Jacob Banks: "Mentally there was less noise in my head and around me. I was in a grateful space making the album."
Alice Gee | 10/09/2022
Jacob Banks is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter from Birmingham and the owner of the independent music label ‘Nobody Records.’ Banks combines and blurs the lines of traditional genres creating urban sounds that seamlessly integrate elements to curate a smooth blend of hip-hop, R&B, soul, and reggae. Banks’ hit track “Unknown (To You)” has been streamed over 45 million times on Spotify alone. Having headlined sold-out shows on multiple continents he kindly joins us in the chaos of moving to his new home, a farm where he’d just been feeding his cows before joining us.
How was it writing the new album, and how has this album shaped you musically compared to the work you’ve done before?
“I think this one is simpler. I made it with less noise. Mentally there was less noise in my head and around me. I was in a grateful space. It was nice to settle into a space where I’m allowed to speak from a place I wasn’t always sure I could speak from. I was always afraid of being overly soulful or overly old school because I didn’t feel like I lived long enough to talk about certain things. But now I feel I can speak about them.”
There’s far more focus and freedom to spread your wings in doing what is authentic to yourself.
“Definitely, but the thing was that it assumed that I was always the authentic version of the person presented at work. It didn’t make sense for me then to make deep songs, black self-blues. I felt I wasn’t going through anything like where I wasn’t navigating those emotions. So it would have been disingenuous of me to have done that earlier. But now I feel like everything that’s happened in my life allows me to settle into my deep south vocals. There’s more behind the guitar, more behind the piano, and more in the music. More stories. It’s been fun to use my brain that way. And you know, I still have to put my little spin on it, telling my stories in new ways. So yeah, it’s been a lot of fun.”
Does having your label give you a lot more creative rein?
“Well, my last record label allowed me to have creative rein, but I had to fight for it. I always had to make a good argument that had to make sense. I think that’s probably why when I wanted to start my label. It always felt like my label allowed me to hire who I wanted. Before, I always had to validate my reasons. I don’t make anybody else validate what they bring to the table. It never maked sense to me why I had to explain my job.”
Was there a change in the process for you?
“There was a slight change. I’m unsure if I can attribute that to a major label or a pandemic because it kind of all happened at the same time. So I don’t know what’s responsible for the change”
You’ve done some unique collaborations on the album. How was it sharing that experience with other people that you’ve respected and looked up to and enjoyed their music?
“It was all natural. I had always wanted to do them. I think I rarely make sense for other people, and I can’t just be injected into any project and have it make sense on so many levels. Working with Sam and working with Adekunle Gold, Tobe Nwigwe, and Anna Leone, who, as my best friend, opened for me on tour six years ago, was magical and we’ve been best friends since then. So getting to immortalise many things was important to me in the collaboration itself. Whatever happens, we have proof that we were here.
What has been your favourite music venue from a performance point of view?
“You will think it sounds bad, but I don’t typically enjoy acoustic sets. As much as I may enjoy playing, I feel like I can only offer up a specific version of myself. I like to present a show where I can offer and do it all. I don’t want to do the same stuff and go home. I always want to be able to present my being. I’m always wary that someone will hear my music for the first time and feel misled. Because when they go to my Spotify, they hear all sorts of sounds. I want people to have a full picture of who I am. If I had to choose a venue I enjoyed the most, I would say The Royal Albert Hall I played. I did the BBC Proms many, many moons ago. And that was fun.”
You did the closing ceremony for the Commonwealth Games, which is enormous! How was that?
“I had no idea it was going to be like it was. It was interesting to see the show being put together. I’ve watched so many closing ceremonies on TV, but seeing how they put it together was probably the most magical thing about the show. Seeing how much effort the teams put in together with the directors for the ceremony was amazing. I enjoyed looking behind the curtain. It was also fun to represent a hometown. It was good to pay homage to my community and my peers.”
What have been your experiences with mental health over the years?
“Mental health is everything. I don’t think we care about it as much as we should. I think we have to have love and empathy toward our generation. Like recently when Anthony Joshua, unfortunately, lost this fight, you could see that he was having a tough time articulating himself and still had a lot of emotions. I don’t think there’s a more hyper-masculine job, and I can’t imagine the selection process. To see some people’s harsh response was horrific. I’ve struggled in my personal life but have been fairly lucky of late. I went through a time where I was depressed for a good amount of time. I remember I had to leave London. My sense of duty tends to override my approach to the things that I feel. I’m the eldest of four kids, so I’m alot of things to many to many people. Luckily for me, I have a sense of purpose when I’m helping and fixing things. So I think I couldn’t genuinely afford to be down for too long. But I wish more for men. I wish they could be allowed to be down for as long as they need to be to heal. I don’t know if I’m grateful for it or resentful of it of my own experience. But I find regularly it’s just that nuance of how I feel versus what’s right.”
It seems that you found a good insight into your well being. How have you developed this?
“I feel incredibly fortunate. I have many more things going my way than the average person. So I’m able to have perspective. So much of it is luck and being dealt the right cards. There are so many battles that happened before the battle itself. We all have different tools and often much is predetermined. I think when people cross the finish line, they often judge other people for not getting there as quickly as they have when they have a different set of tools. “
Words: Bronte Evans