Stevie Parker Is Not Depressed, Has Something To Say About Those Kristen Stewart Comparisons
Talking to the musician about her signature brooding style
British recording artist Stevie Parker’s songs might err on the side of broody, but the singer recently explained to me that her signature stoicism creates a misconception that she is “miserable.”
“From a few things I have been quoted on, and some of the things I have written, the context is quite heavy,” she says, “but I think that's made a lot of people assume that I am really hard on myself or I am reclusive, or I can’t sleep at night... I am not the most enthusiastic person in the world, but I am not that extreme, either.”
On the title track from her debut album The Cure, Parker begs, “So won't you save me from myself again?” It’s a sensual song tinged with longing and missed opportunities. At first, she’s asking softly, and later bursting into a loud demand by song’s end. The rest of the album follows suit in its emotive experiences, a journey from timidness to tirade. Despite being released on a major label (Virgin EMI), The Cure lacks any kind of overproduction that some artists fall prey to. Parker calls it “minimalist,” which is not unlike the way she sees herself.
“I think the one thing that I always strive for is to convey this relaxed sense of identity,” she says, “and since I am not trying to be anything that I am not naturally and comfortably—writing the album was the same thing. I didn't want to adorn it too much with any gimmicks or anything that would take away from what I was trying to say lyrically.”
In “Better Off,” Parker is upfront (“And you say that we're better off this way/ All the same I can't tell you that I'll stay”), offering the same kind of no-bullshit persona she seems to assume in real life. A self-professed tomboy who prefers T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers, she admits she had early concerns that her androgynous look might not be acceptable for some she would come across in the industry.
“I thought I was going to [be asked to change] when I signed to my label,” Parker says. “I was quite surprised I wasn't getting strong-armed into a sort of styling. I was worried they might think I needed some sexing up or something like that, but they were really kind of liberal with me and sort of encouraged me to be who I was.”
Petite with a penchant for wearing oversized black sweatshirts, navy jackets, and dark denim, Parker can most often be seen with white sneakers adorning her feet. Most often, her white blonde hair is pulled back into a small, loose pony-bun at the nape of her pale neck, a few wisps breaking free like bangs gone rogue that she couldn’t be bothered to tuck back in place. Her wardrobe is muted modern sportswear; blacks, whites, and grays—mostly solids with an occasional horizontal stripe. She doesn’t smile that often, but when she does—in rare Instagram photos or during a moment in live performances—it reads sincere.
Perhaps that lack of interest in performing happiness for a constant crowd is why the press has enjoyed likening her to actress Kristen Stewart. And while they do dress similarly (at least, when Stewart isn’t repping for Chanel on red carpets), it’s not something Parker herself professes—but she does understand the comparison.
“I think what [Stewart] is known for is [being] almost apathetic—slightly disinterested in fame kind of thing, and I would say that kind of applies to me as well,” Parker says. “I do feel kind of detached from the machine of it, and I don't want to have to play by the rules.”
But in her candor, she’s also honest about the kinds of pressures that not only artists in the spotlight but women in general experience.
“I do feel some internal pressure, and I do think there's external pressure, too, and we are all affected by that mentally,” Parker says. “I feel pressured to be skinny and beautiful, and everyone feels those pressures, and I wish I didn’t. I think it's just the culture and where we are at right now.”
Parker does, however, see the industry becoming “more accepting of individuality,” and because she is also openly gay, her genderqueer aesthetic could have posed even more of a threat to anyone who found her too unconventional to market to mainstream audiences. It’s something she addressed in a recent essay for NME, musing:
When I think of my own androgynous ways, I view it more as a refusal of limitations, as opposed to an affinity with maleness/a dismissal of the archetypal feminine. I don’t particularly prioritize my more masculine traits—visual, emotional or otherwise—I just don’t believe that my gender has any bearing over the decisions I make, or how I should be perceived, treated, or how I emote... I personally feel a strong affinity with my feminine side, but have always been influenced by those who seemingly neutralize the conventions of what it means to be female—gay, straight or otherwise.
“I've always been very open about my sexuality and have just dressed in a way that feels natural and in tune with my personality,” she explains. “I think that kind of takes the emphasis off of sexuality. It doesn't become about sexuality or gender, it becomes about a unique expression, and I would like to think if people are just very truthful about themselves then the tagline will start falling away a bit.”
Reviews of Parker’s album haven't focused too much on her sexual identity (“I’ve been pretty lucky,” she says), instead mentioning that most are about an ex-girlfriend (“This was quite annoying for me. They were really after that, and it's not strictly true either, it was about just one person.”) But she’s happy her queerness is less of an issue for her than other earlier artists who have struggled with their sexuality defining them in the past.
“I think it’s getting better,” she says. “Maybe when I was like 16 or 17, I wanted to identify more as being gay because it was new, and it was something I wasn't sure how to tell people, so maybe the subtle hints in my appearance might do that for me. These days, I don't even think about that. It's not something that is too synonymous with me; I don't think people would automatically think, Oh, she's the gay one. I definitely wouldn't want that.”
Even having this much success at 25, with a well-received album produced by Jimmy Hogarth—who has worked with the likes of Sia and Amy Winehouse—festival gigs this summer, and a U.K. tour this fall, Parker insists she “hasn’t really changed at all.”
“The one thing I did do was color my hair,” she says. “It has always been blonde but now it's very very white blonde, and that was something I did and was more of a personal thing and to have a bit more of identity. As far as clothing, I have always sort of been this way, so there really wasn't much to change.”
And despite it being old news for her, it’s exciting in the scope of things. “I think it's starting to turn,” she says, “and you see more and more artists and people, in general, representing lots of different sort of beauty.”
So, despite popular belief, Stevie Parker is quite happy.
“I just write about things that are a bit more painful I think,” she says, “but everyone writes for a different reason. I can see why people pick up on that.”