FESTIVAL SEASON 2017: JACOB BANKS @ LOLLAPALOOZA

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Story/ERICA HAWKINS
Photos/KRIS FUENTES CORTES

 
Jacob Banks’s music has been described accurately as “shiver-inducing soul.” Born in Nigeria, Banks moved to Birmingham at the age of 13 and embraced creative arts in the form of singing, playing guitar, and writing songs. His song writing is poignant and intimate, and his vocal presence has already garnered him rave reviews and sold out shows, disrupting conventional norms of what ranks among today’s popular music.
 
We caught up with Banks at Chicago’s Lollapalooza to talk about his influences, the message he wants his music to convey, and how he uses his music to express what he finds painful, what he finds wonderful, and to keep listeners who are experiencing the same things company.
 
I just caught your live set and loved the two covers you did, one from Corinne Bailey Rae and the other from Childish Gambino. What artist do you look toward for inspiration or count as influences?
 
I love D’Angelo, Kanye West, and John Mayer. D’Angelo, I love how much attention he pays to vibe. It’s all about energy with him. Half the time you can’t tell what the fuck he’s talking about it’s just the energy is always right, it’s always welcoming. John Mayer, I love how much of a musician he is, I love the way he structures his music. The melodies and the chords are so pleasant they draw people in. Bob Marley, I love. I love Bob Marley just cause he always told the truth. Kanye West because he’s always pushing the needle, always asking questions of people, what people think is palatable and what they think is not. He’s always asking questions of people’s taste.
 
All of the artist you mentioned seem strong in their message and their identity. If you could impart one thing to people as far as a message from your music, what would that message be?
 
It would just be, “you’re the shit.” I think every now and then we forget, life is difficult, we always forget how much magic we have. For me, I just want to keep people company and help people to remember you’ve got this man, this is your shit you have everything under control.
 
A lot of your songs feel very vulnerable in nature. How did you get to a point where you were ok with sharing feelings most people would only write down in a journal with the world?
 
Because I still make music purely for expression. I make my music to express myself and to keep people who I think are going through the same things company. I feel like the only way they can relate to me is if I’m as honest in my feelings and my emotions as they are when they’re working through it. So for me, it’s just like the most natural thing. I make music because I need to get it out my system. I need to say these things. It’s like therapy for me. I need to get out whatever is hurting me or whatever I find wonderful so that’s why it’s easy for me to be so open because it’s a necessity for me.
 
Does it feel daunting to create music that is sonically more classic and soulful than what is currently leading on the radio?
 
Um yeah, but I really don’t give a fuck. The overall consensus for me is if everyone is going one direction I want to go the other one. Just to see, I’m nosey like that. I want to see what’s popping over here, why no one’s fucking with this. And I think for me it’s just the most natural thing. I’m always telling my version of the truth. I’m just trying to be honest in what I like. I love Kanye West and I love John Mayer, and I love Al Green but I also love Rick Ross. Were all racing against our taste so how can I present my taste to the world? So I’m just trying to be honest, I don’t really check. I don’t look left or right.
 
You were pretty young when you first started playing music, when did you know that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
 
I started making music properly about four and a half years ago. I was studying to be a civil engineer and when I finished I was like, I feel like I want to just express myself. Music was the expression I got and I just kind of ran with it and it all spiraled out of control.
 
What’s next, and what are you most excited about coming after the tour?
 
I think I can’t wait to put an album out. It’s very forward thinking and I’ve been trying new things. No two bodies of work ever sound the same, so it’s always interesting and nerve-racking at the same time because I want to see what people think and yeah I can’t wait to put out new stuff and see what the vibe is.
 

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