it girl

Arlo Parks Pivots to Poetry

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Alexandra Waespi

In April 2023, New York Magazine celebrated “It” girls: who anointed them, what it was like to be them, and where they are now. Follow along as we continue that celebration by interviewing musicians across genres who we think have “It.”

For someone on the heels of releasing her first book and embarking on a multi-country tour, English musician Arlo Parks is relaxed and upbeat. She’s feeling good after performing her new album in South Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. I feel like we’ve picked up momentum and people are learning the songs more and more, and the energy is more and more fluid,” the twice Grammy-nominated musician says.

Parks’s sophomore album, My Soft Machine, was released in May to critical acclaim. Before her tour ends at the Eventim Apollo in London, near where the 22-year-old grew up, she’ll also release The Magic Border, a collection of poems she’s written, lyrics to songs on My Soft Machine, and photographs by Daniyel Lowden, on September 12. The book is an exploration on queerness, and a meditation on grief and blackness. Parks would describe it as “a tangled mass of everything that has made me angry or giddy or low or impossibly happy to be alive.” It will also mark the first time that she has shared her poems with people outside of her trusted circle of close friends.

What is an “It” girl?

Somebody who is unapologetically themselves and magnetic. There is something about someone who moves through the world with a confidence and singular vision, and sense of who they are or what they stand for that people can’t help but be drawn to.

Who are some musicians you would consider an “It” girl?

I’m going to say like a bunch of different people who sound very different, but to me it makes sense. Björk is very much an “It” girl. Beyoncé is very much an “It” girl. She always has been, but especially in this Renaissance era. Her bringing queer club culture into pop and creating these ballroom spaces on a stadium tour, she’s “it.” Erykah Badu is and always will be an “It” girl. It’s not about being new on the scene. I have so much respect for people who have been making things for a long time and are continuously refreshing their sense of image. When it comes to newer artists on the forefront of things, I really love John Glacier. She’s making experimental rap music in the U.K. She’s Black and she’s very singular, very interesting.

Would you consider yourself an “It” girl? 

I don’t know. I hope what I’m doing feels inspiring to others in some way and that I’m putting good out into the world. I don’t know if I’m cool and on the scene. I just like doing my thing and hopefully people are gravitating toward it. But sure, why not? Maybe I am an “It” girl. Who knows? Maybe I should own it!

Who are some musicians and artists that you’ve looked up to or who have inspired your style and sound? 

Solange has very much inspired me. I was listening to “Losing You” this morning when I was getting ready. Then, I went back through her discography. She’s one of those people who has this strong sense of self and what she stands for and what she wants to say. Her music has always inspired me to do more of that. Lauryn Hill is a very big inspiration to me stylistically; Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens as well, for the delicate and intimate quality of their music. Aphex Twin is someone in the electronic world who is pushing the boundaries of how much you can warp sound and how strange sound can be. I gravitate toward people who are individual and curious when it comes to what they make the style of their music.

Where do you like to go out?

When I go out, I tend to go for big dinners with my friends. Going for big dinners is my thing. There are a few restaurants I love: this summery open restaurant called Brawn and this one called Noble Rot in Central London. When it comes to going out in the evening, I love to go to a little natural-wine bar. A natural-wine bar is my ideal night out. A few glasses of wine, a bunch of my friends, and just giggling until dawn is ideal.

Where do you like to shop?

I love Dover Street Market. I’m a big candle fanatic, so I love the Diptyque store. I love this retailer called Machine A that does really beautiful, curated, independent pieces and independent brands. I love to go to Rough Trade East, a record store where they sell books, vinyl scenes, movie posters. I love that place. I’m a sucker for a little well-curated store with a lot of independent brands.

What are some essentials that every “It” girl must have?

A good pair of black sunglasses. You should have some perfume that feels woody and earthy and smoky and is a mystery in its presence. Definitely should have water because hydration is key. Should have a good book on the go and should have a piece of jewelry that is a lucky charm and that you wear with you everywhere. Those are the essentials.

What are you reading these days? 

I just finished Getting Lost by Annie Ernaux. I’m going to start Upstream by Mary Oliver next. These short essays about her process as a poet and just about nature and grounding, especially because I’m going into this period of time of being mega-busy, so I like to read books that keep me centered and keep me calm as I’m going from tour bus to flight everywhere. I like to have a book as an anchor.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Arlo Parks Pivots to Poetry