Banks on Illness, Independence, and Feeling More Powerful Than Ever

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At the beginning of 2020, Jillian Banks—better known simply as Banks—was coming off the back of a sold-out tour for her third album, III, which earned her both the best reviews and the highest chart placements of her career. It’s easy to imagine that she was riding high; but between a series of ongoing health issues, a grueling tour, and a traumatic break-up, Banks was burnt out. And inevitably, as soon as the first lockdowns began, she simply crashed. 

“I was exhausted, and depressed, and I had my first anxiety attack,” Banks recalls. “My sister used to have them and I would think to myself, ‘It’s just anxiety, you’re not actually going to die.’ But, no. You really feel like you are. I cracked through the bottom, but I think I needed to go there. It was a huge wake-up call for me. I realized that I needed to interact with my life differently to get the most joy out of it and enjoy the things that I’ve been blessed with and accomplished,” she says with an audible sigh. “The tour for my last album was the most brutal tour I’ve ever gone through and it was mainly because of the pressure I put on myself.”

Among those pressures was a spine fracture suffered three months before the tour, which involved extensive choreography. Banks would bring a mattress to the rehearsal studio so that she could lie down while her band practiced, and underwent both regular steroid epidurals and intense physical therapy. “My management said we could postpone and I was like, ‘No, we can’t,’” she says. Around the same time, she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s disease, and had to take steroid shots just to get her vocal cords through a performance. 

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It’s no wonder, then, that by the time the pandemic arrived, her body shut down. “My autoimmune stuff was flared up, my back was messed up, my body was overtired, my adrenals were messed up,” she says. “I actually kind of hit a really dark place, but it was a place that I needed to go through to really confront some things. The big demons in my head that take away joy in my life.” Not by coincidence,  these demons directly influenced the lead single of Banks’s new single, “The Devil,” released today alongside a gloriously theatrical video. Instead of referencing what drove her to her lowest point, the titular devil reflects her newfound sense of control. “In order to overcome those demons, you have to be stronger than a demon,” she explains. “What’s stronger than a demon? A devil. I couldn’t be some kind, sweet, polite person to get over the certain things that I needed to get over. You have to be a devil.”

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