Arlo Parks, the softly spoken South Londoner sings with an insight far beyond her years. At only 18 she’s already released her debut EP Super Sad Generation with Beatnik Creative, alongside writing poetry and studying for her A-levels.
Hate spoke to Arlo ahead of her BBC Introducing show at The Lexington this Thursday.
How did you get into poetry and music?
In terms of music, my dad always had jazz playing at the house like Miles Davis, Coltrane, so growing up I was always listening to it even when I wasn’t conscious of it. I always had this love for it, and I’d always been writing. It started off with short stories when I was younger and then my teacher was like, ‘Maybe you should try poetry.’ I like the fact that you can make it so bitesize, you can make a poem out of three lines so I’ve always been practising and doing it. There wasn’t a defining moment when I was like, ‘I’m a poet.’
What kind of music are you into?
I like Portishead, Massive Attack, Erykah Badu, A Tribe Called Quest, The Cure, a bunch of stuff.
Do you see the practice of making songs and poems as different, or are they quite similar?
I think that it’s quite interlinked because most lyrics are from poems that I’ve written so I have them quite closely linked.
The poems that you’ve submitted for the new Hate zine issue on death are really raw. What inspired you to write them?
My good friend took his life last May, so I wrote about it quite a lot in order to reflect and deal with grief. I kind of wanted it to be a tribute to him in a way, so I think because it was something that I lived it seems so real because I was in it.
Does your own experience inform your songwriting process?
Definitely, I think the best ones are the ones that I’ve lived, or that my friends have lived and then told me about.
Usually I’ll write a poem about something that I’ve seen, or heard, or felt, and then if I’m producing it I’ll just pick up the guitar and play around. I don’t have a very set process, it’s just whatever I feel like doing. It always starts with the words and with the poetry, that’s the basis of it.
Do you produce your own music?
Not all of it. I did two with my friend Luca, I kind of play with it but I’m not that good yet, I’m still figuring it out.
Do you still write short stories?
Not as much because I don’t really have as much time because I have school. Poetry’s so easy you can write a poem on the train, a short story you have to structure it and I’m shit with plans so I just like to whack it out.
Are you going to keep writing poetry?
My aim is to get a book of poems out, that would be so cool. That’s something that’s really important to me. I don’t want to be just a musician, I want the poetry to be at the forefront of who I am, because it is. Have you seen Button Poetry? It’s a spoken word thing on YouTube.
What are your future plans with music and school?
I’m gonna keep doing music, the thing is that my parents are keen for me to go to uni because it’s always so unsure that you’re gonna ‘make it’, so I’m gonna keep doing both. This summer I’ll play some festivals, build up some more songs, and see how it goes.