Photo: Jacklyn Krol/Recording Academy
Banks: Writing "Crowded Places," Coming Into Her Body
Certain albums can move you. For the many music fans who latched onto Banks' moody and candid sophomore album, 2016's The Altar, listening became an emotionally moving experience.
More recently, her new single "Crowded Places" moved TV audiences everywhere when it was discovered and featured by Lena Dunham, creator and star of the hit HBO series "Girls." The song drives an isolated yet self-empowered pulse through a party scene that drifts into Dunham's reverie of a new life in the suburbs in the series' second-to-last episode.
For Banks, the personal experience of writing these moving songs and the extensive touring that followed The Altar have built a staircase to a new floor within herself. What started as a songwriter making a necessary artistic move has grown into making a physical transformation.
"For me, I think of this album not only as something I needed to write just like any other song I've ever released," she says. "But it's where I really found my own body and my own movements."
Her live shows have become more and more mesmerizing and adventurous, shedding some of the mystery that shrouded the singer when she arrived in 2014 with her debut, Goddess. It's easy to see why the Banks names GRAMMY winner Fiona Apple as a constant inspiration for her honesty and clarity of feeling as an artist, traits the singer/songwriter also oozes. Just as The Altar lets listeners deeper inside her mind and heart, her performances these days strive to express the same devotion to her instincts.
"It's been therapeutic. … Through touring this album I've really come into my own body," says Banks. "I'm incorporating a lot more movement onstage than I ever have before. I feel really confident creatively. … I feel like this last chapter has been all about me just trusting my own ideas, and I'm really proud of where the show is and I think because of that I don't get as tired when I tour because it's inspiring me."
This level of physical onstage engagement with her music must no doubt take its toll. With a massive tour ahead of her, taking her show across the United States and Europe, Banks described the almost spiritual way the soul overcomes the body when she allows the songs, and their essence, to take over.
"You just dive into the music. Sometimes touring is really exhausting, so you're in different time zones and [doing] all this craziness to your body and once you get onstage and you feel the energy of the crowd, you're singing your own music," she says. "I write all my own music, so once I'm up on stage and I'm in it, I'm transported to why I wrote those songs, everything kind of disappears."
As hard as it is to disappear night after night and return again and again for the next show, Banks remains motivated, liberated and as creative as ever.
"I'm always writing. I'm excited," Banks says with well-grounded enthusiasm. "I feel free right now. … I'm learning and I feel like I have new things to write about, so definitely going to get back in the studio right when I get home."