I get my health insurance? Can I get my health insurance? And people in the industry are nice, like sometimes they know like you desperately need your health insurance. In fact, my role on "Friends", which the episode is about Joey needing his health insurance.
I got that because the casting director was someone I knew from the Groundlings and I was like, Tony, I'm gonna lose my health insurance and he brought me in and I got the job. That was wow very mannor. It's actually a health insurance. Yeah, the Groundlings seems like it was fun though.
You were, there at a golden era with all kinds of interesting people Groundlings was fun and then you taught there too. Yeah. Yeah I taught there. Yeah It was fun some, one of my best friends still is from the Groundlings Amy. Yeah, it was fun. I came out to LA from a play, I'd been touring in a play and my mother had recently died and I was very sad and I came out and I saw a show with the Groundlings that another friend of mine was in I was like, oh, that looks like so much fun.
Wow, I didn't honestly didn't even know that existed. Like I'd always wanted to be like Lily Tomlin on SNL, all that. But I had been in the kind of more serious acting world, the more traditional acting world. So when I saw that, I was like, oh, that's for me. I wanna go do that.
So I started taking classes to the Groundlings and the thing about that was you just laugh so hard all the time and teaching the same. I really miss teaching is not easy for me to do that now, but I miss teaching because it's just laughing for three hours, teaching- You taught Melissa McCarthy? Well not that she needed to learn anything. So let's just say she was in my class, I had her in class for one based, I was her basic teacher. That's cool though. Her first teacher at the Groundlings, yeah.
But that whole class of Melissa's was great. Everybody in that class was great. I think Tate Taylor went on to be a successful director. I mean, I could name, I don't wanna name people because I will miss somebody and they were all great. Her whole class was great.
Fundamentally, I think of you as a teacher in general, like that that's your lane. I think that's where you excel, 'cause that shows up throughout your life and all these different ways. Like whether it's through some kind of odd job or the way that you raised your kids or the Groundlings, like when in doubt, like you find a way to be a teacher in some capacity, like it feels like you're always pivoting back to that. Well, it's interesting because my father was a teacher and he was a really beloved teacher and yeah I mean, I think you're right I actually love teaching, and I have kind of found a way to teach anything I know how to do, I will try to teach someone else because I want them to share in the fun. I mean, I've taught cake decorating and aerial circus and songwriting and ukulele and life skills and litter, drama, kind of anything I know how to do. I've taught a lot of improv obviously, but yeah, I do, I do like teaching, it's true.
Right and sometimes just for survival, like I'll barter you this, so I could get this, I'll teach this class so that my kid can get in just trying to scrape by yeah. 100% that's totally, my husband and I did a lot of bartering. So I would teach, I started assistant teaching, aerial circus so that my kids and I could do it and then I started teaching it, and I, we did a lot of bartering. My husband like used to do handyman work at the little gym so that Billie could have gymnastics classes. Yeah, It worked out bartering is a good system. So sweet seriously.
Yeah I fell in love with your husband watching the documentary. I mean, he is like the unsung hero of the movie, always lurking in background, taking care of the laundry or like in the kitchen paying bills or putting stuff away. Like, not a lot he sort of just always there making sure that everything is a well-oiled machine. Yeah, picking up the dog poop in the background, shouting he makes noise and he always made, he always has made noises.
He and Billie have a lot in common of like goofy, like strange noises and stuff and he's always doing that in the background and sometimes like a new person will come, like when Finneas, his girlfriend, Claudia came into our lives, we kind of forget about like, Patrick's oddities, you know? And then a new person comes over and they're like, what's dad's saying like, what is he doing? And he was like shouting in the back. Yeah, he's unusual. I love his mustache too in the movie, does he still have the mustache? No, that was a rough period. I did not love it, but I've always been like.
It was world-class. It was but I've always been like, whatever, you do what you don't wanna do, I don't care. Like facial hair comes, goes, do what you wanna do, right? I've never been controlling that mustache got a little old because we were on tour forever and I just kept getting more and more strict. (both laughing) And the problem with something like that is it's the same currently for I'm gonna out Danny Billie's manager for this, he has this beard that has grown and grown and grown through COVID and we're just like, when is it gonna go? But the more attention you get, like, because, when you got a mustache, like Patrick had, like everyone talks about it, everyone comments on it all the time. How can you get rid of that? Like, it's a conversation piece. Well, the movie was one of the best things that I've seen over the last year.
I just absolutely love it. I've watched it a couple of times going into it as I suspect, this might be the case for a lot of people. I thought, oh, this'll be a documentary about Billie's trajectory and it of course is that, but it's really this incredible, like layered on top of this coming of age story is this incredible document of a family. It's really a movie about parenting as much as anything else and this unit and how they're trying to navigate this crazy, insane Skyward trajectory while trying to maintain sanity and remaining grounded in what is most important.
Yeah, I think RJ did an amazing job, I think that's definitely how he saw it, and he did a great job, telling that story. They also used a tremendous amount of my footage, which I think is new to documentaries, to really have that kind of immense amount of phone footage, et cetera and he did a great job of like incorporating like real home events, I think was kind of his goal to like have a story of a family, for sure. I think he called it Neo verite.
Did he? Yeah and it's so emblematic of Billie's generation, this generation of people who have their entire, every moment of their entire lives documented, you have this extraordinary archive and when you wanna make a movie like excavating that and creating a narrative out of the entire process of going from A to B is available to you. It's available and also really presents a lot of unique challenges because you have so much footage, and how do you, you can tell so many different stories, and we all know that a documentary filmmaker could make, he could tell a completely different story and that's a little scary. Yeah, you're putting your trust into this person. You are and depending on which piece of footage you use, even a couple of things in the movie, like if the context isn't there, that that's gonna look really bad, like there's a couple things where, I think they struck a balance in the end, but if you don't show why that's happening, you're gonna look bad for being upset about it. But if you go, oh, these are all the steps that led up to that, you know? And by the time you got to here, this happened, you know what I mean? You can really sway a story and I thought he did an amazing job in the end of like pretty much telling the real story. When he came to you and said, I wanna do this.
Was there some trepidation around that? Or what was the process of signing on for this? Well, first of all, my other big love is filmmaking and movies. I love movies. I am obsessed with indie movies. I made a movie, I wrote a movie and I have always loved documentaries and small movies.
So I had to have that in my, I knew it needed to be a documentary. Do you know what I mean? Like, I didn't really wanna be documented, but I knew it was worth documenting and I was already filming kind of all the time so I could see myself that it was interesting. I think I thought in the beginning, like if I had been making a documentary before RJ came into the picture and everything, I probably would have been focusing on the fans because to me that was an incredible story, right? The life of the fans, the beauty of the fans, the deep relationships. The connection is so profound between Billie and her fans. Yeah and so I was really filming that myself and so when people started saying, what do you think about a documentary? I wasn't like, yeah, I really wanna our family to be filmed because I didn't. But I was like, yes, it's the kind of thing that should be a documentary and then we met RJ and he just was so clearly great to me, and the work he'd already done and the stories he'd already told.
So I was pretty down, for that, nobody really likes to have a camera in their face all the, I certainly don't, I'm very private, to be honest. Don't really like a lot of people around, I don't know and so definitely trepidation, but also, okay I know this is as story we're telling. Yeah, well, I got so much out of it. Not the least of which is just the power of effective parenting.
So I'm interested in how you came to some sort of parenting philosophy like you and Patrick in this approach to raising these two, wonderful, amazing human beings. Well, first of all, I think, thank you. We were older parents, we weren't young.
I had always wanted to have kids super important to me. So I knew that when we had kids that was gonna also, I'd lost both. I'd lost my mother and Patrick had lost his mother young and I don't know, I think that changes you. I think that, I mean, I know it changes you, but it gives you a real, you don't go through, once you lose someone important, you don't go through life, taking anything for granted, you know things can change, and so that, I think that informs my parenting right from the start, we desperately wanted, we were so happy to have children.
People always say like, oh, it's really gonna change your life. Like, yeah, I really wanted to change my life. That's what I want. I wanna devote my life to someone else and then some really key things happen. So we did attachment parenting, it just all spoke to us. We had a family bed, we had our kids in a slings.
Both of our kids were super high need kids, high need, if people are parents, they know like they weren't like the kid that sat in a car seat for hours, Finneas would literally, he had sensitivity issues. He, was only happy in a sling moving at all times, right? So right from the start, we were like, whoa, this baby needs, full on. Full on yeah. And then Billie was really the same, but different, but both, they were not like really super easy kids and I mean, I wish for their sake, it would have been easier for them, but for me, it made me feel very needed and very involved and I just kind of threw myself into that and then you've got to learn a lot when you have high need kids, you've got to learn how to cope with that and so we took parenting classes, we went to the what's now called the Echo Center. It was called the Center for Non-violent Education and Parenting that had a massive impact.
Non-violent communication yeah. One of the greatest things in the world, honestly, to this day it's informs everything I do. I think, about it. I think about the language of it.
I think about strategies and needs meeting people's needs , and so we went to those parenting classes that had a lot to do with everything we did and then, a couple of interesting things happen. Patrick saw a show about Hanson and he was like, they were homeschool, that looks fun, he thought that was interesting. Little, did he know at the time. Is that crazy he had no idea, right Hanson, there was gonna be a musical thing and then Columbine happened and I'm from Colorado in Columbine rocked my world. I was shaken by Columbine and planted the seed in my mind if like maybe not school, like, what's that about? It's not just about, it's about a lot of different things and it just kind of put me on the track of like homeschooling then started to learn about that and then, once you, you kind of step into homeschooling a lot of times for one reason, and then end up there for a different just kinda stepped in thinking, well, I love being a mom, I love being with my kids. I don't really want them to be gone all day, right? I bet we could teach what they teach in school in maybe an hour or two, and then we could do something else, but then you get into it and then you start to question the whole system, like, wait, why do we do this? Why do they go to school? And what do we get out of it? I'm not knocking having the school system.
Obviously it's super important for a lot of people and it's, it can be an amazing part of society. But when you start to question it, then you look at, could we do it differently? And how would that look? And because we had kids that were a little bit different, I didn't really think it was gonna be super successful in school. Billie has an auditory processing, she doesn't learn in the same way other people learn Finneas has real sensitivity issues, so just didn't seem like it was gonna be a great fit and so that kind of set us off on this journey and then we found this amazing community and so that became a lot of our journey. Homeschooling can mean a lot of different things, depending on who you talk to and unschooling is a very specific strain of homeschooling. We were talking before the podcast, we unschooled our two younger ones.
Our older boys had some homeschooling experience and also some traditional schooling. So I'm steeped in this and I'm a huge fan because we've raised our younger ones in that mode. They've both decided they want more formal structure and are in different schools right now. But I'm interested in you speaking a little bit about unschooling and your particular like lens on that. Well, again, there's as many ways to parent as there are, and there's as many ways to school or homeschool or unschool and we were talking about earlier that, kids change along the way and in your job is really to give them what they need, right? And so if they need it and they're wanting something that can be satisfied in school, that strategy of going to school, for us unschooling was really just following their lead and helping them find what they needed at different times.
Now, sometimes they took classes like group classes, like we'd get a science teacher for a bunch of kids and they'd go to the park and they do cool stuff or they go to a group class where a parent who was a, something physicists would teach something, sometimes it was at because they wanted that activity or there was really no other way to learn that thing they wanted to learn and sometimes it was like, Finneas when he got into music. We just started going to Grammy museum all the time. They had these cool classes at the Grammy museum. So for us, it wasn't like, the philosophy of unschooling in our family was like, you're learning all the time.
There's never a time when you're not learning. It's not like summer vacation is like, we're gonna stop learning because we learn all day, every day, you can't stop a brain from learning really, it's just, what are you learning and how are you learning it? So you can learn math from cooking. you can learn socialization from going to the symphony. You don't having to sit still. Both of my kids were in the Los Angeles children's chorus, which of course was highly disciplined and structured. They both took dance classes.
They took sports classes, they played ultimate Frisbee. They had tons of opportunity, but it just was like a very flexible, what did they need? What they want? What was missing for like? Like for example, at one point I think with both kids, we kind of like, oh, you don't know geography, like they said something that was clear like, oh, you don't know what that's a state, right? And so like. That's the thing that comes up 'cause you think they know certain things that you realize, because they're not in a traditional school that they like, oh wait, you don't know the months of the year. Like, you assume that, and then you feel like a bad parent and you have to rush in and like solve that problem yeah.
Well lets learn that exactly but so that's exactly that. I was like, well, this wish co-op that I teach drama and songwriting at this wonderful teacher, Rebecca, who's a mom, homeschooling mom, but she's an amazing teacher. She teaches this super fun geography class. So in the unschooling world, like we were not so much about like, you have to do this, but it was like, look, there's lots of reasons to take a class or learn something one, primarily because you're interested in it.
You need to know it and also you don't wanna look stupid at a party. So in geography, we got there that way. We're like, look, this is a basic thing that you don't wanna go to a party someday and not know. Right so, hey, Rebecca teaches this really fun class. Sign me up, they're like, yeah, I wanna know, I wanna take her fun class.
So there's a lot of different ways to get there and everybody always said to us like, don't you think gonna have gaps in their education? I was like, absolutely. But I have gaps in my education and I graduated with a 4.0 and went to college and I got in massive gaps in my education. There is no foolproof way to cover everything. So when you have a gap in your education, if it turns out, you need to know that, then you learn that, when do you learn it? When you need to know it, when you realize, oh, I wanna go into a career that involves this.
Oh, you're gonna need to know X, Y, and Z. Okay, then you wanna learn it, right? Yeah. We wanted them to know how to leave a tip. Like there were certain things like, you gotta know how to learn life skills, like anything that's gonna come up on a daily level we wanna cover, that not all great about, everything even there, but most teenagers aren't. Yeah in addition to the gaps thing, the other big thing is, oh, aren't, they're not gonna be socialized because they're not around other kids. I mean, in our house, there's so many people coming through all the time.
Like that's just not a concern at all and I think focusing on that is to be blind to the huge upside of trying to identify what interests a kid and using that to fuel the learning process. That way they're more deeply engaged in whatever it is that they're doing and I think this is particularly important. I mean, obviously you identified having two kids who on some level, we're gonna be a little bit different, might be square pegs, trying to jam into a round hole and a school. If you sent them to a traditional school, that school might just stamp out everything that's extraordinary about them through its own, indoctrination and just the systemic aspect of what it is to go to like a school.
No, I was gonna say, and also in our kids' case, do you know when they really were into something, which they frequently were even before it was music? Well, for both of them was also music early and then it came back to music, but to have the kind of time, because it was kind of more like, it was almost as if what in normal school would be an extracurricular activity was their main activities and the other stuff was extracurricular, right? So the thing that they were interested in obsessed with was the thing they could do most of the day and then they'd also do this, or we explain something or we talk about something else. And obviously I think in Billie and Finneas's case that made a major difference 'cause they could spend a lot of time doing what they love to do. Yeah, I think I read that you said that the rule in the house was they could stay up as late as they wanted to, as long as they were doing something creative. Yeah, because creativity comes to you at weird times and a lot of times it comes at night, I mean, that's true for every artist I know.
Right. And so if you're like, you have to go to bed now, right at the time when their brain is always the most creative, that's not gonna get you very far. Yeah, I have to tell you, when I was watching, I watched the movie the first time myself, I was very impacted by it and I brought my two stepsons in to watch it a second time.
They're both musicians, they're recording their first album right now, out at Highland park, at a studio out there and they're, kind of they're 26 and 24 and they're sort of tiptoeing on the periphery of the extended Phoebe Bridgers universe. Oh yeah we know Phoebe since she was 17. Yeah, I'm sure of that and they were very excited when Patrick was wearing the Phoebe Bridgers t-shirt in the movie. They were like, that was their favorite part of the whole thing and they're working with Harrison Phoebe's guitar player is playing guitar on their album and helping them out and kind of mentoring them at the same time.
Wow, Finneas was oh you go ahead. Go on finish. Well, Finneas was in like a battle of the bands.
He had a band, amazing band called the Slight leaves and his band was in a battle of the bands with Phoebe one time it was like a music competition and I think at that time, Phoebe took first and the band took second and that's where he first saw Phoebe and she was like, 17. I think he was 15. Yeah it's crazy. It's been cool to watch her just blow up, during the COVID year, I mean, nobody made, hey. During the COVID year. This year, like she did, she was incredible. It was a huge year, but Patrick, I mean, we've all been to many of Phoebe's concerts, of course.
But Patrick went to even more, Patrick is a real music, Devo Tay. Like he listens to like, he takes his release radar very seriously, and he discovers people I mean, both Patrick and I take a lot of pride if we've turned our kids on to anybody, good. If they had like Patrick I think turned Finneas on to Noga Erez, I turned Billie on to Celeste.
We are so happy if we made the discovery. Usually it doesn't work that way. No they're far they know so much more than we know.
I know right. But what I was gonna say was when I got the boys to, I was like, you gotta watch this movie with me and I'll tell you why once we're into it and once Billie comes on screen and starts talking, it was so unbelievable, how similar, the way Billie behaves, acts, talks is to my oldest daughter, who's a couple of years younger than Billie, but it was shocking, like I was like, I've never seen another human being behave like this kid of ours, who was also a very demanding child in a lot of different ways, in an amazing way like, she's incredible and I can't wait to see what she's gonna create in the world, but I truly thought that she was a one of one and then I'm watching Billie and I was like, it's unbelievable how similar these kids are and the boys were like, I can't believe it, I can't believe it, which was crazy and kind of a beautiful thing to see. They're unique, I mean, they're unique, obviously they're similar in their uniqueness but. Yeah I mean, extracting out the musical genius part of it, Matheson an artist in her own way in a different way, but sorry go ahead. No, no, I just, it is really has a really unique and obviously your daughter too, like ability to be her and she's her strong, her strength, her it's kinda mind blowing.
It's, a little bit tough to put the guard rails up in the teen years though, or to know where the boundaries are and where to back off and allow them to be who they are. That's the struggle that we're in right now. I found 13, 14, 15 to be brutal. I mean, brutal 16 got a little bit easier, but it's hard because they need you so much, but they don't want you at all. Yeah.
And then they really do want you and you have to be there. When you've got little children, they take your face in their hands and they go I love you so mommy, and then he'd get to this age where, one moment they are just vicious to you and the next moment they wanna crawl on your arms and be a baby, it's really, and so, but it's really a challenge in those years 'cause you, they need you more than ever. They need you more than ever and it's harder than ever. Yeah It's harder to show up for them because they're repelling you at the same time.
Absolutely and I think one thing about parenting that I think people should talk about more that a lot of times, by the time kids get to their teen years, parents maybe feel like, oh, this is a good time for me to go back to college or get a second job or do my own thing. People have to do their own thing, whatever. But I think it's really important to know in those years, your kids need you more than ever and you just have to be careful to not, to think you're done. Even if they're off at school all day long, he knows like I've always, I've often thought for the last few years that have to under sketch, of course, Billie is a little bit different with the crazy career, but just in general, you just never know when they're gonna need you. They might need to talk at 2:00 AM and you've gotta be ready to do it. No matter how tired you are, cause you gotta take those moments when they come, and if you're overbooked and you can't make those things happen, they need you a lot.
You got to drop everything and be like to be here now, which is hard. Yeah it is. And been really hard. The relationship between Finneas and Billie is such a beautiful thing. Like the intimacy of that relationship, not just creatively, but just in terms of the friendship and the trust that they have is something amazing that I can only imagine, you helped cultivate as parents.
Well, it's beautiful. It always has been, they've always, they had their few years in there where, the irritated each other, but really from the beginning and I think that is to be honest, that's definitely part of homeschooling unschooling. As much as my kids had a huge social network and they had tons of friends and activities, they also had many, many, many hours of the day together and schools are segregated by age, and you may be even by school. So you go to this school and they go to this school and they were together, sometimes many times in the same classes, we had calligraphy classes for a while at our house. They were all in there with their friends and so they definitely had a real bond of just being together and they just make each other laugh.
I mean, the thing that's the best about both of my kids are funny. They're so funny. They're funny in different ways, Finneas is more like a witty stand-up Billie is more l