Arlo Parks: 6 things to know about the British neo-soul reveal

If his name is not yet known to everyone, Arlo Parks is certainly the new neo-soul nugget to follow. But who is this young Briton who, at age 21, won the Hyundai Mercury Prize in London on Thursday for her first album, “Collapsed in Sunbeams” (Pias)?

She speaks fluent French

Her real name Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, Arlo Parks spent her childhood in London living, according to her, in “(her) little world”. If her father is Nigerien, her mother has Chadian and French origins. These roots explain why the young woman, who often went on vacation to the Côte d’Azur and still has family in Compiègne, in the Oise, handles the language of Molière to perfection.

Her uncle is an inspiration

In the Arlo Parks family, we love jazz – especially Chet Baker – as well as poetry. As a child, the Briton had references like Gary Snyder, Mary Oliver and Pat Parker, and “started writing very young because (she felt) a lot”. Subsequently, the teenager joined a choir and received from her uncle a collection of vinyls – a hundred according to her – some signed by Sade or Bob Dylan. A gift that she still fondly remembers today.

She started to compose at the age of 14

When she wasn’t discovering artists like Elliott Smith or Joni Mitchell on platforms, 14-year-old Arlo Parks was recording her own tunes using the GarageBand software she signed up for. In 2018, she unveiled her first EP, “Super Sad Generation”. Songs written in a day in an Airbnb in London … before the release of his second EP, “Sophie”. If she is endowed with a soft and suave voice – soprano dulce -, the one who has become the spokesperson for a youth in full spleen can also boast of knowing how to play the piano and the guitar.

His song “Cola” acclaimed by Lily Allen

At the end of 2018, his song “Cola”, which evokes love “without fuss”, allowed him to become known to the general public. And this hard worker who could have started studying law if she had not embarked on a musical career, was lucky to have support she did not hope for. Indeed, the pop singer Lily Allen ranked the title in her Top 5 on the Apple Music platform. A wonderful spotlight.

She counts Michelle Obama among her fans

Besides Lily Allen, other personalities appreciate the songs of the artist. And in particular the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, who included it in her playlist as part of her podcast broadcast on Spotify in August 2020.

“What an honor (…). I can not believe it. Dreams can really come true, ”commented Arlo Parks. The singer of the group Florence and the Machine, Florence Welch, and Billie Eilish who signs the theme of the next James Bond, are also fans of his work.

A first album written during confinement

The health crisis is sometimes good. Indeed, Arlo Parks took advantage of this “forced” parenthesis to write and record the twelve songs that appear on his first album. Among the nuggets to listen to without moderation, we find “Hope”, “Black Dog”, “Caroline” and “Hurt”. Titles for which she again collaborated with her producer Gianluca Buccellati, but also with Paul Epworth and David Wrench.

“I wanted to create something that still had the intimacy of what I had been able to release before, but I also wanted to broaden my sound palette”, she confides, adding this desire to unveil compositions that “give the impression of looking through the lens of a camera ”.

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