Jacob Banks

Talks Kanye West, Amy Winehouse, touring and how to not seek validation.

Photographer: Edward Cooke // @edwardcooke
Stylist: Rhys Marcus Jay // @RhysMarcusJay
Assistant Stylist: Chanel Baker // @lalaanoire_
Interviewer: Johnson Gold // @JohnsonGold
Artist: Jacob Banks // @mrjacobbanks

Creating new friends through his music

Raised in Birmingham, moved to London, and currently touring under is record deal with Interscope and Universal – Jacob Banks has built friendships all around the world. We sat down with Jacob Banks on his career so far. He expresses Kanye West as a massive inspiration, touring from L.A. to London, creating friends through his music and tips on starting out as a London artist.

We last spoke back in 2014, and time has gone so fast. I guess for you so much has happened since then, tell me what have you gained as an artist so far, up until today, is there like one thing that you would say you have gained through your journey?

My biggest lesson as an artist is… nobody can care as much as you, they just won’t. I am the only person who can be Jacob 24/7, you’re the only person that can be you 24/7. Even the people who love you the most, at some point will have to check out and look after themselves and their interests, and you can’t use that against them in the same way. I mean understanding it is one thing but you have to understand that you can’t use it against them. At some point, they have to do their own thing and for that reason, you have to become self-sufficient, you have to be your own team. When people come and help they’re just a bonus but the ship will go on without them. It will leave, I’d prefer to be on-board but you know, they will leave anyway.

You’ve come a long way with your music as well, what amazes me is how unique you are, a UK black artist, from 4 years ago up until today, has anything changed in your music?

Massively! The sounds are different, I mean obviously I’m still the same human being but I think for me I don’t believe in releasing the same project twice. I think everyone should try to push, whether you’re a journalist or whatever you are, like a photographer, we’re all trying to push the taste level and introduce new things, for me it’s the same with music, with every project that I do, I’m trying to push the music forward, asking the people what they think they like and just contribute to the music.

Hoodie: Urban Outfitters

Hat: Topman, Jacket & Trousers: BDG @ Urban Outfitters, Top: Rome Pays Off @ Browns Fashion, Socks Uniqlo, Sneakers: Vans

How would you describe your sound?

My sound is that I’m a storyteller. Which doesn’t quantify me to any particular sound, it just means that if I was telling a story and I needed to be loud then I’d be loud, if I need to be softer I’d be softer, so I’m more trying to paint energies rather than trying to be sound specific. I go with the sound that helps tell the story the best. So yeah, that’s how I define myself, I try not to be genre specific.

I figure out the energy, I use colours a lot so I would write and I would pick a colour and I tell whoever I’m with at the studio that I want you to play something in the colour of red, and I deliver my vocals or whatever I think red is, or the lyrics that I write will come from the colour red. For me it’s more about delivery than what you’re actually doing, anybody can do 5 things but it’s about how you deliver those 5 things with as much conviction as you can, that’s what gets people.

For me, your music reminds me of Emilie Sande, Sam Smith… I get that kind of vibe from your music, is there any artists that you’ve looked up to in your journey?

I really really admire Amy Winehouse, that’s a special one for me, D’Angelo and John Mayer is another one and Kanye West.

Was music around your family?

No, I don’t come from a musical family at all, like we’d listen to music as stuff.

So where did it come from?

I think for me it was my friends that kinda pushed me to make music, I fell in love with the guitar and singing in my bathroom, and my friends would hear these songs that I wrote and would ask me to record them so they could play it in their cars.

Hat: Topman, Top: Whistles, Jumper: Urban Outfitters, Trousers: Curiex @ Browns Fashion

How old were you when you were doing this?

I was like 20, 21? And you do 7 of those on SoundCloud and you make an EP, and my friends just kept asking me and I put it on SoundCloud so my friends could download them and that’s just kinda how it happened and when I was using SoundCloud nobody was using SoundCloud, it wasn’t a thing. So, I just started because I was always making music to impress my friends and that’s what it was for me.

And then gradually more people gravitated?

Yeah yeah, more friends kept coming and I just kept making more friends.

You started out at a young age, did you feel that ‘this is my passion, this is what I wanna do’, when did you start to work that out?

I still don’t think I’ve worked that out, for me it was, and it still is… this is what I need to do. Like I grew up in a very like creatively oppressed environment where I wasn’t allowed to express myself too much so for me I need to create each thing. its bigger than music for me, like I, direct all my own music videos and I do all these things, I need to get all this stuff out my system, it makes me feel more centred, like in that process if I can keep people company that’s a bonus for me and the purpose, I put out music to keep people company overall that’s all I really care about.

And you’ve been touring around the world, New York, L.A. and the London. Where would you say your audiences are mainly from?

Right now, it’s really balanced between U.S and U.K, it’s pretty even but there are more people in the U.S though so like all the people that listen to eclectic music pretty much inside of London, Manchester, Birmingham. All other parts take their music from radio so we don’t get to get to those people they usually the last to come cos they listen to whatever the radio plays, so it’s kind of half and half.

And what genre would you put your music in?


Why would you say alternative?

Because that’s what I think I it is? It doesn’t live in one particular space, so like the song might sound soulful but when we hit the chorus it’ll be… it’ll have electronic sounds, I try to never exist in just one genre. So for me, music is about bringing people together, I want to be able to get a 60-year-old white guy in a room and a 16-year-old black guy in a room and they can find common ground, I want to reach out to both sides at once.

Who would be your dream musical collaboration?

I’d love to do a duet with Amy Winehouse.

Who would you currently collaborate with alive?

Urm, Kanye West.

Why Kanye West?

Urm massive inspiration for me, a massive part of my childhood and I love what he does, even if you hate him or love him he’s forcing you to have an opinion, like he’s always pushing a new direction, or he’s trying something new I think that expands our taste level so that’s a great thing to achieve.

 Hat: Topman, Jacket & Trousers: BDG @ Urban Outfitters, Top: Rome Pays Off @ Browns Fashion, Socks Uniqlo, Sneakers: Vans

Tell us about your latest release, ‘Unknown To You’?

Yeah, it’s a song about moments where we don’t really say how we really feel because we’re trying to save face and we’re trying to save something from whatever’s happening and it’s about those moments and it’s a really special song for me and I’m glad we did this.

How important is presentation is in music today? I feel like it’s changed so much now some people that came from musical backgrounds are now also diverting more onto the fashion field. Today, artists are presenting themselves in both fields, how important would you say that is?

The world is a very visual place now, everybody wants to see everything, you are seen before you’re heard now which is really interesting but it wasn’t always like that, like you used to hear the artist on the radio then you’d go and see what they look like but now its people see you before they hear you.

Yeah, that’s very true, these days people see someone that looks really cool, then they tune into their music from that.

Yeah, because there are so many artists that’ their brands surpass their music like A$AP Rocky, for example, he’s a great musician but like his brand is way higher than his musical things, I mean when was the last time he put out a record? But it doesn’t matter because he’s still so relevant because of his branding. So, it’s still so important but it’s something that I had to learn, I was never really keen on it, but we just have to get to people I think if you get this far you get to see it and have these conversations. The issue is getting in front of people and letting them make up their own minds, so do what you can do as long as you’re not hurting anybody then you’re still credible to get in front of people, visually it’s a massive one right now.

Have you ever performed and had a special moment, in a specific country?

Yeah, that has happened when performing in New Orleans, I love performing there as we have played there a couple times in a place called the Gasa Gasa club. It’s really small as it holds about a hundred people, but every time I go there is a group of nurses, who usually study there, and every time I play they always come out and I just have a good time with them. We have become homies! I think this is because when I started making music it was to impress my friends and I feel like now a lot of friendship groups are unified by this taste. So for me, I believe anyone who listens to my stuff are people that I can possibly be friends with. For example, I meet these people on the road and we just become really good friends. Simply because we already have something in common, usually, it takes people weeks to find that common grounds but I already know off the bat that you f*ck with me.

Would you say your music describes your personality?

Yeah, definitely! My music is what I believe in, so everything that I’d say in real life is what you’d hear. I’m not one for gauging my stuff, so yeah because of that reason you already kind of like me, that’s why you’re here.

And is there one sentence that describes your music?

It’s my version of the truth.

How would you describe your everyday style?

My style… is comfortable.

I guess comfort comes with your music as well right?

Yeah yeah, I’ve never been too keen on fashion but I love the style because when I see someone at a gig you’re giving out so much information about yourself because it’s you when nobody is looking. So I would say my style is comfortable.

Yeah, I see that, but you’re really good at putting things together and colours. If we went into your wardrobe what would we find?

I’m into the ‘making simple stuff look cool’, I think this is from like Topman and this is like H&M, I’m into classier stuff on the side so it’s kind of a mix of 2. I’m into Dior a lot right now and Armani, but on the flip side like I’d gladly get a £5 t-shirt from Primark. So it’s always 2 extremes, it just depends on what I’m doing. I think that often the clothes don’t matter, you’re as expensive as you feel.

Is there an artist that inspires you in terms of style?

Style wise I like A$AP Rocky’s style actually, also Tyler, The Creator, because yet again, it’s comfy and it’s just him.

What advice would you give to London artists who are starting out, with UK music is becoming more recognised around the world, what tips would you give someone in 2017 starting up, for those who want to get in the game and share their music?

“My advice would be, don’t seek validation as the industry will come, they’re always the last to the party, make music for yourself, make music that you would listen to. The simple law is that there’s somebody for everybody, as long as you like it, someone or, a group of people will fuck with you, someone will. so just make sure you like it, put it out, and I promise you it will come back. The universe is kind, it’ll come, but you have to wholeheartedly believe in it. There are songs that I put out 3 years ago that I look back now on and think they are trash, but at that point, I was proud of them and that’s what got me where I am today, its just ride with what you believe in man, every time, and even as an aspect of life, anything you love, ride for it. So yeah, just make what you love and people will come.”


What have you got planned for the rest of the year?

We’re doing a world tour, we’re starting in Amsterdam and we’re touring until December. I’ve been on tour since February, so we get off. That’s kind of me man, just being on the road and shit.

How does it feel to be touring?

I love touring, like I said, for me every city I go to I have 500 friends who come out to see me, that’s how I see it, I have friends everywhere, I spend time everywhere, we have drinks after it’s. It’s just one long ass holiday.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Benjamin says:

    Mr banks ,your music is awesome ..words are not enough . My Brother Gracious introduced me to your Music and from that time i have turned back . Blessed you are .continue working hard #Benjamin/Africa/zambia

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