In just a year, singer-songwriter Banks has gone from relative unknown, producing music behind closed doors, to underground favorite and rising star.
Her first live performances ever were opening a national tour with the Weeknd. Now she's about to hit the road for her first headlining tour, in support of debut album, Goddess.
She's making a stop at Grand Central this weekend. So we here at Crossfade caught up with the soft-spoken artist to learn more about her ever-evolving sense of self and how goddesses are sometimes vulnerable even when they are strong.
Crossfade: Last time we spoke, you were opening for the Weeknd with Anna Lunoe. Back then, you were saying that was your first experience playing live. What did you learn?
Banks: It was incredible, I mean, playing on that tour was awesome. I just learned a lot, and now I'm still learning, but I'm really excited for my first album tour.
Goddess is a beautiful record, but it also has a very strong and confident title. It's a very empowering statement, as I think the music is as well. That's a departure from being the girl who was too nervous to share her music with friends. Is that empowerment a theme for you right now?:
It's just a theme in my music to highlight being human and embracing every part of who you are, every emotion that you have. I put all of my emotions into my music, so that's kind of what I think being a goddess is being fragile at times, strong at times, just human in general.
There's a lot of material on the album. How long were you working on it?
Since I was born. I feel I worked on it that long, but it was an incredible process. I just got to write music, which is all I want to do.
That makes a lot of sense, this being your debut LP. But do you mean some of these songs have been floating in your head for a while? Or just in a sense of growing as an artist?
Both, I think. My music represents who I am, and I'm constantly developing. My writing style has developed since I started writing, and it's still developing. I think the earliest out of all these songs that I wrote was "Beggin for Thread." But I meant it more in terms of just me as a songwriter and a singer. Ever since I started doing it, I think it's been a constant development and progression.
The song "Someone New" is incredibly touching and beautiful, and it seems very personal yet universal. That's pretty tough to pull off. Is there any song on the record that you're particularly proud of?
All of them. They're all a part of me, they all came from me and I needed to express everything that I said on the album. So they're all equally important and special.
Has it become easier for you over the last year to share your music with the world? Are you more comfortable stepping out?
Yeah, I think those are two separate things, though, sharing music and me personally stepping out.
You have some incredible production credits on the record. Did you reach out to people to work on the album? Or did they come to you?
There are different stories for everybody. Everything had happened very naturally. TEED was set up. He was going to be in L.A. for a little bit, and his publisher suggested we work together. We did, and we hit it off right away. Then Lil Silva is on the same label as I am in the UK, Good Years, so he's kind of in the same family. We heard each other's music, and we just immediately connected to it and wanted to work together. I heard a remix SOHN did of my song called "Before I Ever Met You," and I just loved it. I thought he was able to bring an atmosphere to the song without taking away the soul and the heartbeat of what it was originally. So, just different stories for each person.
I hear a lot of influences in your music, like Fiona Apple, Drake, Kate Bush. Who do you perceive as having helped shape you artistically?
The people in my life and the people I work with, I'm inspired by. In terms of artistically being inspired by other sounds, it's not really about that for me. It's more about being inspired by honesty and strength, and that's why early on I was really into Fiona Apple and Lauryn Hill and people like that. But in terms of my own sound, it's more about whatever comes out naturally.
I hear that a lot from artists. When records are really personal and strong, you've got to step away from what others are doing and let your own voice rise up.
Yeah, when I'm in a period of writing a lot, I actually don't really listen to much music other than what I'm working on.
You mention Fiona Apple and Lauryn Hill, and I see those as very strong, feminine artists. I think you have a lot of that sensibility as well. Whether it's planned or not, you're a positive figure in the music industry for women. Is that intentional?
I'm just myself. I want to be a voice of strength, for people in general and for women, but I don't think that happens by wanting it. If you connect with people and you are a source of strength for them, then it just happens. I don't think it's something you can try to be.
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Banks' Goddess Tour. With Movement and Lil Silva. Sunday, September 21. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $20 to $25 plus fees via ticketfly.com. All ages. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.