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Australian pop prodigy Kota Banks says she never stops writing new material – she couldn’t if she tried.
After a swag of buzzworthy tracks and a forward-thinking mixtape PRIZE with long-time producer Swick on Nina Las Vegas’ label NLV Records over the last two years, rising star Banks is now releasing her new music with Sony Music Entertainment Australia.
Talent and determination have paid off for the performer whose debut hook-laden single “Empty Streets” with MOZA boasts 19 million streams, alongside millions of plays for singles “Holiday”, “Zoom” and “I’m It”.
With her infectious melodies, clever tongue-in-cheek lyricism, fresh beats and a big dose of confidence, it’s not hard to see why Banks has captured attention.
“Working with NLV Records on PRIZE allowed me to take huge creative risks and explore my artistry”, Banks explains. But her musical roots trace back much further in time, and much further afield. Banks, who’s half Italian, spent several years from the age of ten in Florence, where she first found her feet on the stage and behind the microphone.
“I would go to the Duomo, which is the big cathedral in the heart of Florence, for singing lessons. They were opera lessons, actually. Growing up, I did musicals and plays and debating at school. I was very much a drama kid.”
Now, oozing self-belief and a vision in her work that belies her 23 years, Banks credits these formative years with not only setting her on her current path to success but for also giving her the strength to put herself out there to begin with.
“I tended to be nervous and shy growing up, so I think I did a lot of this stuff to overcompensate and get out of my comfort zone,” she says of her early drive to perform. “The only thing I was more scared of than performing was fear itself. So whilst it was counterintuitive to perform, the only thing worse was to not do it. Facing my fears has been my motto pretty much from the get-go.”
Banks still has strong ties to her heritage, keeping up her Italian and spending as much time as she can with her beloved nonna when in Sydney, sharing stories over Sunday lunch. But those feasts have become even more treasured in recent years, as Banks’ career has seen her spend more and more time away from home, on tour and in Europe and Los Angeles working on her music.
Her hard work has led Banks to a new phase in her career with perhaps her best moment yet – ‘20 Missed Calls’ – a sassy kiss-off anthem about respect, controlling your own narrative and not giving a second chance to those underserving. A big leap forward both sonically and lyrically (after all, the opening line is the memorable, “Damn, boys really think with their dicks”), it’s a fierce, catchy downtempo pop hit.
“The two things that are important to me when I write music are that it’s empowering and strong in its message, and that it’s fresh and clever lyrically.” she says. “Even though ‘20 Missed Calls’ is a ballad, it’s a sassier edgier take on the conventional “ballad” and there are some punchlines that make it feel unique to me.”
Empowerment is a common thread through Banks’ catalogue, and she adds a vital voice to a music scene now buoyed by upcoming strong, talented and self-determined women.
With much more music to come (“I never want to make the same song twice or be a one-trick pony, so there are definitely lots of different types of songs and energies on the next project, some more vulnerable and gentle, others dreamier, others dancy. But it’s all pop music, because that’s my passion”), the prolific writer also has a few other tricks up her sleeve.
“I’m totally unable to focus on anything else, but when it comes to writing and creating, I can do it for 10 hours a day and zone out of everything else. Where do I find the time? I don’t know, but I just have to. I love it and live it and breathe it.”