Jacob Banks was the first unsigned music act to appear on the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge.
He’s since released two EPs before scoring a record deal with Interscope Records and releasing a third EP—so it’s appropriate that he finally had his Coachella moment this year.
His R&B/soul sound is at times dark, and at times uplifting—with moments featuring a gospel vibe and even some African music. (Banks was originally born in Nigeria.) During a stop at the press tent at Coachella on Sunday, Banks said he never dreamed he would become the performer he is today.
“I was never trying to make a name for myself,” Banks said. “The lucky thing about me is I’m from a city in the United Kingdom called Birmingham. The music industry didn’t really know much about me, and I was making music more out of necessity. As long as I could pay my rent and be alive, I was OK with that. I was never trying to really be heard—and my manager could testify to that.
“I did my own PR and did my own radio plugs, because I didn’t have anyone, and there was no blueprint,” Banks said. “I never struggled to be heard, only because I wasn’t trying to be heard. I was just trying to make my music for people who listened to it and allowed me to be fine financially. All of this—including Coachella—was never in the books. My dreams were never that big.”
Banks said creative freedom is something he takes very seriously.
“It’s everything to me: I need to have creative freedom,” he said. “The reason being is I have to live with my decisions, and creative freedom doesn’t always mean I make the right decisions. It means I make the wrong (decision sometimes), and I have to take responsibility for it. This is my life’s work. I have to be able to put my name on everything I do, and proudly. I have to be able to be creative to the fullest of my ability.”
Banks said new music is coming soon.
“We have an album called Village, and it’s coming out in September,” he said. “For every project I do, I always try to move forward. I think this is more introspective, whereas the last one was kind of outwards. This is looking inside at life, learning things and unlearning things, and working on myself.”
The Coachella audience was appreciative of Banks. His performance on Sunday afternoon in the Mojave Tent was well-attended.
“It’s been fun, and I’ve enjoyed this week more than last week—only because I was sick as shit last week,” he said. “It was hard, but I always say to my boys that ‘I wouldn’t have shit to cry about.’ I get to express myself for a living, and as long as I’m breathing, I can sing. I’ll find a way to give a good show, even if it kills me. People are giving me their time, and time is the only currency that matters. If people are coming to my show, they could be anywhere else in the world, but they’re choosing to be right here and right now, so we’re going to give you a good-ass show.”