Credit: Olivia Richardson

Credit: Olivia Richardson

It has been an exciting process to watch Laurel Arnell-Cullen, or simply LAUREL, tastefully dole out her unique approach to song-writing over the past two years. She came onto the scene at the age of 19 with her ethereal, synth-driven single, Firebreather and has subsequently dropped a host of further singles and EPs. There is a sophistication and maturity in her process of focusing only on a few tracks at a given moment. We see her trying out new styles and growing into the idiom that she wants to connect with.

Perhaps in the beginning of her career, there was an impulse to define LAUREL along the lines of a greater trend of the ‘one-name’ brand in pop music. Following in the footsteps of RIHANNA, BANKS, KELELA, and others,
LAUREL could have been a logical successor in this lineage. Indeed, her early tracks firmly positioned her in this style of the anthemic female voice, aggressively modified through digital techniques to align with a kind of culturally sanctioned vocal sound. While the young artist is still working firmly in the idiom of these kindred artists, the new EP, Park draws on a variety of other influences. The tracks are generally more stripped-down, foregrounding guitars over synthesizers, less overtly highlighting vocal effects, and more clearly displaying LAUREL personality and interpretation of the world around her.

The benefit and burden of being your own boss

One of the big draws of LAUREL music is the DIY-approach to production that she has become recognized for. Her small flat in London also doubles as her studio. She believes that this type of work environment offers her more freedom for experimentation:

‘These days anybody can make music in their homes and bedrooms, I think it allows people to really explore the depths of their creativity and go beyond just trying to write a pop song in a studio to sell to the masses.’

It is easy to envision her sitting over a workstation of sequencers and mixers, a cup of tea cooling on the table, a guitar set off to the side that she reaches for periodically to strum a few chords. This hands-on approach frames not only the sound, but the general aesthetic of the process; the work involved in the construction and selection of each song is apparent: ‘I have triple the work load, but then the benefit of working on your own time schedule and no one else’s means you can move the whole process along a lot quicker if you’re self sufficient. I guess this is where the whole DIY vibe comes into play as you can just chuck out loads of music, experiment with styles, put out EPs and mix tapes quickly and with out too much cost.’

Park is much more direct in its lyrical message as compared with her earlier EPs such as Holy Water (2014) and we see her drawing on a different kind of inspiration: ‘I guess the new EP is a lot more literal lyrically. The words follow my actual life down to specifics, whereas my older music was almost a little more dream-like with respect to the lyrics, I was inspired by a lot of movies then, things that had bigger meaning than normal life, however normality is what inspires me the most these days’


Additionally, Park draws more ostensibly on LAUREL background as a folk singer, especially the track Goodbye: All my songs are quite folky as demos its only the production which really pulls them away from that. I wanted to put ‘Goodbye’ on the EP as its really where the writing process starts for me, and it is essentially where I came from and how I started writing.

We see a young artist maturing and defining a new system of personal values in music: ‘I met a bunch of new people, found new cultures in London, was introduced to new music and even started to take on different values as a person and ideals of what I wanted my career as a musician to look like. I really feel like all of this contributed to the change in the sound and direction. It just happened really naturally. I also picked my guitar back up, I hadn’t played in in a few years and seeing as the songs are heavily guitar led now I think thats were there was a major change’

Youthful furiousness

There is something fundamentally youthful about her music. This is not a comment on her age (even though she is currently only 22), but rather an essence that she taps into. While she argues agains being too motivated by the trends in music around her, she is voraciously engaged in the thriving underground scenes in London and seems to have her finger on the pulse of broader trends in pop culture: To be honest I’m quite inside my own world. I don’t read a lot of the news, I’m not really up to date with new music and who’s hot right now, I find it all gives me blurry vision and I find it hard to concentrate on who I am and what I want to achieve in life and as a musician….

I’m fascinated by the different lives everybody leads in all these different cities of the world.

Living in London at the moment, there is so much going on, so many subcultures; artist corners, skate scenes, crazy warehouse parties that make you think you’re in some sort of cult movie. And the common theme throughout: a bunch of young people just wanted to really live and experience life first hand. It makes you feel so inspired. I don’t just want to be a follower in the world around me I want to be apart of the movement.


It will be an exciting process to watch LAUREL continue to react to and interpret the youthful life around her. She is already on a trajectory of carving out her own unique voice in a sea of related artists. She seems to have a healthy relationship with the process and hopefully her growing fame continues to allow her enjoyment in the aspects of life that are essential to her style.

I find music works perfectly with everything around me right now, because I have been producing this album on my own in my home it gives me a lot of time and flexibility to also just enjoy life and take light in the small wonders like going out for coffee in the mornings and having an afternoon walk, better yet its almost a part of the whole process of writing – experiencing.’