She’s the hottest British musician of the past year, hailed for her intimate bedroom jams blurring indie, jazz and pop on her debut album this month, just don’t call her the voice of a generation, she says Ellie Harrison

It’s not every day that one of pop’s top tables says you’re their new favorite artist, but that’s exactly what happened to Arlo Parks last month when Billie Eilish yelled at her at Vanity Fair, “That was crazy “Says the singer-songwriter a little incredulously” It’s pretty crazy to think that my little pieces, which were made in my parents’ house in Hammersmith, made it across the ocean to one of the greatest and most important figures in pop music ”

This is the gentle power of the 20-year-old’s sound rewinding to the days of school corridors and stolen looks, with the crushing rawness of a forgotten youth diary found under the bed.Your music draws a line from Nick Drake to Erykah Badu, criss-cross indie, folk, jazz and R&B without ever committing to it.She sings about sexual identity, strange desires, mental health, body image, and that weird weekend of ketamine with a simple poetry that made her always again called the voice of a generation

It’s frosty near the Thames when the Londoner pulls on her puffa jacket and thinks about being called the pied piper of British Generation Z for the umpteenth time. She is flattered, although she is not entirely comfortable “I’m of this generation, but I don’t speak for this generation,” she says. “There are so many people. We won’t all have the same beings, priorities, or personalities. You can’t have that umbrella thing, even if you look at other artists at my age people make completely different music and have different goals so I don’t know how I feel about it, to be honest ”

At the speed at which she is traveling, Parks could soon surpass this label.She is in the unique position of being a highly sought-after artist in 2019 when she released her debut EP Super Sad Generation (you can see where that Gen Z tag came from), and also last year in August, Parks won the One to Watch category of the AIM Independent Music Awards 2020, and in October she was named Artist of the Year by BBC Introducing To top it off, she is later featured in this month release their album Collapsed in Sunbeams

We meet for a winter December stroll along the river, a stone’s throw from her parents’ house in Hammersmith, where she still lives, and not far from where she was taught at Latymer Upper private school Parks is large and easy to spot; Her hair is cut short and colored like autumn leaves.She has a delicate voice and a tendency to speak seriously about things, but it is her real sensitivity and perception that makes her music so poignant at Collapsed in Sunbeams, she starts with an ethereal poem on self-acceptance: “We all learn to trust our bodies and make peace with our own distortions,” she recites

“I belong to this generation, but I do not speak for this generation,” says Parks about the designation of the voice of Gen Z

Parks has written, “I’ve been in my own world,” she says since childhood, “I wrote short stories when I was seven or eight. I had a vivid, overactive imagination. She started out with Bonnie-Clyde-style capers, played then – “they weren’t good” – and poems “I never stopped writing this,” she says, adding that she plans to have a volume out one day. “I’ve realized that I’m more interested in it am to convey a mood. I don’t really care about the plot ”

According to Parks, she was reserved and introverted up to the age of 16. She had a small group of friends and studied very intensively. She was not bullied, but she was also “not part of the popular squad at all” In her spare time, she played hockey and wrote, but when she switched schools for sixth grade, Parks found kindred spirits. “I was surrounded by people who wanted to be rappers, art directors, and curators,” she says, “Having that around me and making my music made me more extroverted. I had a lot of friends and went to parties all the time, so that was a nice change ”

Collapsed in Sunbeams is a refreshingly uninhibited record that dates back to those teenage years, jumping back and forth between optimistic, pop-soaked tracks like “Too Good” and the more plaintive synth “For Violet” It was mostly written in a rented apartment in Hoxton last spring, where Parks was able to take breaks to cook pasta and play records, which is a little at odds with the album’s gnarly themes: addiction, depression, sexuality, unrequited love But Parks has the shrewd ability to transport you elsewhere. “Eugene”, which she wrote when she was still in school, tells of the jealousy she felt when she was 14 when she saw her best herself Girlfriend – for whom she harbored secret feelings – in love with someone else “To see you burn with him / I feel it deep in my throat / You put your hands in his shirt / You play him records that I showed you”, she sings

Parks says she was initially nervous about releasing something this raw, but ultimately that’s what songwriters have to do. “There is obviously a sense of fear of coming out with something where I reveal a soft, vulnerable point in myself,” says she “I was bitter and unhappy with a situation and hurt. But when I realized that [Parks’s experience] had the ability to help people, that outweighed the fear. I also think if you are not afraid when you put things out, is it not close enough to the bone ”

She has lost touch with the friend she wrote the song about, “We disappeared from each other’s life,” she says. “But I sometimes wonder what you think of it. You haven’t contacted me. You have to know it ”

Parks says there wasn’t a notable “moment” when she came out bisexual, it was “always just one thing” Her parents were very acceptable and “never made a massive deal” out of it. “They just said,” OK, we love you, “” she says. “And I’m so grateful for that. I learned a lot of empathy and openness from my parents. I know so many People who don’t have this experience I have friends who have been kicked out of their homes about it ”

In the close group of friends Parks had at school that she still has today, there were “a number of different sexualities and gender identities,” so their relationship to her own sexuality was similarly liberated, “I was lucky that people around me found out about themselves and lived their reality and made relationships with whoever they wanted, “she says.” I’ve never felt uncomfortable. I never felt like I had to explain it to them. People like to write that it made me sad and confused and anxious, but I never felt that. Of course, no one is 100 percent confident as a teenager, but it was just never something I would lay awake and think about at night ”

She never felt held back by the narrow boundaries of music genres either. There weren’t many black women who played guitar music when she was growing up, but it still didn’t discourage her: she says she was always more interested in herself to see them emotionally reflected than on their sexuality or race

“I never thought because I don’t see a lot of people like me doing alternative music, it’s a limit or I can’t,” she says. “It makes me think, oh, OK, I just have to Do something new “Whether it was King Krule, Syd from the Internet, Beth Gibbons from Portishead or Grant from Massive Attack, there was always the feeling, wow, they were making something vulnerable or something that felt nostalgic or moving,” adds they added

Parks, who counts Sylvia Plath and Joni Mitchell among her influences, is certainly a moving copywriter. In “Sophie”, who laments the psychological crisis among young people, she sings: “I’m just a child, I suffocate and slip , I Hate That We’re All Sick “Hurt” is about a boy struggling with addiction, and in “Black Dog,” written for a friend who endures the debilitating everyday life of depression, she asks: “Let’s go to the corner shop and buy some fruit / I would do anything to get you out of your room”

That friend, Parks, is still in touch with “It really hit you there,” she says of the song, slapping her chest. “The lines are fragments of conversations we actually had when I did played live for the first time, she was in the front row looking at me It was so intense. It brought us closer to experiencing this song and the reaction to it. It was something I wrote for you and about us and as a tribute to that difficult time in our friendship ”

Parks has the rare ability that great poets and writers need to fill a feeling with the perfect metaphor and incorporate the most specific cultural references to make their listeners feel seen. For this reason, her work has met with great resonance with fans, and she was even approached by a person who was contemplating suicide before hearing that her music helped pull her back on the sidelines

That’s a lot for a young artist, and she’s excited for the music industry to provide better mental health support for their stars. “It’s a very strange thing to be suddenly approached on the street and news streams too and not knowing how to get bad reviews and hate comments, “she says,” It’s something that can really weigh on the mind and be pretty isolating. ”

She adds that “especially in confusing times like these when I feel disconnected from the world, I don’t want to just live on my phone” She was fortunate enough to find her, despite mounting pressure, a hyped new one Being an artist, “I had friends and family around – I feel grounded,” she says, “I can just play Scrabble with my dad and meet my friends in the park”

But with Collapsed in Sunbeams being one of the breakthroughs of the year and the end of the pandemic on the horizon, life will get a lot busier Scrabble may just have to wait

“I belong to this generation, but I do not speak for this generation,” says Parks about the designation of the voice of Gen Z

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World News – GB – Interview with Arlo Parks: “People like to write that I was confused about my sexuality – but I never felt it”