Arlo Parks: ‘Creativity hits me like a lightning bolt’

The singer-songwriter, 20, talks about imagination, extroversion and getting her nose grazed by a motorbike

As a child I had a wild imagination; from the age of seven I’d sit and write epic stories. I found some recently. One was a Lord of the Rings situation; in another I was an Australian snake-wrestling spy. It was a way for me to entertain myself – pure unadulterated joy.

I didn’t look both ways before crossing the road when I was younger. One day I was about to step out into the traffic when something stopped me, as if grabbing hold of me, as my nose grazed a motorbike flying past. I’d like to think I’m a little more careful now.

Reading the dictionary helps me express myself better. I can spend hours flicking through a thesaurus, too. It’s not about expanding my vocabulary, it’s just that I have a very specific taste with words. I’ll sit and write lists of them to help me better describe my life.

I’m very extroverted – I’m really social. People have a sense I’m a reserved wallflower, but that’s not who I am. My music is inward-looking, and that is a part of me, but I like having a laugh.

Creativity hits me like a lightning bolt. For two weeks ideas overflow and spill from me, before a period of nothing. The prospect of it suddenly just leaving me one day scares me. I’m terrified that every song I write might be my last.

Living things day by day, moment by moment, has helped me adapt to everything in my life changing. I go into things wide-eyed, determined to soak it all in. Journalling also helps – I try every evening. It’s grounding to deposit your feelings, and I hope it means I’ll remember things from my life in complete motion. I don’t forget what this time was like.

Deep-sea Blue Planet episodes trouble me. I am petrified of small, uneven holes. I’m not sure what you call the phobia, but things like coral or spotty leaves freak me out. In London, I can avoid them, but me running away from things on holiday is definitely a vibe.

Hearing my songs on the radio, I feel a mixture of pride and embarrassment, especially when friends publicly loudly yell, “Oi Arlo, that’s you!” A lot of my career has happened during the pandemic – I sometimes forget I’m putting music into the world. Mostly, though, it still shocks me. Something that started off as a voice note on my phone being played on Radio 1? That’s a beautiful thing.

I don’t mind talking about gender, race, sexuality… I would rather have the opportunity to speak in my own voice with my own words than somebody just assume things about who I am. Of course, I set boundaries about what I’ll say in public, but taking ownership of my identity – and having conversations – is what I’m about.

Playing a show is what I am looking forward to most when the pandemic is finally over. Experiencing that communion: vulnerability, laughing, dancing and crying in that shared space? I just can’t wait.

I still can’t believe I won a Brit Award. I’d been so focused on my performance, I’d not given it much thought. When they read out my name, my world froze completely. I was convinced I’d misheard.

There is a long list of things I’d like to have done 10 years in the future: to have been in a movie, collaborated with an idol, written a book and a screenplay. I want to be in as many pockets of the arts as possible. And to have a small, fluffy dog called Pierre.

Go Create with Polaroid sees Arlo Parks and others reveal their take on creativity for the launch of Polaroid Go (£109.99)


Michael Segalov

The GuardianTramp

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