Words: Thomas Stichbury
Arlo Parks is being tipped for very big things in 2021 and with her debut album still yet to be released has already been labelled “the voice of generation Z”.
Gracing the front cover of the Attitude 101 February issue – out now to download and to order globally – the poet and singer-songwriter takes pride of place in The Future (25 and Under) category, supported by Clifford Chance in our inaugural Attitude 101 list of LGBTQ trailblazers.
“It’s quite surreal, especially to be experiencing this growth in a year like this – I can’t quite believe it, because I spend most of my time at home playing Scrabble with my dad and cooking ramen, do you know what I mean?!” Arlo, 20, exclaims.
Arlo Parks leads The Future (25 and Under) category, supported by Clifford Chance in our Attitude 101 February issue, out now (Photography: Alex Kurunis)
Despite making the cut for BBC Sound of 2020 and being among the contenders for Annie Mac’s Hottest Record of the Year, Arlo - whose debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams is set for release on 29 January 2021 - humbly tries to manage expectations, especially when it comes to being told she holds a torch to youth today.
“I can understand because I write a lot about the teenage experience, as it were, and about the emotions and those first losses and heartbreaks and joys that you have. But at the same time, I don’t feel like I’m necessarily speaking for a whole generation. I feel like I’m just talking about myself and my friends and the people around me,” she begins.
“I’m kind of conflicted about it, because I don’t want to feel like I’m representing everybody who is 20 years old… [However], I do like the idea that I’m speaking to kids, younger people who maybe haven’t found an artist that they feel represented or understood by.”
Photography: Alex Kurunis
Not that the rising star, aka Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, is unaware of the power of her song-writing; no more so than on her standout track ‘Black Dog’, about her best friend’s battle with depression: 'I would do anything to get you out of your room / At least I know you’re trying, but that’s what makes it so terrifying'.
“There were people who said that the song had opened up a conversation that saved their marriage, or that their mum was terminally ill and didn’t even speak English, but when she was played the song, she was so happy and felt safe,” Arlo reveals, “It made me really step back and be like, wow, the songs I’m writing in my room are affecting people.”
“Art has that power to heal and transform,” she adds.
Growing up in Hammersmith, West London, the up-and-comer says she is fortunate to have an accepting family who never took issue with her sexuality.
“There was this openness, not just in terms of sexuality, but it was always like: we accept you. There was no big drama or ‘reveal’, I think it was mentioned in passing and it was accepted, and I kind of went along with my life,” she recalls. “Not many people I know can say they’ve had the same experience.”
Inspired by an array of LGBTQ trailblazers, including Sophie, Janelle Monae and Frank Ocean, Arlo embraces and explores the queer experience throughout Collapsed in Sunbeams – ‘Eugene’, for instance, is about falling for a straight friend (we’ve all been there, hun).
“I wrote it at a period of time that I’d got over this situation and being able to revisit it and process it and put the moment into something that was helping other people was super positive,” she explains.
Photography: Alex Kurunis
“But, of course, it was a frustrating situation that I think a lot of queer people have experienced. Putting it out into the world and having all these people being, like, oh my God, I’ve never heard a song about this, was just mind-blowing.”
Looking ahead to the future (fittingly enough), Arlo wants other artists to join her in pushing the boundaries of queer music.
“It’s something that I always hope for,” she stresses. “That kids would see me and feel inspired and feel able to do what they want and be what they want whilst doing that. That’s a goal for me.”
Read the full interview in the Attitude 101 February issue featuring 101 LGBTQ trailblazers, out now.