After having the pleasure of watching Jacob Banks live, we finally got to sit down and talk with him about life, music and his EP which drops today.
Interscope artist Jacob Banks is the passionate, outspoken, yet introverted artist with a vocal range unlike any other. It’s amazing how someone, with a voice as powerful and melodic as Jacob’s, had little to no interest in pursuing music until only a few years ago. Jacob describes how music has been a medium for expressing his thoughts and how discovering music was essentially him finding a new way to express himself, which he’s always been quite comfortable doing. We also learned about his writing process and how much he hates listening to his own released projects. Check out our interview to find out what Jacob had to say about his latest EP The Boy Who Cried Freedom, which you can listen to below.
I caught your last performance in New York at the Bowery Ballroom it was amazing! You’re one of the few artists that probably sounds better live. Which one of your songs is your favorite song to perform live and why?
I enjoy performing “Mercy” live I would say. When I do songs on records I always save a little, not for any reason, but I feel like on records you want to leave room for people to feel like they can sing along and you’re not trying to like over-sing because sometimes at a show you can appreciate that it’s good, but you might not be able to keep up with an artist. “Mercy” I feel like the version on the track is good, but I know I can show off more on stage so it’s fun to take it there.
Which one of your songs is your favorite in general?
This song called “Silver Lining” off my last EP. I think it;s my favorite because it saved me. I was going through a lot when I wrote that song and it helped me get through it and it holds a special place in my heart.
Were you musical as a child? Did you always know you wanted to be a singer?
No, not at all. I was studying to be a civil engineer when I found music. I was never really musical. I was always expressive and music was just a form of expression could change in 5 years. I like to be able to express myself and music is just that form that does it. I’ve always been expressive in what I do, but I was never musical. I’ve always loved music and listened to music, but I never wanted to be an artist.
When did you start pursuing music as a career?
About 4 years during my last stage of university I kind of fell in love with it.
Were you immersed in the music scene at your university? How exactly did you get involved and get to the moment where you realize this is what I want to be doing with my life?
No, actually I just bought a guitar and started to play out of boredom and I learned to play off Youtube and taught myself and I used to sing along to my favorite songs and learned to play songs that I like. I’d write songs with the same chords and it just kind of happened. My friends would hear me ask to have some of the songs on CDs so I would go to the studios to record these songs for my friends to play in their car and it kind of all spiraled out of control.
Did you ever think it would come this far?
Not at all, not at all. I always knew I would continue. I’ve never made music for accolades I think I make it say my my two cents. I’m going to say it regardless so you might as well let me say it. I knew I was always going to be speaking my mind to whatever capacity.
Can you talk about your songwriting process? I know you’ve said it has to feel organic, can you elaborate on that a little bit?
I think songwriting is a very organic process, so – I don’t think much of myself, not in a sad depressing way, I think I’m a G, but in the sense that I’ve never had any lessons or anything geared towards music so there’s no real reason why I should be able to write songs and sing and do all these things. I’ve never had any sort of musical influences in my family. I know a lot of people have had a whole string of events that’s led them to where they are so I think songwriting is just being open and allowing yourself to be a vessel so theses songs can write themselves almost. I think that’s the process really. I just sort of listen up to the chords snd let the music do what it wants to do, I just don’t get in the way of it.
I know Amy Winehouse has had a huge influence on you, can you talk about her and other musical influences you’ve had as well as how you Nigerian/British background has influenced the versatility of your genre-bending sound?
Yeah there’s a couple people I like listening to, and a couple people I’ve found a little later than I’d like. John Mayer is a massive one to me, Bob Marley, D’Angelo, Miles Davis and African artist called Fela Kuti. When I found music I didn’t know shit about genres or whatever, it was all just music. It all sounded like different people saying the same things in different ways so I think I take from all my experiences and memories and just try to put them together without trying to limit myself to a particular sound.
Can you talk about your EP “The Boy Who Cried Freedom” and what we can expect?
This EP talks about struggles a lot, life’s struggles, not in a dark way, it just comments on things I’ve seen growing up and things we’re going through now and going through struggles and having to negate through so many things at the same time. It talks about struggles and how I’ve dealt with them and how the world is, social commentary.
What distinguishes this from The Monologue or the Paradox?
I think the soundscape and subject matter are very different. This one is a lot more forward-thinking in the sense of digital introduction. I’ve used more organic and live instruments and this introduces a lot of digital instruments a lot of synth is used and a lot more trap based than the last ones.
When working on new material do you like to go back and look at previous work and each project influence the next or do you like to keep them completely independent of each other?
Once a project goes out I don’t think I ever listen to it ever again. I listen to them a lot before they go out. The week before they go out I listen to them everyday just because I’m like wow people are going to hear all my problems. Once it goes out it’s no longer mine, it belongs to the people now. I try to never make the same project twice and they always move in a different direction and talk about new things. They’re all like different entities.
So how do you feel when you’re with friends or at an event and you hear your music playing? Is that strange for you?
I hate when people do that. People do it all the time. Like when I’m around like – I don’t always want to be Jacob Banks, music for me is just an expression. I don’t always want to wear my musician hat, sometimes I just want to chill and talk s*** about the world. I don’t like when people draw attention to the fact that I’m a musician or when people play my music out loud.
What are you currently listening to?
Right now I’m listening to a lot of Afro Beats, there’s a guy called Maleek Berry that I really love. There’s another guy called Moelogo. I listen to a lot of R&B, old 80s stuff trying to find gems and old cult records. The Drake album “More Life.”
When’s your next upcoming performance?
I’m doing a couple headline shows I’m doing one in London on the 24th of April, which should be fun I haven’t done a show in London in years, then New York on May 4th and then May 11th in L.A. and then festivals.