Fresh off a North America tour with LÉON, British singer-songwriter Jacob Banks has begun to captivate the world with his soulful electronic anthems.
Jacob Banks burst onto the British music scene back in 2012, when he recorded his debut EP ‘The Monologue’. The stand-out track, ‘Worthy’, quickly gained huge recogntion as BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe named it his “next hype” record, and the song quickly gianed significant radio support from various local radio stations.
Fast-forward four years, after performing alongside the likes of Emeli Sande, Sam Smith, Alicia Keys, Banks is now beginning to cause a stir in North America. His rework of single, ‘Monster’, featured US artist Boogie and went straight to #1 on HypeMachine.
Now, in 2017, Jacob Banks has shared the first single, ‘Unholy War’, from his highly anticipated EP, ‘The Boy Who Cried Freedom’. Vaunter sat down Banks to discuss his musical journey, new record, and life on the road. This is what he had to say:
Thanks for spending the time to talk. You’ve been on tour for the last few weeks now, how has it been?
It’s obviously tiring and things get a little hectic, but there’s honestly worst jobs in the world. It’s not so bad.
Firstly, congratulations on the release of your new single ‘Unholy War’. Have you been surprised by the recognition?
Yes and no. Weirdly enough, I’ve never put out anything that I didn’t like. I don’t really make music for people to like, if that makes sense.
My ethos is: in a group of friends, we are unified by our taste in music. If I release music that I like, I could be performing to people that could also be my friends, which is good.
However, the artist in me is glad that people like it. It’s an eclectic taste, as it’s not traditional, so it’s always had to gauge, as it’s hard to read how many people really care. It’s not the normal pop stuff, so I’m glad to see that people like to f*** with it despite it not being down the middle.
The single has a different approach to some of your earlier material, like ‘Worthy’ and ‘Silver Lining’. Do you feel this has been a natural progression to your music?
I think I may have gone back actually, more than forward. If you listen to ‘Worthy’, from the first EP, that was only the forward-thinking track from the record. It incorporated many electronic sounds, unlike the other stuff that was very much down-the-middle blues and soul.
Now, moving forward, I want to match ‘Worthy’, as soul meets electronic sounds. So going back there, I think there’s more to explore and it’s fun for me. I can make soul songs every day, but I’ll always be in competition to Marvin Gaye and I’d never win. I’d rather to push the new forward and contribute to the scene that way.
Would you say Marvin Gaye is one of your biggest influences?
I take three people, aside from Marvin Gaye, as my influences: John Mayer, Bob Marley, and Kanye West.
I respect John Mayer for the way he writes songs and how talented of a musician he is. I look up to Bob Marley for always telling the truth. I respect Kanye West for always pushing the lead and asking questions. Those are my inspirations.
‘Unholy War’ is the lead single from your forthcoming EP, ‘The Boy Who Cried Freedom’. What should people expect from the record?
It’s a mesh of two worlds. It’s the electronic sound stuff meeting some down-the-middle soul. The record is just going to be a journey of seeing how those two things meet.
Your ‘Monster’ rework with Boogie really captivated the US audience, surpassing over 1million plays. How did that collaboration come to be?
The original one in the UK featured my boy, Avelino, and I wanted to bring this to the US, so it made sense for a States-side feature. I think we had a lot of people on a list that we wanted to get, but I heard Boogie. I prefer underground musicians, and I felt that his energy mimics the energy of the track. I reached out and he loved the song. He wrote and recorded his verse in two days, it was real quick.
What do you feel it was with the rework that really appealed to the masses in the US over the original?
The difference is when I released ‘Monster’, I had no label behind me and was promoted entirely by myself. The new rework is just slightly more “polished” with a good label behind me helping.
Both tracks actually went to #1 on HypeMachine, it’s just ‘Monster 2.0’ was a bit more of a face-lift than the original.
After touring with the likes of Emeli Sandé, Sam Smith, and Alicia Keys, do you feel they’ve influenced your live performances?
I watch everyone that I tour with and watch what they do. For touring, I don’t want people to come out and just hear the EP. It’s important to give something a little different. For me, I always want to give that something more vocally than I do on the records. I always try to better my studio performance when live. For ‘Worthy’, that song is now four years old. If you come out and hear the same song, I’ve failed you as an artist.
So watching them, I get to see how they transform songs for their audience and, for me with this EP, especially as it isn’t out, I get to see how people react. If it’s positive, which it has been, you can see you’re moving in the right direction.
I think seeing Emeli Sandé and Alicia Keys, I’ve been able to see how they reinvent songs to give a completely different vibe for their fans.
For those that have not seen you, what should people expect from a Jacob Banks live show?
I try to walk people on a journey. We explore different emotions and sounds. We will walk through many things and, for me performing, it’s about a moment that we share together. It’s not me trying to give you a show as such, we are all here and we all give an energy that contributes to each experience. I just happen to be the mic. It’s just a unified experience and I want people to be on the same page.
Aside from the remaining support dates with Léon, should we expect a US headline tour in support of the EP?
After the EP release, we are looking at doing the same tour again with me as a headliner, which should be fun. It has been really good seeing all of the cities and understand them.
Our final question; if we were to open your phone up now, and jump onto your desired streaming service of choice, who would the last act that you listened to be?
There’s a song that I’m obsessed with from a guy in London actually, who goes by the name of Rex Orange County. He has a track called ‘Best Friend’ and it is a real good, feel good, song.
Jacob Banks will be performing the following live dates in the US:
March 6th – Las Vegas, NV @ Airstream Park
March 7th – Cedar City, UT @ SUU
March 8th – El Paso, TX @ Outpost
March 9th – El Paso, TX @ International