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Arlo Parks and Molly

Arlo Parks and Molly Payton discuss finding inspiration in isolation

The friends and collaborators unite to share stories from London and the power songcraft can have over isolation

As part of Dazed's partnership with Spotify’s Our Generation playlist, Spotify have invited slowthai, Bakar, and Arlo Parks to introduce us to their favourite upcoming artists. In our final piece, Arlo Parks selects Molly Payton.

In tracks “Caroline” and “Hope”, Arlo Parks’ creates fluorescent glow, a feeling of space that became distant last year. “Hope”, from her aptly named debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams, arrived at the dawn of 2021, when, for the first time in nearly a year, sparks of joy cracked on the horizon. Born Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho to Nigerian-French parents, the singer-songwriter found collaborators in the likes of Paul Epworth (who co-wrote a track on the album), King Krule and Phoebe Bridgers.

It’s a glow that found its way to Molly Payton, a songwriter from New Zealand who, like Parks, found a space in London’s creative cobwebs. She moved to the city two years ago for what was meant to be two weeks, while scuzz-indie tracks like “Going Heavy” started rolling around the radio.

In the last installment of our Head To Head series, the pair unite to share stories from the city, and the power songcraft can have over isolation.

Arlo could you explain why you picked Molly and what is it about her music that inspires you?

Arlo Parks: I’ve been listening to your tunes since I met you at that party years and years ago and there was that song “Stickers On Your Skateboard”... the music kept coming and there was just this sense of rawness and earnestness that really reminded me of things that I’ve lived myself. The idea of being at a party and “Bennie And The Jets” is playing and like getting a cab home and having these kinds of romances that kind of dissolve and form.  I think it's so beautiful to be able to come full circle - just being kids at this party and then now we’re doing this with Dazed.

Molly Payton: We should write a song about it.

What have you been up to?

Arlo Parks: Right now I’m in Paris, I’m doing a lot of poetry and am hoping to delve into other artistic mediums: I’ve been doing a bit of acting and watching little films just trying to recharge myself creatively. I get a lot of inspiration from living and being in the world. Because the world's been shut for so long it’s about finding ways to recharge.

Molly Payton: I had a similar thing last year – because I’ve been shut inside for so long, I just lost inspiration and wasn't able to find it in anything really. I got into such a rut and that was when I opened myself up to writing with other people. I ended up writing a sort of mini album. Of all my co-writes, I’m really excited to release that – it’s gonna come out this year so I’m working at the moment on wrapping that up. I’m still working with my producer in the UK, so I’m having to figure out a way to record from a distance with him having input, even though there's like a 12 hour time difference. It’s funny how things are still affected over here even in a small way. I’m lucky enough to forget what's going on in the world sometimes, because New Zealand is in a happy little bubble most of the time. But there’s heaps of little things that just like bring you back to it every once in a while.

Molly, how would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

Molly Payton: I‘m kind of in a halfway point now between my first and second EP. The first one was very inspired by singer-songwriters and lyricists like Linda Cohen and Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, whereas the second one was way more when I'd gotten into bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Payment and stuff. So I kind of landed in a nice healthy middle ground between the energy of those old school slacker bands, and hopefully the meaning and the soul that Joni Mitchell managed to put into their music.

“There‘s something lovely in building a little community of artists around you that you can bounce ideas off of, that you can have as your support system” – Arlo Parks

Arlo Parks: It's funny that you say that, because as soon I remember listening to your music and being like, this really reminds me of Blue by Joni Mitchell. But it also reminds me of, like, Happyness.

Molly Payton: Have I told you about this before?  I feel like I wanted to message you about it because you posted in a story that Happyness is my favourite band. They got me through last year.

Arlo, do you feel that you feel it's important to give younger or more emerging artists a platform, especially if you really believe in them?

Arlo Parks: Yeah, no, definitely. I mean, I think for me, it just comes from quite an organic place. Because I'm always looking to find new artists, and it can be so hard to reach people's ears. When I find someone that I'm obsessed with I like to make everyone I know listen to them. I like to make sure that they get the attention and the praise and the platform that they deserve. A lot of people have done that for me coming up. And I kind of wanted to return the favour and show the world some great tunes.

Can you remember someone that you respect doing that for you?

Arlo Parks: I had this moment with Phoebe Bridgers, which was a big one for me, because that was an artist that I not only looked up to, but was very inspired by. To have somebody whose work kind of bled into your own in such a profound way  turn around and be like, you're cool, too... I was just like, oh, okay, shit. There‘s something lovely in building a little community of artists around you that you can bounce ideas off of, that you can have as your support system.

And Molly?

Molly Payton: I guess the biggest one for me because it was very early on was Leo Wyndham from Palace. He got me one of my first gigs in a pub somewhere in South London, I think in 2018, and then put me on support for two of his bigger London shows. I probably shouldn't have done them, because I was terrible – it was way too early in my career for me to be doing that stuff. But he believed in me from the beginning and really helped with a lot of things that have happened in the last three years. Also, you (Arlo Parks) – I still remember when you posted one of my songs in your story and like, three members of my family DMed me instantly. Like honestly, I was like… I'm so grateful.

Arlo Parks: No problem. I love, I love your music. I genuinely can say that, from the bottom of my heart, (I’m) just like bumping your tunes all the time. Do you feel you are part of a creative scene in London?

Molly Payton: I just managed to meet the right people at the right time. I always felt like New Zealand didn't really have a music scene, because I was too young when I lived there to be a part of it. And every time I‘ve come back, it's only been for a couple weeks, and I haven‘t really been in (touch with it).

But this time, whoa, oh my God, the music scene in New Zealand is the most loving community I’ve ever been a part of. You should come to New Zealand, you’ll love it.

Arlo Parks: Could you name some newer artists from New Zealand that I should check out? Because I only really know Aldous Harding.

Molly Payton: Well there’s obviously the big ones like Benee. She’s fucking great, you know, queen of hearts. Connan Mockasin’s from New Zealand, I didn’t know that until like two months ago, I felt a bit cheated.

Arlo Parks: Ha ha!

Molly Payton: And then in terms of other small artists there’s Wax mustang, he’s fucking mean, it’s like old school hip hop. That was one of the first gigs I went to when I came back and the energy was fucking crazy. My mates are in a band called Daffodils – one of my favourite bands of all time, partly because I’ve been going to their gigs since I was like, 16. We’re (currently) one of the only places in the world where you can safely enjoy music.