Whether he’s singing or songwriting, U.K.-based, Nigeria-born artist Jacob Banks lets his art speak for itself, proving he’s a force to reckon with in the music game. Attached to the smooth sounds of R&B, EDM and soul is an African influence, stemming from his roots in Nigeria. This year, Banks made his Coachella debut at the Mojave Tent.
Banks recently released a single titled “Chainsmoking,” which has received more than 4.3 million views and counting online. Fans can expect a debut album in the near future.
L.A. Weekly: For those who don’t know, who is Jacob Banks?
Jacob Banks: Jacob Banks is someone trying to make sense of life, like the rest of us. That’s it, really.
How would you describe your sound?
I’m a storyteller. I try to not worry too much about sound. I work for the story. I try to get a story across the best way I can. Whatever sound that may be is second to me delivering a story first.
What is it that you want fans to get from your story?
I want to keep them company. That’s kind of my job, I think. We take musical journeys. Whether that’s heartbreaks, love, happiness, music is always like a soundtrack to that. So I just wanted to contribute to that experience. And in the event that I can’t — if I don’t have a story that helps the narrative you’re going through — I hope there’s another artist that does. If Jacob Banks doesn’t have a song you’re looking for, I hope Normani has a song you’re looking for. I think we’re just here to help the human experience get better.
How do you balance between your own artistry and songwriting?
I just do both. I try to never really think too much about things. I think everything’s important — writing for myself, writing for other people, writing for films. I’m a musician first. I’m a musician who happens to be an artist. But like I always say, if I had to choose between listening to music for the rest of my life, or just purely playing music and never getting to listen, I’ll choose listening. I love music. It’s bigger than Jacob Banks. I’d be happy just playing guitar. I’d be happy just playing piano. I love music. I also enjoy being an artist but I try to use as much of my brain as I can.
You recently performed in Los Angeles. How does this city compare to your hometown of London?
We know London is better than Los Angeles, right?
London is the capital of the world, man. It truly is. It’s been around a lot longer as well. It’s worked out its kinks. Or rather, it knows how to hide its kinks. I love Los Angeles. L.A. is like my third home at this point. I spend a lot of time there. But there’s no place like home.
What do you like about L.A.?
What are your feelings going into Coachella weekend two?
Healthy. I feel healthy. I was sick as shit the first week, so I’m good now. This is the last day as well as our last show. I’m happy to just go out on a bang and just call it a day.
Aside from your performance, what has been the biggest highlight from last weekend?
Easily Beyoncé. Easily.
What can we expect from your upcoming album?
It’s a lot more introspective than the last one. The last one was more looking outside, looking at the world. This one just looks more to self. it’s more personal than the last one.
Does it have a name yet?
It’s called Village.
Is that influenced from your African roots?
So there’s an African saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s kind of based around that phrase and that perspective. The album pulls on many of my influences. Being Nigerian, being from the U.K. — and the U.K. youth culture is grimy, it’s Caribbean — and all these influences that helped me be the man I am. It celebrates all those sounds as well as all those stories.
Three essential things you need in the studio?
How technical can we be?
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However you want to answer it.
There’s a microphone called an SM7B. I like to sing in that mic out in the studio — not in the booth. I like to just sing in the hallway. Food — I like carrots. And fun.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Dream collab? Alive or dead? Dead or alive?
Let’s do alive so we can make it happen. D’Angelo. Actually scratch that, Frank Ocean.
Everyone’s been saying Frank Ocean all weekend.