Women in Music 2016

'God Had Another Plan': Guordan Banks on Landing His First No. 1 With 'Keep You in Mind'

Sarah Dorio
Guordan Banks

"I hope my being independent will inspire a lot of people to say, 'If he can do it, I can do it.'"

Independent artist Guordan Banks has logged a career milestone -- and ushered in Black Music Month on a high note -- with his first Billboard No. 1 single “Keep You in Mind.” Produced by Hit-Boy collaborator K. Roosevelt, the song rose 2-1 to reach the pinnacle of the Adult R&B Songs tally after a 29-week ascent.

While Banks, 27, may not be a household name yet, he is no stranger to the music scene. He’s written songs for Keyshia Cole (“Trust and Believe”) and John Legend (“Who Do We Think We Are”). Banks notched his first break as an artist with a feature on Meek Mill’s “Heaven or Hell” alongside fellow guest Jadakiss. Now the emerging singer-songwriter is pushing forward on a solo artist agenda through his own Bank On It Entertainment, distributed by Kobalt Label Services. Next up for the once-aspiring lawyer: a tour that’s currently in negotiations and the release of his debut album, tentatively planned for September (“I’m probably about two albums in right now. I’m constantly writing”).

“We didn’t expect ‘Keep’ to go this far,” says Banks about the single, one of 14 tracks from his 2014 mixtape A Song for Everyone. “We thought of it as more of a buzz record. But God had another plan.”

Why is “Keep” clicking with listeners?

"Because of the message. It goes back to the foundation of black music: real content and lyrics -- but with a modern, youthful twist to it. The ladies are ready to hear something that doesn’t downplay women. They’ve been missing respect, love; that gentleman’s touch. They’re ready for a change from just talking about money, sex or drugs."

Did you write the song about a special someone?

"Now you’re going real Breakfast Club on me [laughing hard]. But at the time, maybe. I wrote it three years ago. It’s definitely a song where I get to speak to all the ladies."

Philadelphia is the wellspring for many artists, including Will Smith, the Roots, Jill Scott, Teddy Pendergrass, Meek Mill and more. How has that inspired you?

"Meek Mill always tells me, 'You’re one of the best to sing about pain.' I think that’s something I got from my Philadelphia roots. It’s about finding something you can gravitate to that gives you hope. It’s not always peaches and cream here.  Sometimes all you have is a song and you put everything into that. I took the leap and chased my dream. I hope my career and being independent will inspire a lot of people -- and not just in music -- to say if he can do it, I can do it."

Your bio says that singing helped you battle a childhood stuttering problem. How so?

"I come from a large family, one of eight children, that all sang in church. In fact, I’ve been singing since I was 2. And my mother noticed that when I sang, I didn’t stutter. So she had me communicate by singing. It was crazy. But singing everything instead of speaking allowed me to build my confidence. It also gave me the ability to sing about anything and actually helped me become a better songwriter. She definitely changed my life."