Most music fans understand that some artists do not control their online platforms, and leave their mass-produced “thoughts” to their handlers. Los Angeles singer-songwriter Banks is more up front about this practice than most. “My manager is going to run the Social Media stuff,” she writes on her official Facebook profile. But she also doesn’t shut herself off from her swelling fan base; the following line on her Facebook page reads, “If you ever want to talk call me,” and after a dash, she lists her cell phone number.
That number, Banks tells Billboard, is very real, and fans who have stumbled across her entrancing pop tracks online have spent the past few months calling or texting her.
“I’ve never really been into social media — I don’t have a Facebook, I don’t do Twitter or Instagram or anything,” she says. “But I still really want to be able to connect with people and have people make connections through my music, so I figured, ‘What a better way than to give out my number?'”
Banks says that she answers every call or text she receives — mostly texts, since she believes that most people are “too scared to call” — but that might be difficult if her burgeoning career continues on its upward trajectory. Four months after posting her first song onto Soundcloud, the 25-year-old is being touted as a magnetic writer with songs to obsess over. Her rhapsodic voice possesses a frail vulnerability and recalls singers like Feist and Erykah Badu.
Although her disregard for Twitter updates and lack of commonplace promotion have saddled her with the “mysterious chanteuse” descriptor (“It’s like I’m this creature that just hatched as a grown woman,” Banks says with a laugh), the blogosphere is starting to listen. “Before I Ever Met You” has garnered 218,000 plays on Soundcloud after being released at the top of 2013, and the video for her newest original track, “Warm Water,” has scooped up 189,000 YouTube views in less than a month.
Jillian Banks began writing music at 15 years old, after a friend gave her a toy keyboard while she was “going through a tough time” with her family. When she was feeling helpless, songwriting tapped into something empowering. “I could say anything I wanted — I could be as graphic as I wanted, I could be as real and as vulnerable and as angry and raw, and it was the most liberating feeling,” she says. “I became addicted ever since.”
Years past, and the singer kept the hobby close to the vest as a therapeutic outlet instead of a means to stardom. After posting “Before I Ever Met You” online and watching it quickly receive 50,000 plays, however, her outlook started to change. “Work,” a collaboration with Lil Silva, was played on BBC Radio 1, and her new label, the London-based Good Years, released “Before I Ever Met You” as an official debut single in February (Banks is signed to Harvest Records in the U.S.).
Since then, new songs like “Fall Over” and “Warm Water” have showcased the stellar song craft that Banks had kept in the shadows for so long. The latter track was produced by Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, whom she met in Los Angeles at a meet-up arranged by their managers, and was given a stark, black-and-white music video shot by Dylan Knight.
Next up: Banks’ live debut, with tour dates that will hopefully be announced “really soon,” and an EP due out in the fall that might be a little darker than her previously issued tracks. “‘Warm Water’ is such a sweet, gentle song,” Banks says, “and the songs on the EP might not be as sweet and gentle.”