SHORT AND SWEET: WMSE TALKS TO ARLO PARKS
POSTED:: March 25, 2021
Interviews, Short And Sweet (Q&A's)
FILED UNDER:: Interviews, Short And Sweet (Q&A's)
interview by WMSE DJ Erin
London-based artist, Arlo Parks (born Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho) is only twenty years old and since releasing her debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams earlier this year, has spent seven weeks with that record being #1 at the college radio charts and has made the stretch across the pond to be on U.S. television shows like Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. She’s also appeared in countless publications with the title “Gen Z Whisperer” attached to her so often, it’s almost become a new genre, created just for her. Her poetic-therapeutic lyricism and chill soulfulness is the musical balm that seems to be just what that generation (and beyond) is looking for right now and Anaïs / Arlo graciously took the time to talk to WMSE about her creative beginnings right before that pair of U.S. television appearances…
I’m so excited to talk to you, Arlo Parks. I know that’s not your real name…are you weirded out by people calling you “Arlo Parks” since it’s more of a stage name?
No, definitely not! I feel like I’m very used to it now. It’s interesting to think that so many more people know me as “Arlo Parks” than anything else, y’know?
Yeah, absolutely. It must be bizarre, sometimes, though (laughs)…so, what’s the weather in London like right now (where you’re at), because here, it’s been absolute garbage. Has it been treating you okay over there?
Yeah. We had a few days of sunshine over the weekend, which was nice but now it’s back to the old gray, rain…usual London situation.
Uh huh. What’s your favorite season that you feel most at home in?
Oh, definitely summer! I love it. My birthday’s in summer. I feel like the sun has the most replenishing energy. Even if there’s a tiny bit of sun out in London, everyone’s outside. I definitely thrive best in June, July, August…that’s my time of year.
You need the sun, you need the vitamin D.
So, your new record, Collapsed In Sunbeams, has just come out. Congratulations, first of all. You begin your record with spoken-word poetry. Do you feel that you’re primarily a poet and that music is secondary?
I feel like for me, they’re completely intertwined. I did start off as a poet and a writer and I feel like my affinity with words is the strongest one with me creatively, but I’m not really sure if it comes first or second. I wouldn’t be able to give up either (laughs).
Fair enough. I’m sure you’ve noticed that poetry’s having a moment right now, in particular. Why now, of all times?
I guess that people are more in that introspective, sensitive headspace? And, I think that also, with poetry becoming accessible on things like Instagram – becoming a little more bite-sized and digestible – it means that people feel a little more connected to it? And, I think that’s wonderful! I think that when we’re taught about poetry at school, it can be quite alienating sometimes, but the fact that now, everyone is getting into it, even if it’s in a small way, is super beautiful.
Absolutely. I feel like it’s popped up more than ever and it almost feels strange? But, it’s wonderful, all at the same time.
Mmm hmmm (agrees).
So…you’re fairly young at twenty. It’s amazing you’re doing so much at your age. What does it feel like to be twenty in London right now?
I mean…there’s not that much to get up to right now. I think that’s any age, right (across the globe)? But, it is exciting, as you say, because I do feel like I have a lot of time to explore all the different artistic avenues that I’ve wanted to explore, whether that be acting or writing screenplays or reading books…I feel like I have a lot of time, which is encouraging, but maybe it’s not as exciting as it would be in normal times (laughs).
If you could pick any age to be, what age would you be and why?
I think I would be the age that I am right now. I think that it’s perfect. Like I feel that twenty suits me all right and I wouldn’t want to be any younger and I wouldn’t want to be any older either. I guess maybe a little bit older for more wisdom? But yeah – I feel like that just comes with growing up, so I’m happy where I am.
Yeah. You seem like you’re in your groove! So…did you grow up in a musical household?
There was definitely a love of music in my household. Nobody else really played any instruments. My dad picked up the saxophone for like two weeks when he was at University and then my mum played the flute a tiny bit, but in general, not really. Nobody in my family has pursued an artistic career that I know of, so I’m kind of the only one.
How does that feel? At the first go, was your family confused by it or amazed?
I think all parents have this sense of wanting their children to be happy and succeed in the world and I think they recognize that I have quite a strong work ethic, so whatever I went into, I would give myself to completely. There have been a few adjustments, you know? Whether it’s seeing me on TV or a magazine or walking around and getting recognized…but, they can see how happy it makes me, so that is their primary focus and I’m really grateful for that, because I know not everybody has that.
What was the first instrument you picked up when you were younger?
So, I was taught classical piano from a young age, when I was seven or eight until I was about thirteen. And so I kind of did the grades for that and I did my theory test and I found that it was a little bit too narrow for my tastes, like I wanted to do jazz but my teacher wasn’t really down with it so I stopped lessons, which I do regret. But I still kind of play the piano and play the keys when I’m writing.
So, did you begin writing words first, or music when you were starting to create things for yourself?
I started off with writing probably around the same age that I picked up the piano and that was definitely my main form of expression. I would say that it was more of a form of escapism – it was definitely my imagination running away with me rather than it being any kind of processing tool. I was just writing for fun and when I got a little bit older, it became more of a catharsis or a method of healing personally.
Yeah – i think when you first start writing things it’s more of testing the boundaries and finding your voice and once you get into it, it becomes that cathartic thing because you’re just more accustomed to the process, itself.
Mmm hmmm, exactly, yeah.
As a reader, I’m curious to know what book you’re in the middle of (or books)? And can you give us a synopsis of the plot?
Yeah! So, I just finished this book that is actually a memoir of this artist called Peter McGough and it’s about downtown New York in the 80s and 70s and the kind of art scene there and his experience of being queer and an artist in that time and called I’ve Seen the Future and I’m Not Going, which I think is a great title. And then, I just started one…I’m about a hundred pages in – The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. I’m a fan of her work. I like the fact that she kind of she kind of melds journalism and it also kind of reads like a journal, sometimes…I don’t know, it feels very poetic to me.
Want to the complete story? Listen to the full interview on The Rockleidoscope Show in the archive for March 9th. Find it at the 1:35:40 mark. Find Arlo Parks’ new album, Collapsed In Sunbeams, at your favorite local record store and on Bandcamp.