Interview: Stevie Parker on Bristol’s music scene and gender politics

Stevie ParkerSince releasing her debut album The Cure back in May, Bristol-based Stevie Parker has continued to emerge as one of the most exciting new talents in the country. It’s been a long time coming for the artist, from performing at a school talent competition to posting her first single “Never Be” on Soundcloud back in 2015, she’s now gearing up for festival season and her very own headline UK tour. “I’ve been working towards the same goal since I was 18!” says Parker, when we finally establish a phone call after some technical hitches. “Various things have slowed things down on the way. I’m 25 now so… releasing things after so long, it’s quite surreal."

After relocating to Bristol from Somerset, Parker has well and truly integrated into the local music scene and has developed a real affinity for the city itself. “I’ve always known people here and played with bands here,” she says. “It just becomes apparent that everyone’s into music and everyone’s really talented. There is a sound to Bristol - it's not really something you can put your finger on, but I think it's about being surrounded by so much creativity, it just rubs off on me. Being in Bristol makes you think, ‘Why wouldn’t I be in a band?'"

Considering it’s Parker’s first full-length album, The Cure is an accomplished piece of ambient pop that furrows deep into her tortured psyche, while avoiding clichés that often come with any highly emotive music. Framed within the context of a broken relationship, the LP doesn’t romanticize her subjects (past partners); it deals with them honestly. But what’s most striking about The Cure is its diverse sonic makeup, featuring peculiar electronic samples, playful drum patterns, and glistening piano keys. Parker’s heart-wrenched vocals shine atop it all, inviting you into her despondent spaces, however personal. At its most recognizable, Stevie Parker's music takes its cues from the slick melancholy of bands like London Grammar or The xx, interspersed with a guttural sense of loss and sorrow.


“I think I tend to write about relationships I’m in, or have been in, because I find it quite hard to be honest with people," she says. “I’m quite open about how I feel about most things in life, but not with people [laughs]. I find that harder. Writing about relationships is sort of an outlet for that. I’ll write a piano song - well, a load of chords - and come up with everything else from that point. The piano is my one true love with instrumentation, I have to have piano in everything. For "Without You" I went into a writing session with this guy called Jimmy Hogarth (Amy Winehouse, Paulo Nutini, Sia). He just had this beat sample recorded, and then I wrote the piano part, and then it all kind of came together.” I work with people who are good with percussion, and we just kind of work on things, like texturing and layering, and often the lyrics and melodies come last. I can’t really write lyrics in a room with anyone else, I have to take everything away and have something to write on top of, like a backing track essentially.”

Stevie Parker's style is clearly introspective, and although she seems more than relaxed chatting on the phone, you get the feeling she’d be a lot more comfortable hidden away in the studio making music. “I’m not someone who seeks any kind of limelight or attention really,” she confesses. Due to Parker’s more reserved nature, the influence of things like fashion on her work is very little. She’s most often pictured in plain black or white, sporting scuffed trainers and a solemn facial expression. “I just don’t really put much thought into it. I wear what’s comfortable and what I feel good in, and whether that makes me tomboy or androgynous, yeah that’s okay, but it’s just not very thought out. For some people, establishing that strong identification of their gender is really important, but it’s not at the forefront of my mind whatsoever.”

The issue of gender is one that crops up a lot with Parker. There are still many obstacles for young, especially female musicians attempting to emerge through the cracks of a male dominated industry, and Parker is fully aware of the challenges faced by herself and her peers. But she also has her own strong ideas about gender politics and what it means to be a female musician in 2017. “I just think it’s a shamefully rare thing to see people not making a point!” she exclaims, audibly impassioned. "Not necessarily artists, but people that write about them and talk about them. There’s a lot of focus on gender. It’s just not ambiguous in the grand scheme of things, and I think it kind of should be. I was raised very close to my brother, and I think that always affected the way that I’ve seen gender. Not to say that I’m gender neutral or anything, I just mean that I was always treated equally to my sibling, and we kind of dressed the same and had the same morals and values instilled in us. I’ve just always felt like, what relevance does being female have on anything? Especially creativity. People like to make a big deal of the fact that ‘oh she’s gay, she’s talking about feminine issues’. It doesn’t really matter whether I’m male or female, and I don’t want that to limit any understanding of what I’m talking about.”



In a world more obsessed with an artist’s aesthetic than the music itself, Stevie Parker's identity is a sobering dose of normality that some still find hard to comprehend. This has resulted in her being accused of being boring or overly serious. “People have criticized me and said, ‘You need to cheer up!’" she says. “A lot of people write about happiness and parties and stuff like that, but I’ve never really been able to relate to that. I do sometimes feel like I could write more about what’s happening in the world and that sort of thing but often find that it can come across as contrived. I don’t want people to think that I’m trying to sound really worldly and well-informed when actually I’m not qualified to write about it. Talking from your own experiences just feels a little bit more authentic.”

As interviewees go, Stevie Parker is one of the most intriguing and opinionated - traits that feel hard to come by in the robotic realms of gleefully obedient pop. The artist isn’t afraid to speak her mind, even if there is a chance she may alienate some. Her sole connection is drawn through the music itself, and other than knuckling down in the studio, playing live is one of the places where Parker can truly escape into her own. “Recently I did a charity event in London, and I didn’t really know what to expect. It was kind of like a festival. I played a stripped back thing with a couple of the guys from my band; we were playing in this church, and it was beautiful, and the sound was so echoey. It was a really magical moment.” Let's hope she enjoys many more of those.

Stevie Parker's album The Cure is out now on Virgin EMI.


One Response to “Interview: Stevie Parker on Bristol’s music scene and gender politics”


  1. Interview: Stevie Parker on Bristol’s music scene and gender politics – Live List - 13/07/2017

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