John Legend, Kanye West, Meek Mill, and Usher are just a few of the artists on Guordan Banks’ resume. An independent singer/songwriter out of Philadelphia, Banks has worked with some of the industry’s brightest stars and has done so with a level of humility that is rare in the era where every artist thinks they’re the king of the genre.
Banks’ debut album gave fans the hit single “Keep You In Mind” a song that was re-made by Chris Brown and Bryson Tiller. The song also was featured on HBO’s Insecure in its first season.
The 31-year-old dropped his Sophomore LP Blood On The Vinyl last month and we got a chance to chat with Banks about the new album, his career as a singer/songwriter and more.
The Source: I want to with the album title Blood On The Vinyl. Where did you come up with that?
Guordan Banks: Well Blood On the Vinyl, it has a dual meaning. The more straight forward meaning is a lot of obstacles and a lot of struggles. Being an independent artist and just the fight to being where I am I feel like the music is almost an expression of passion and drive and like going for it all going for blood and not worrying about what people think or how they feel and when you believe in something and you truly know that it’s your purpose and it’s your calling to do it you go for it.
And then the other meaning derives from what the artists did and how much the artists paved a way for us, the artists that came before us. You think about Marvin Gaye, you think about you know Luther Vandross and Nina Simone and all these artists are like real soul and real music and nowadays the music is washed down its not as honest its not as authentic and I think that the music suffers and you know the overall soul music hurts from that as well.
And that’s what I found interesting was that you used “Vinyl” I know you were born after the vinyl era obviously but it seems like you’re a real music consumer to have used vinyl in the title. Have you listened to music on Vinyl?
Yeah you know what’s crazy is growing up my stepfather had a jukebox in our dining room and so that was my first experience with music was seeing it on vinyl. So the jukebox actually had the vinyl and it picked the vinyl up and it took the vinyl over to the pin where it would play the music and the pin would drop down and it was almost like next level to me. It blew my mind growing up as a kid.
How much did growing up in Philly influence your sound?
Oh, it was everything. I grew up in Church and in church Beyoncé, Usher, Aretha Franklin, when you get that church soul it does something to your voice and to your ability to sing because you can really reach into that spot and just really grab that soul and project it out there. And that’s what Philly is known for Soul music.
Patti Labelle, Teddy Pendergrass, Gamble and Huff. What’s funny is… I spent the last five years, they sold the studio to some real estate broker. For the life of me, I don’t know why they would do such a thing but there was a historic studio called Sigma Sound. Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Madonna, everybody that came to Philly. I was actually blessed to be able to record in that studio and have a room in that studio. I wish it was still around.
I read somewhere that you recorded this album analog. Is that true?
Yeah, a lot of it was analog. All of it wasn’t analog but some of it was.
What was that mixing process like because I know it’s like a lot of cutting tape and things of that sort.
Yeah, it is. [Serge Tsai] from Platinum Sound did a lot of the mixing. He’s been a big big supporter and a huge fan of my music. He’s Jerry Wonda’s partner and so any time I have a record that I truly love I always say listen I got to hit my man Serge up.
Who else did you work with on the album?
Shaft, Butter and Biscuit, Les, he produced a great song called “Never Ends”, Roy Hamilton III who’s an incredible producer that I’ve known. He actually gave me my first publishing deal. I know that we try to find like big names to produce our music but a lot of times just friends and the people that really rock with you are just as talented and you know they get overlooked.
I’m all about the underdogs, I’m all about supporting a person like right next to me and not always trying to get the big names and that’s another reason why I didn’t even put a lot of features, I didn’t put any features on my album.
What story did you want to convey on this album? Which number album is this for you?
This is my Sophomore. It feels like my first album honestly. You know, this is a process for me. I’ve done a lot of work within myself. I feel like I’ve arrived and in the first album “Keep you in mind” was a big record. It kind of blew up faster than I could expect and imagine and a lot of people know the song “Keep You in Mind” but they don’t know me. But this album they’ll know me before they know the song.
It’s almost like the rebirth. Even though the first album is a masterpiece I definitely feel like this is my best body of work by far.
Is there one song in particular that when you recorded it you just felt everything that you were saying? There’s usually one song on a project that really was maybe personal to you or something that just stood out. Is there a song like that on this album?
Yeah, there’s definitely a couple. “I Think Be So Kind” and “Never Ends” is one for sure. “Be So Kind” is definitely an “everything in me” type record where I just `put it all out there and Never Ends was a song that I wrote about my grandmother. She’s actually 84 years old going on 85 years old and just my love and just how I feel about her is almost like I hope it never ends but we all know that that’s not possible and just being able to create that song and make the song and then play it for her and she actually gets the chance to hear the record was a blessing.
I know you’re an independent artist. What’s that experience been like? What’s that process been like as far as building your independent brand?
It’s a process that I would say has its pros and cons. I had a Number 1 song in “Keep You in Mind” and I was told at BET I couldn’t even get inside the radio room and I had the biggest song at radio, the most played song at radio and I feel like when you have a major label behind you those people just flood in those rooms.
I’m a big advocate of just being independent but I think that companies and businesses and corporations should listen to the music and stop being so consumed by how many followers somebody has on Instagram or how many views someone has on Tik Toc but really listen to the music and dive into the culture of what they’re saying. And if we did that then it wouldn’t be so much tainted music and entertainment and just lifeless, soulless music.
Where do you stand on the King of R&B debate?
That’s such a broad question but if I had to say like the chief, the General in Chief, I wouldn’t say a king, I mean I feel like Chris Brown has been someone that’s done it for such a long time. Very consistent, it’s like who else can you think of that has done it at a magnitude as Chris Brown and even the quality of music.
The song “No Guidance” that song is going to be around for the next 10 years. That song is just like infectious, contagious. It’s a classic. Deuces and so many other classic songs he’s been able to do it for nearly 20 years so you’ve got to look at him and say okay that’s the bar.
Have you ever worked with Chris Brown?
Yeah, he remixed “Keep You in Mind” (laughing). It has just as many streams as the original. The crazy part about it is Bryson Tiller remixed it first and sent it to Chris Brown and then Chris Brown jumped on the remix and then that’s a whole other story for another day. He was like yo I love this record, we’re good like rock out. it wasn’t even no ‘Hey you know I’m about to charge you 50-60k you know it was all love.
Is there anything you wanted to add?
Really try to spend less time on social media and really focus on yourself and focus on loving yourself and being kind to yourself and being kind to others. I know that’s not always the coolest thing to say but that’s what makes the world go round you know just how we treat ourselves and not being so consumed by looking cool. Everything is about an angle or a post and all that bullshit. That’s not life man that’s just bullshit. Love yourself. Find what makes you happy. When you do that you’ll realize it has nothing to do with the attachment we have to a phone.
You can stream Banks’ new album Blood on the Vinyl on Spotify.