Photo: Recording Academy
BANKS Talks 'III,' Exploring Life's Messiness In Music & Loving Fiona Apple | Up Close & Personal
The "Gimme" singer stopped by the Recording Academy headquarters to discuss her latest album and the themes and sounds behind it
L.A. native Jillian Banks, a.k.a. ethereal pop singer/songwriter/producer BANKS, is a creative force of nature. In 2014, she confidently asserted her presence with the first major dose of her sultry voice and trippy beats on her debut album, Goddess. Earlier this year, on July 12, she dropped another powerful project, with a big dose of empowerment; her third studio album, III.
Before she finished the U.S. leg of her III Tour, the "Gimme" singer stopped by the Recording Academy headquarters for our latest episode of Up Close & Personal to talk about the new album and the intricacies within. She also shared what she's most looking forward to on tour, which artists drew her in at a young age and more. You can watch part of the conversation above and read the full interview below. You can also visit our YouTube page for a longer version of the video, as well as for other recent episodes.
You released III not long ago. How are you feeling about having this project out in the world?
I feel amazing. I was writing it for two-and-a-half years and so it feels exciting, scary, liberating. I'm just excited to tour it and perform it and all that stuff.
What are you most looking forward to about sharing the songs in that element?
I don't know. The more you perform songs, the more personality they all have. There's a different vibe to each one, and so I'm kind of just excited to get in the groove of each vibe and each world of each song. It's fun to see the reactions of the crowd, which ones resonate the most. I have a lot of movement in my show, so it's going to be fun.
The album, to me, feels very powerful and bold, and also very vulnerable and honest. Can you tell us about some of the overarching emotions and themes that you explored on it?
Wow, that's a big question. It's a lot of self-love, learning that life is not just black and white. There's a messiness in there, very messy. Perfectionism. Trying to be okay with not being a perfectionist. I have been one and it's been quite painful at certain times in my life. Yeah, owning everything. Owning yourself, what your desires are, who you are, what you stand for, your body, everything. It's just [about] being a woman, I guess. But that's kind of awkward because it's not really just for women. So, being a human.
There's a lot of really great sonic texture across the album, which you executive produced with BJ Burton. What was it like working together on the production aspect of it?
Yeah, it was really fun just because I have so many layers to who I am, and each song kind of tapped into a different part of who I was. Certain songs, I felt like, needed a lot of grit and distortion and stuff like that, songs like "Stroke." Then there's a lot of songs that feel, I wanted it to be very stripped back, like "If We Were Made Of Water," "What About Love." There's an innocence that I wanted to capture on a lot of it sonically, because a lot of what this album is about is going from this innocent person, like a child turning into an adult. It's like you go from being really quite naive, but maybe in a romantic and a really positive way, you're not jaded or bitter or anything, and then you go through heartache and all that stuff for the first time. Coming out the other side but maintaining that innocence, I think, is really important.
I feel like I captured a lot of that. "Alaska" is a very sassy song, but it has that playfulness to it. Yeah, every song is different, it was fun. Each album I do, I don't really work with a big group of people just because it's almost like therapy sessions every [studio] session. It was pretty much just, I had a few people, and me and BJ went in on every song, and made sure they all flowed.
One song that I want to look at specifically is "Contaminated." Can you talk a little bit about that song?
That song is like a hard lesson in being an adult. It's funny because this album is a lot about how things are not black and white and how things can be messy, and opening your mind and allowing to understand things in a different way. But then there are certain things in life that you wish were not black and white. Like usually the things that you want to be black and white, good or bad, are just really messy and gray and confusing. Then there are certain things that you want to be really gray and confusing, but they're just black and white. "Contaminated" is a song about a relationship that is just toxic and it's bad for you. That's it, it's a black and white thing, and you don't want it to be bad for you.
Because when you want something to continue, it's like you're addicted to it, so it's like you want to find the gray in there. But there are certain things that are not gray, they are black and white, and you have to kind of be a savage about it. And so with that type of situation, I had to be, and I wrote about it.
And then can you speak to the "Contaminated" lyric video?
I think that there's beauty in learning and pain. I guess it sounds kind of cheesy, but the video, it's very human, but it's painted in a million colors. You go through life and you're just this body, and you're just a human, and you have all these emotions and you go through all these experiences that are really beautiful. But they can hurt you, and it could be colored dark and it could be colored light. That video is about showing the earth, but contaminating it in certain ways. So there's the body with paint moving around, and these may be really beautiful ways and there's also really contorted ways. It's a little bit like the graphic part of life. I've always had a lot of black and white in my visuals, so it's been really fun on this album to have a lot of colors, in my own way.
You recently published a poetry book, Generations Of Women From The Moon, which is so cool. Were you working on that while you were working on the album? What's the story behind it?
Well, every song is kind of like a poem, and I've always written poems. Before I even got into songwriting, it was more of just this stream of consciousness thing that turned into to having melodic chants behind it, and just turned into a song. But with poetry, I just got really into writing and there's definitely a theme to my poems.
It's funny, writing music and writing poetry comes from, it fulfills the same need in me, but they come from different voices. Sometimes, I feel like my music is about the nitty gritties of life, different dynamics and relationships and stuff like that. And then my poetry feels like it's bigger concepts, like speaking from this wise woman voice that I have in my stomach. There's a lot of moon imagery in my poetry that I didn't even plan on. The first poem in the book is called "Generations Of Women From The Moon." It's a two-part poem.
When do you tend to feel most creatively inspired?
God, I don't know. For me, creativity just comes. There's not really a setting. I mean, I do like to have a nice couch in a studio, a really comfortable zone to get in there. But, I mean, any time of day, it's more whenever a certain mood hits.
When you were younger, were there any artists that you admired that made you think, I want to go into music or I want to make something like they're making?
Anybody with a voice that didn't feel perfectly trained, but you felt their soul in, that was for me growing up, any voice that I heard that had that grit, and lyrics that weren't just—you can tell when an artist writes their own music. For me, that's what it's always been about. Fiona Apple was somebody that I always loved. Ben Harper, I used to listen to all the time. Tracy Chapman. And Brandy's voice kills me, still kills me. It's like butter. My dad would play a lot of Peter Gabriel, which is always amazing. Yeah, I'm really into atmospheres as well, so a lot of stuff that just took you into another world but maybe didn't even have lyrics.
GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw
On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.
In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.
Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year
Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration
Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the
The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at
"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community."
Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list.
At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in
After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.
In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.
Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized.
For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: The Recording Academy
Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.
By Alexa Zaske
This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.
The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.
Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."
Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.
Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed.
Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.
My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.
For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.
(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)
Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam
Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images
Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs
Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards
As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.
Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.
"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."