South London artist Arlo Parks (born Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho) first stumbled into poetry when she was 13 years old. An attentive teacher at school noticed her interest and gifted her Ariel, a poetry collection by Sylvia Plath. From there, “I kind of became obsessed with finding new writers,” she tells us. 

Seven years later, writing has become fundamental in shaping Park’s growth. Beat poets Diane de Prima and Gary Snyder scored her early years, while modern writers like Nayyirah Waheed and Hanif Abdurraqib continue to inspire her today. And then there are, of course, the books: She cites Plath’s The Bell Jar and Murakami’s Norwegian Wood as two of her most enduring influences. But Parks adds to her repertoire at a rate that rivals an English class curriculum—Dostoevsky, Audre Lorde, Nabokov, and Joan Didion are just a few of the authors she’s read in the last year.

Parks’ self-driven attitude around reading also translated into her relationship with music. The singer-songwriter plays piano, electric guitar, and taught herself to use recording and production software GarageBand around the time she discovered artists like King Krule, Elliott Smith, and the Pixies. Coalescing her love for music and words happened naturally—she’d rummage through old notebooks to inspire melodies—but lately, the music has been coming before the words do. “It’s almost like the songs are flowing out of me somehow, like the songs are being written through me,” she says.

And flow is indeed one of the defining factors of Parks’ debut, Collapsed In Sunbeams. From the gentle spoken word poem on the record’s opening “Collapsed in Sunbeams” to the captivatingly rhythmic “Hope” and touching “Black Dog,” a throughline of vulnerability and reflection runs through every track on the record. Each song is unflinchingly honest and raw, what Parks describes as “an exercise in soul bearing,” while still connecting to the work as a whole.

Inspired by a wide range of artists, Parks brings a holistic approach to her music, each of her influences representing a different part of her work. She takes lyrical inspiration from Phoebe Bridgers and MF DOOM, shoegaze guitar tones from Beach House, and funky drum lines from Portishead and A Tribe Called Quest—all while keeping in mind how electronic music can move people without a single word. “I’ve always been interested in my music being a collage, almost like an amalgamation of all these different fragments that interest me to hopefully create something new,” Parks explains.

Now that Collapsed In Sunbeams is finally out, she hopes simply that listeners will enjoy the record, in whatever ways that means for them. “It can be everything from an album they listen to when they’re going to the supermarket to something that’s somehow saving them or making them feel held or understood,” she says. Above all, Parks hopes the work will be a moment of respite in this time of chaos and uncertainty—a ray of light that helps us find hope in the tumult. “I just hope that it brings something positive to people,” Parks says, pausing for a beat. “I hope that it lifts people up somehow.” 

Since poetry and writing have provided a constant source of inspiration in Arlo Parks’ life and music, we used three poems which became songs on the new album as a launchpad to explore how she created the brilliant Collapsed In Sunbeams.

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