Arlo Parks talks Emo Bands and playing Scrabble with her dad

7 December, 2020

BIMM Institute Birmingham was lucky enough to host a virtual Masterclass with Arlo Parks, whose music feels beautifully honest both in tone and message.

Arlo has won and been nominated for a range of awards, and her latest album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, is due for release early 2021. She began writing when she was just ten years old and has since supported her hero, rapper Loyle Carner, on his UK tour and Paramore’s Hayley Williams on her US tour. She’s a mental health ambassador for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) and has even covered NME magazine. She has been praised for her empowering and inspiring lyricism that aims to encourage showing vulnerability.

As lockdown rules still apply throughout the country, Arlo joined us in a virtual seminar interview by Dr Jennifer Otter Bickerdike, the music historian and author. They addressed many topics and answered a plethora of student questions. Plus, there was even a live performance from Arlo herself.

Jennifer started by asking Arlo about how she’d been dealing with her mental health during her (what seems like) quick rise to success:

“I think for me, it’s been interesting because it’s been mainly happening over this lockdown period. So whilst I am getting all this traction, and my audience is expanding, I’m still at home playing Scrabble with my dad. At the moment, it feels like I have a double life going on. I’ve just been trying to spend time doing things outside of music, whether that’s cooking, going for runs, meditating; those things have really helped me.”

Arlo has clearly been handling this success like a champ, whilst still being able to do things for herself. As her music holds a sense of vulnerability, Arlo discussed how she’s able to communicate with her listeners that reach out to her.

“It feels amazing and surreal.”

“I always respond with a sense of gratitude. I can’t respond to every single message I get, but to know that people are responding to my music and that my music is helping people that positively, it feels amazing and surreal.

“I think I’ve been missing shows, though. I miss having people in real life  – the internet is a bit weird sometimes! I received a message saying that I’ve helped save someone’s marriage; it’s a lot, and I don’t have the answers.”

Not only did Arlo talk about how she influences her listeners, but she also spoke about her influences, sighting Emo music as a big inspiration for her own music:

“I’d find myself shouting along with Gerard Way, and for me, that felt freeing. That’s something I always look for.”

“I definitely had that phase. I’d be listening to Fall Out Boy, Good Charlotte, My Chemical Romance. When you’re thirteen, you’re frustrated with the world, and there’s a sense of angst. I’d find myself shouting along with Gerard Way, and for me, that felt freeing. That’s something I always look for. Even with people like Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Lauren Hill, there’s a sense of freedom, and I think that comes in a million different genres. So yeah, that was my first love.”

Answering student questions

After a short performance of her single “Black Dog”, Arlo answered some student questions. Bethan Kelly asked if she ever suffers from stage fright or whether she had always found performing live easy:

“I think ever since being a kid, I’ve been quite extroverted. I loved putting on performances for my family and being a bit of a pain. I know a lot of people for whom it just didn’t come easily. I think something that helped me was playing open mics or my friend’s nights; just playing where there is less of an audience and using it to practise for when you have those bigger performances.

“I love public speaking and performing: it’s my thing!”

“It can be really nerve-wracking: you lookout, and there’s a sea of faces, and the focus is unequivocally on you. For me, I enjoyed it from the get-go – I love public speaking and performing: it’s my thing!”

Arlo went on to talk about her Great Escape performance, her favourite books and poets, getting signed, working with Easy Life, and much more.


We wish Arlo the very best. She’s fantastic and set to do amazing things next year. We hope to have Arlo back in the future for another Masterclass! You can check out other Masterclasses here.

 

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British and Irish Modern Music Institute