Singer-songwriter Victoria Banks to open Hagerstown Community Concert series
Victoria Banks has a bachelor's degree in zoology. After her job in a fishery was eliminated, she moved to Nashville, Tenn., to become a songwriter. (Submitted photo / September 14, 2012)
"So six months later, after I had saved up as much money as I could by working four jobs simultaneously, I moved to Nashville to try to make a go of it as a professional songwriter for other people," she said.
As a Canadian, Banks said she couldn't work in the United States without a publishing deal.
"And if I ran out of money, I would have had to go home to earn more," she added. "But six months later, I was putting my last $20 in the gas tank to go downtown and sign my first deal. Eventually, that led me to release my own albums, too. And the rest is history."
Banks said she started out "strictly writing songs for other people. For a decade, I didn't even sing my own demonstration recordings. But after a while, I decided it was time to step outside my comfort zone and start performing my own songs in public."
After she played shows in local Nashville venues like The Bluebird Cafe, people began asking where they could buy her album.
"So I decided that I'd better make one," she said "The CD fell into the hands of a manager, who thought it was a no-brainer to release the songs to radio. He found me a label and an agent and before I knew it, I was touring with Reba McEntire and winning awards on television. It's been a crazy ride."
Banks said she is like a proud mother when it comes to the songs she has written, including her first U.S. hit — "Saints and Angels," which was on Sara Evans' "Born to Fly" album.
"I also penned the first single off Jessica Simpson's country record, "Come on Over,'" she noted. "It broke the Billboard record for the highest debuting country single in U.S. history. I also wrote her second single, ‘Remember That', which was the highest charting single on iTunes."
Banks said her songs have been recorded by Terri Clark and Julie Roberts and her "City of Dreams" song for Nashville Flood Relief featured artists such as Pam Tillis, Michelle Wright and George Canyon.
Although she has her own singing career, Banks said she "definitely still writes songs for others. In fact, I still have a full-time job doing that for a publisher in Nashville. That's how I pay the bills. But I save up some of my favorite gems for my own records."
Banks said she tours and performs for live audiences as much as she can while still holding down the songwriting job at home.
"I've been blessed with the opportunity to share the stage on some big tours, with artists like Reba McEntire, Randy Travis, Lonestar and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band," she said. "Sometimes, I play with a full band, but quite often, I do shows in a solo acoustic or trio acoustic setting. Those are the shows I like best because that's how the songs come across the clearest."
No matter how big the audience — 100 or 10,000, she said, "I still try to do the same kind of show, telling the stories behind the songs and connecting with my audience emotionally. As a songwriter, the thing that keeps me coming back for more is knowing that there are people out there in the audience who are touched by the songs that I write. They have felt the same joy and pain that I have and they are relating to what I'm trying to express. I want to make people laugh, make them cry, make them spend a few minutes thinking about life a little more deeply than they usually do — and then have them leave my show feeling renewed and empowered."
Banks said winning the Canadian Country Music Awards "was an absolutely incredible experience."
She was able to share the Songwriter of the Year award with her dear friend and co-writer, Tia Sillers, who wrote "I Hope You Dance."
Banks said the two women are regular collaborators "and there was a time when we had written a ton of songs together and nothing seemed to be happening with any of them. One day, when I was feeling particularly down about it, Tia looked at me and said, ‘Victoria, one of these days we will be accepting a songwriter of the year award on a stage together. Mark my words.' Wouldn't you know, she was right. It was a crazy, full-circle moment."
But it wasn't as crazy as winning Female Artist of the Year, she added.
"I was up there next to some incredible women — women like Terri Clark and Carolyn Dawn Johnson — and I had no idea that I was going to win," she recalled. "I was stunned. That award has definitely helped my music find its way to parts of the world that I wouldn't have ever expected to reach."
Banks said she has had hits in Australia and has a following in Great Britain, as well.
"I never expected any of this years ago when I was sitting in a room in my sweats writing songs," she said.
If you go ...
What: Victoria Banks opens Hagerstown Community Concert Association Concert Series
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18
Where: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown
Cost: $25; $10, students. Season tickets, $50.
CONTACT: Go to www.mdtheatre.org.
MORE: To learn more about Hagers-town Community Concert Association go to www.hagerstownliveonstage.com. To learn more about Victoria Banks, read her blogs, listen to her music and watch videos of her tours, go to www.victoriabanks.net