The sense of camaraderie in that film isn’t far off from Steinfeld’s own personal life—she counts Demi Lovato and Taylor Swift amongst her friends. The country-turned-pop queen even gave Steinfeld a sneak peek behind the curtain of the music world when she tapped Steinfeld to make a cameo in her “Bad Blood” video. “Taylor looked at me and was like, ‘This is the coolest thing we’ve ever done as friends,’” she says. Like a good friend, Steinfeld hasn’t felt the need to press Swift for tips—“People ask me all the time if she’s given me advice, [but] she doesn’t need to sit down and give advice; she’s an example of what you need to know,” she explains. Instead, Steinfeld takes more direction from how real Swift is, both in her music and off-camera, and she considers herself part of a rising crop of down-to-earth pop stars.
It was like-minded newcomer Alessia Cara’s anti-party anthem “Here” that in part prompted one of the more vulnerable moments on Steinfeld’s debut release. “I had an experience very similar to what hers sounded like and wrote about it,” says Steinfeld. “I still go to high school parties with my friends and I don’t feel like I belong—there’s a song about that on the album.” That kind of vulnerability is the main difference she sees between acting and music so far, hinting that movies serve as more of an escape from life while music is what helps you work out your own emotions. “When I’m promoting a movie, it’s a two-hour thing that you can either catch in theaters or not,” she explains. “Music strikes people and lives with them. It’s terrifying to put yourself out there in that way.”
That fear is all the more magnified, of course, when you already have a gigantic following before you’ve even dropped your first release. Still, Steinfeld can’t say which is harder—mostly because she’s yet to do them at the same time. This month will be the test as she balances an EP with promoting her new movie The Keeping Room and filming another. “I don’t [yet] know what being a pop artist is outside of recording. I haven’t performed live or gone on tour—really anything other than get on a mic in the studio.” She’s more excited than stressed about that workload, however. “I’m going to make it work—it’s been done,” she says, name-checking successful figures who’ve dabbled in both worlds, such as Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé. “I don’t see anything holding me back.”