I have Arlie songs scattered throughout many of my 51 (yes, 51) Spotify playlists, and when The Wrecks announced Arlie as their opener for a majority of the Back and Better Than Ever Tour Part 2, I was so excited to see the band perform live. I attended the show in Houston at Warehouse Live as well as the show in Fort Worth two days later at Tannahill’s Tavern, and both performances were absolutely electric.
Before the show at Tannahill’s Tavern, I had the opportunity to sit down with Nathaniel Banks, frontman for Arlie, and talk to him a little about how he got to where he is today. Arlie has had a lot of success, touring with bands like COIN and Mt. Joy, playing festivals such as SXSW and ACL, and even releasing their debut album BREAK THE CURSE in 2022. After listening to Arlie’s music for so long, I was interested to hear how Banks got everything started.
Music has always been a part of Banks’ life. He told me how he used to create tunes around the house as a child, whistling, singing, and playing around on the piano.
“I got serious about playing saxophone. I feel like that’s where I got a lot of, like, my musical education,” he explained. “My most serious formal training was on that, and then at the same time, I was always learning stuff on guitar on my own and learning covers, making little cover videos that I used to post for my friends.”
For Banks, things truly shifted when he decided to move to Nashville for college, and he realized that his dream of making music could become a reality.
“In Nashville, you know, you just meet so many people that are going for it that are just, like, collectively inspiring each other and pushing each other,” Banks told me. Although the music industry comes with a fair share of competition, Banks mostly recalls the encouragement and inspiration he received from other musicians in Nashville.
As he studied music in college, things did not go exactly according to plan. “The music program that I was in just turned out to be very rigid and, like, classically focused,” Banks recalled. “It didn’t really suit what I was trying to do, so I stayed in a lot of the music classes, but I ended up not majoring in it.” He instead focused his major on English literature and philosophy but continued to work on developing his music skills in his free time.
“I mean 2014 really. That’s when I put out my first solo EP that I have since taken down from everything,” he confessed. He always knew that music was what he wanted to do, but he knew it would take a lot of time and work to the point where he could call himself a professional. Luckily, Banks was willing to put in the hours, and his success with Arlie strongly reflects that.
“It’s intimidating,” he admitted as we talked backstage. “There’s always gonna be people to compare yourself to or feel, like, illegitimate in comparison to no matter what level you’re at.” His advice? Surround yourself with people who believe in you and be selective about the voices you listen to.
One of Arlie’s most popular songs, Big Fat Mouth, took months and months to write, and I asked Banks about the writing process and what it was about that song that made him continue working on it.
“It was actually 9 months total,” he explained. “I guess you could say the writing was done probably in the first 2 or 3 months, but I think the song is not what it was without the production fitting together the way that it did.”
Considering the fact that the song now has over 23 million listens on Spotify, it’s a good thing Banks decided to push through the writer’s block.
“It just took a lot of, like, I don’t know, going into the zone for hours and hours and hours just tweaking things and then finally getting the courage to show it to somebody and getting, like, a less than perfect reaction,” Banks said about the writing process. “I was still in love with it, so I would get discouraged and then get encouraged again and go back in and try and change things. Sometimes that doesn’t work, but for this song I just knew that it was really special to me. The fact that I could work on it for so many hours for so many days for so many weeks and so many months, like, and not get sick of it was how I knew. That was how I knew that it was special,” he said. “I’ve tried to do that so many other times, and it doesn’t feel like that. I will get sick of it. That’s when I was like, ‘nope, we’re getting, like, incrementally closer to what I’m trying to do. I know, I know it’s getting closer. I know this one’s special, and that song became, like, really the first thing that I put out into the world as Arlie.”
Banks mentioned multiple times that he likes making music that he would want to listen to, so of course, I was curious about what music inspires him the most.
“So many!” he said. “Just off the top of my head I think Tame Impala just, like, totally changed my world. Vampire Weekend, like, changed my world. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Toro y Moi, Blood Orange, are a lot of the bands that formed my understanding of, like, my aesthetic sensibilities as an artist, as a musician, a songwriter.”
The two of us also mutually agreed that the Beatles have a lot of underappreciated songs in their catalog, and Banks explained to me how he listened to a lot of their music early in his life, which helped him develop a better understanding of music.
It’s clear that the band has a lot of fun together, and I was curious to hear what Bank’s favorite moment from the tour has been so far. With the band members coming in and out of the room during the interview, I got multiple answers.
“Definitely me wearing the Buc-ees’s onesie,” joked Aaron Umberger, poking his head in the door.
Banks nodded. “Honestly that was great!”
“When the van wouldn’t start today…” Ella Mine chimed in as she applied her mascara.
Clearly, the band had a rough start to their day in Fort Worth.
As the band reminisced, Banks recalled several fun moments from the tour, but one moment in particular really stood out.
“Honestly, there was, like, a moment in Athens that was really special to me,” he said. “I just, like, spontaneously got the impulse or instinct to just talk about mental health and going to therapy on stage.” Banks told me how this moment was out of the ordinary, but amidst all of the fun and excitement from touring and performing, he felt in that moment that something needed to be said. “It’s also important to me to not just brush aside the fact that the world is in trouble and, like, people are suffering.” Bank explained how therapy has helped him cultivate and nurture the relationships in his life and how he wanted to share that with his fans. “I couldn’t even finish the sentence. The crowd just kind of went crazy.” This moment was as meaningful to Banks as it was for his fans. “I had tears in my eyes for the first half of the next song.”
Arlie’s 2023 tour starts in February, and tickets are on sale now! Also don’t forget to stream Arlie’s new album, BREAK THE CURSE and his new acoustic singles of Big Fat Mouth and Crashing Down, available now on Spotify and Apple Music!
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