Dark silhouettes walked out and got into their positions. Soft lights of blue and red lit up the stage as Scarlet Parke walked out to greet the audience that was swarmed to the front. This was Scarlet’s first time performing at Seattle’s legendary Neumos club – a stage that has hosted acts such as Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Neil Young and more. Looking out in the audience with a playful smirk across her face, she was on a mission to make her mark and take everyone on her journey. Her rhythm section pushed the groove forward while the band fell in line, creating the perfect palette for Scarlet’s smoky vocals to dance along the melody. With a combination of cool and catchy pop-soul songs and a tight band with a rhythm section that is a force to be reckoned with, Scarlet Parke is one to keep an eye on. Upstream Music Festival saw this, and because of that performance, invited Scarlet Parke to be on the lineup alongside other up and coming Seattle artists.
I met Scarlet at El Burraccho in Ballard to discuss her inspirations in music and her songwriting process for this feature. She greeted me with a warm smile and relaxed into conversation. Even meeting for an interview, Scarlet is very energetic and open. What surprised me the most was the juxtaposition of Scarlet’s bubbly-sweet nature and her moody, coy songs. In her music video, Fallin’ (directed by Domenic Barbero and co-written by Skyler Mehal and Nick Foster), the videographer opens up the scene with Scarlet Parke waking up the morning after a rendezvous. The song is about not being able to resist, or control the influences of love and lust, and has arrangements that have clear nods of influence to Amy Winehouse. Yet, as the interview went on, I started to realize that it is Scarlet’s fearlessness, her love for a vast array of music and inquisitive nature that sparked her songwriting styles.
Growing up singing in choirs and participating in jazz band, Scarlet always had an affixation for music. It wasn’t till she met her ex-boyfriend while she was living on Bainbridge that she started collaborating with him and writing music. During that time, he guided her on songwriting structures and instilling confidence in her to pursue her musical endeavors. When they broke up, a friend convinced Scarlet to move to Seattle to have a fresh start. “She pretty much dragged me here” Scarlet laughs reflecting on that time in her life. Right off the bat, Scarlet started showing up at Open Mics, Jams and various shows throughout Seattle to immerse herself in the music scene. She wanted to get to know the other musicians, find a band, and people to collaborate with. At first, the scene was not receptive to Scarlet’s attempts to infiltrate herself into the music community. “No one wanted anything to do with me,” Scarlet says with a shrug. Yet, the initial cold shoulder did not deter her, she kept showing up at the Open Mics, Jams and shows. When she started showing up at the Nectar Lounge for Mojam Mondays – that is when everything changed and started falling into place. Scarlet knew what she wanted, had a clear vision of what she had to offer and was going to keep knocking on the doors until they opened up for her. She met her band, started performing her music and started networking throughout the scene.
Since moving to Seattle two years ago, Scarlet Parke has released a music video for her single, “Fallin’,” released her EP, “Long Night,” been featured on Sounds by the Sound on Revolt TV, performed all over Seattle at venues such as a sold out EP release show at Sunset Tavern, The Crocodile, Tractor Tavern, Barboza and Neumos, and most recently a full capacity set at Upstream Music Festival and more. She also has been featured on several tracks from various artists. Her collaboration with Shelton Harris, “Don’t Tell Me” has been viewed over 116,000 times on YouTube alone. Additionally, “The Wheels Fall Off,” a song she co-wrote and sang on with the Good Husbands has been played over one million times on Spotify. After releasing “Long Night,” Scarlet Parke collaborated with Julianna J Photography to make her vlog series. I asked Scarlet where she got her drive from, “My entire family is made up of entrepreneurs.” She said leaning back in her chair, “I still ask my parents for business advice and learned how to treat my music like a business by learning from them.”
When listening to Scarlet Parke’s music the first thing you hear is similarities to Amy Winehouse Back to Black album and Nikka Costa’s “Everybody’s Got Their Something.” Her songs are catchy with good arrangements and production. Live, her music is even better. When Scarlet and her band walk on stage and start playing, they have a definite presence. And, I must repeat this, she has a really wickedly good rhythm section. They have clever breaks in the arrangements, build up at the end of the bridge for the final chorus, and ride the wave with one another, feeding off one another’s energy.
Heavily influenced by Regina Spektor, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, John Mayer, Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child, Frank Sinatra, Drake, Ella Fitzgerald and Amy Winehouse – Scarlet’s songwriting fuses soulful grooves into her pop songs with a cool swagger. Her approach to songwriting varies – sometimes she will just play chords on the piano to see what comes up, or a producer will send her a track and she will write a melody and lyrics to it. Other times, she will just sing into her iphone whenever an idea comes to her. Yet, her biggest inspiration for writing comes in her dreams. “I get my best ideas in my dreams!” Scarlet explains, “I trained myself to wake up after a song comes to me in my dreams so I can instantly write it down. I’m fascinated by dreams.”
The Neumos show had a profound effect on Scarlet. As she walked onto the stage, looking out to a group people who were there to see her, she made a self proclamation, that it doesn’t matter how many people are in the audience, but how many people she affects. With that, she gave a soulful performance that everyone noticed. At the end of her set, she was met with a roaring applause and chants for an encore.
Currently, Scarlet Parke is collaborating with Justin Courage, making an EP of electronic/dance music. She is also working on new music to put a collection of singles together on a new EP. What can you expect from this new EP? A smile comes across Scarlet’s face, “Think of it as Ella meets Drake.”
Scarlet Parke’s Playlist
The playlist below is a collection of songs selected by Scarlet Parke.
The songs selected are some of her biggest influences.