Updated: Jul 18, 2018
This Liverpool native, who thankfully toned down his accent for this interview—has had a busy and successful Winter. We caught up with Michael Nelson, whose stage-name is Banners, at the beginning of his recent headlining North American tour in March.
“When you’re on stage, you get little moments of I remember why I’m doing this.” Perhaps one of the most humble artists we’ve ever talked to, Nelson became absolutely smitten when talking about his fans. Photo via Facebook
“One of the really nice things about being on tour is you meet people, and they get to tell you how your song has impacted their life,” he shared. “It gets me a bit teary to be honest. People will come up to me saying, ‘It’s been a really tough year, and your music helped.’ I always think about music I loved as a kid, songs that marked maybe a breakup or your first kiss or your first holiday with your friends, and that music still means so much to me. So, the fact that you can provide that for other people is absolutely mind-blowing. There’s not many things in life that award you that opportunity.”
If you’ve listened to his discography, then you know what we mean when we say the gospel influences are very apparent in his music. So, it’s no surprise if you’re scrolling through his twitter feed and see all of the fans’ comments of appreciation and inspiration after connecting to his music.
“A lot of the songs have a slight darkness to it,” he admitted. “I don’t like my songs to be totally happy all the way through. It’s always nice when you come up with something that has a universal message to it.”
He continued, “I can’t really speak to why the lyrics are what they are, other than all of my experiences in my life. I like the more epic concept. All the songs are very personal to me, and I try to not make them too specifically personal because I want other people to be able to place their lives into them and to make those songs have meaning to them. And I think when I make songs a little too specific to me, you lose that opportunity a little bit."
Photo via Yuliya Peshkova
"When people ask me what my songs are about, I never really like to say the specifics because I would hate for a song to mean something to somebody and then for me to say it’s not actually about that.”
If you’re not living under a rock, then you’ve at least seen an ad or saw a comment about [one of the best movies in 2018] the book-adapted film, Love Simon. The soundtrack curated by Jack Antonoff has received just as much praise as the production and rightfully so. We don’t want to spoil the film for anyone, but in one of perhaps the most touching moments of the movie, a hauntingly, beautiful ballad starts to play. Guess whose song it was that gave us goose-bumps and tears in our eyes? None other than Banners’ track “Shine a Light.“ Funnily enough, he confessed he had no clue that his song was featured until his twitter feed exploded.
“You know when you’re writing and recording it, on your own or with one or two other people, it’s such a small amount of people that actually hear it. You’re so close to it that you don’t really know if you’re any good anymore. It’s always an honor when someone thinks it’s good enough to be put on their TV show or movie. It’s kind of nice to get that feedback.”
Showing another side of his musical talent, the rise of his catchy, pop song, “Someone To You,” snagged him a spot as a mentor on this season of American Idol, which was also used in all of the promo. He shared with us all about the crazy, unexpected experience.
“It all came together quite late on. I found out about it, and literally three or four days later, I was on a plane to LA to film it. I was mentoring two artists, and then I played a song with each of them, which is cool because playing in front of Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie is like whoa…It’s totally crazy. It was a good experience,
and it was nice to meet the dudes I was working with. I genuinely wanted to be a mentor as opposed to just filming some bits so I did take a bit of time with them off the show to have a chat and work on some stuff. They’ve got my email address, and if they want to get in touch, they can. I totally want to help. It was an honor to be asked.”
He’s not taking anything for granted. Nelson gushed how incredible his career is and reminds himself everyday.
“It’s such a rare experience in life that you get to travel this much, it can become part of your day to day live, and it’s a shame I think. Sometimes, you need to stop and go you know what I’m in a bit of America I’ve never been to before, and I’m doing it with my best friends. Then I get to go on stage, and people applaud at the end. I’m really trying to concentrate on experiencing it in the moment, as cheesy as that sounds.”
He explained that he really just wants to get better at everything involved with being a musician. On his recent, spring tour, he took on the daunting task of programming a light show.
“It’s all about learning more and getting better. I guess you have to compartmentalize everything. You can’t just say, ‘I want to be a better artist,’ because what does that look like?” he asked.
I think we can all agree that Banners is only going to get bigger and better from here on out. It’s interesting to see where he’ll be this time next year. As of right now, he has some festival shows booked, but be on the lookout for any new Photo via Twitter information.
“Even the lads in my band are great musicians and got their own ideas about things. I want to take on as much as their experience and opinions to make everything better. Luckily, I’m surrounded by really talented people. The thing I’d always aim at it to get better at it and to make the experience of listening to my music and coming to see me play live better. Then the cost of a ticket is worth more, ‘innit?”