Jacob Banks On Creating & Letting Go
“My job is to keep people company,” alt-soul singer Jacob Banks tells TIDAL. “When I give [music] to the people, I want it to go. It’s like my problems are no longer mine.”
For the U.K. rep, music is therapy, a way to simultaneously let go and connect. ”I want [my audience] to make up their own minds,” Banks says. “I don’t want to make up their minds for them.”
With his forthcoming LP, The Village, on the way, the singer-songwriter continues to prove that he’s as authentic an artist as they come. Releasing the album in three parts, Banks wants to make sure his process and his body of work are less a perfectly packaged product than a reflection of his evolution and story.
In advance of the project’s release and his performance at The Meadows Music & Arts Festival this Saturday, September 16, Banks discusses the project and how he became a full-time artist.
Read below as Banks elaborates on The Village, being raised in Nigeria, migrating to the U.K. in his adolescence and how he stays happy.
Tell me a little about what you have going on right now.
Right now, we’re just on the road. I think we’re on the road from now to December, finishing an album. I’m just trying to stay happy.
How do you stay happy and create on the road?
I’m always with musicians, so that’s easy. Good musicians are really kind people. I’m very particular about who I choose to have in my band. Musical skills are secondary to just actually being a kind person. Anybody can become a better musician. You can’t always be kind and thoughtful. So I just surround myself with good people. It’s easy to be good around good people.
Tell me a little bit about this album.
The album is called The Village, and it’s going to be released in three parts over the period of a year. It just covers two sides of my life, which is the fact that I was born in Nigeria and raised there until I was about 13 or 14. I moved to the U.K., so it covers both sides of that coin and just kind of pushes and pulls at that, and things that I’ve learned on both sides of the pond and the musical scape of the two—the tribal essence and the Western essence.
You left Nigeria at 13. What is your connection with the country now?
All my morals, my cultural understanding and the way I deem what’s OK is very rooted in the fact that I was born in Nigeria. But how far I dream, how many things I want to achieve and the boundaries I want to push come from the Western [culture] because African culture is very minimal. It’s much more about how much noise you can make without being hurt or not. Western culture is very much [about] how you can take that and multiply it. So those two affect my well-being, and now I make music in that respect.
Can you just tell me a little bit about the mentality behind releasing your album in three parts and how exactly you’re going to go about doing it?
I’m going to release about five or six songs in a track list. The first song comes out in September. I think the whole tracklist will come in October, and it will all be presented as a whole album when the third chapter comes out. Albums are becoming so disposable. We put so much effort into these stories. I want people to be able to listen to them at a pace that suits them.
As a newer artist, expecting someone to give you an hour and a half of their time is a big ask because people have stuff to do. Even if they love your music, they still have things to do. [Releasing] five [songs] at a time, I think people can handle. They can just live with those. I’ll [then] give you five more. And when you’re done? I’ll give you five more.
I think it allows you to be creative because most people are writing their album a year before it comes out. I don’t make the same music in a two-month period. I should be able to update my album if I want to. It allows me so much more creative control. I’m still pushing. I can still try and do stuff. I can still question stuff, and it comes in handy because even up until today, I’m still changing the track list. If I just had it as a whole album, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. But just because I have all this time, I can keep pushing myself and doing so many new things.
I was watching one of your interviews earlier, and I really like one thing you said about singing a song and having each person in the crowd sing it back to you for a different reason. Is it easy for you to let go of your work and leave it open for interpretation?
Yeah. To be fair, I wouldn’t say it’s out of my control. I have to police a lot of people. Music is a mural. Regardless of what I say, you will feel whatever your heart wants. I could be as blunt…I could talk about my mum. I could tell you her name, my address, and you’re going to hear your mum. See what I’m saying?
It’s like, the heart will take what it wants from music. It’s so out of your control. It’s bigger than any of us. And that’s where people attach their memories and songs live forever when you can. There are certain songs I can listen to, and I can remember what the air smelled like the first day I heard it. When you attach these memories to music, they live forever. So you have to allow people to have it. Plus, my job is to keep people company.
When I make a track, it’s therapy for me. I can get something out. So when I give it to the people, I want it to go. It’s like my problems are no longer mine. I’ve put it out in the world, and I’ve parted ways with that problem or that thing, that emotion. So I want people to go crazy. I want them to make up their own minds. I don’t want to make up their minds for them.
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