Liana Banks’ words speak for themselves. The songwriter who made Variety’s 2021 Hitmakers of the Year list has stepped into the creative worlds of artists like Jodeci, Queen Naija, Latto, Saweetie and more, and gave them lyrics that turn their ideas into hits. If you love Saweetie’s “Best Friend,” you can thank Banks.
“At the beginning of her verse, she says, ‘Beep beep, is that my bestie in a Tessie?’ She said, ‘Girl, I can’t say that. That’s a grandma’s car.’ I told her, “Right now, trust me,” Banks told REVOLT. “She later hit me after it came out, saying, ‘Thank you so much. You were right. Everywhere I go, that’s their line.’”
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the multi-platinum songwriter explains how Saweetie sometimes use thongs to create a certain aesthetic when recording, how a song she was writing for Jazmine Sullivan and Cardi B turned into one of her biggest songs, and her upcoming EPs. Read below.
Who was the first artist you worked with who made you feel like you had made it?
Jodeci. It was so random. It was in Vegas around 2014/2015. I thought, “I’m about to be in the studio with Jodeci. That’s crazy (laughs).” I was writing with them. I ended up being on the song; they left me on the song, and I ended up writing two songs for them. When I came into the studio, I was initially supposed to be writing something for Mila J, and I did. But, then there was another record they wanted done. I just got on there, and they were like, “Yeah, we’re going to keep you on that.” The song is called “Sho Out.”
One of the biggest records you helped pen is Saweetie’s collaboration with Doja Cat, “Best Friend.” How did you two connect?
We first met during the pandemic. We met virtually. When I started writing with her, her team sent me beats asking, “Hey, can you do a verse on this?” I would just record myself at the crib and send it back, and then she would cut it. Eventually, she said, “I want you to come to L.A. We want to fly you out.” We ended up working super closely. “Best Friend” went through a lot of different phases. Before I knew her, it was initially supposed to be Doja Cat’s song featuring Saweetie. I guess Doja didn’t want it, so then we tweaked it. We wrote new verses for Saweetie.
She wanted to fight me over this one line (laughs). At the beginning of her verse, she says, “Beep beep, is that my bestie in a Tessie?” She said, “Girl, I can’t say that. That’s a grandma’s car.” I told her, “Right now, trust me. You’re wealthy. You’re driving different cars than the majority of people. Trust me, the girls are going to love this line. She later hit me after it came out, saying, “Thank you so much. You were right. Everywhere I go, that’s their line.”
What is a Saweetie session like?
She’s super fun. We have a good time. She’s so chill. She’s so boss. She’s very extra in the best way possible. Everything is grand. She pays a lot of attention to details, so everything’s personalized; everything is icy. She’ll have blue thongs hanging around the booth. She’ll have them around the mics.
What’s the last song you wrote that came from a real-life situation or conversation?
Anitta performed a song I helped write at the 2023 VMAs called “Grip.” I think that’s self-explanatory (laughs). It’s from real-life events.
Your song “Petty” with Cleotrapa and Lola Brooke felt like a moment. How did that song come together?
I initially didn’t even write that song for myself. I wrote that song with Jazmine Sullivan in mind. Cardi B and Jazmine wanted to do a collab song. I wrote it completely off of my experiences, but I wrote it with them in mind. I never intended to put it out, and my team was just like, “Yo, this song is crazy. It feels like you. You need to put this out. Then somebody from my team asked, “What if we had a female feature on it?” Then, they brought up Lola, and I thought, “Nah, that would be really dope. I really f**k with her. She sent her verse over, and I thought, “Oh, it’s a go.” Then, I wanted a little s**t talking on the outro. I asked Cleo, and she said she’d love to do it. We set up the session, but I got there a little late. When I got there, she said, “I want to do a verse.” That was never the plan. But, she wrote a verse, and I said, “Bet, I want to hear it.” She played it, and it was fire.
When did you know you could write for others?
In my first year of college, I was approached by a wealthy guy with a daughter who wanted to sing. She couldn’t really sing to save her life, but that was her dream. He heard songs I made, but I hadn’t considered writing at that time. I had so many songs in so many genres and styles. He basically confronted me, saying, “You have so many songs, I would love to buy one. Have you ever thought about selling them?” I told him, “No.” These are my babies. These are my personal life stories. He asked me for a price, so I gave him a ridiculous price. He said, “Fine. I’ll take two.” It was then I realized I could make money off of my songs while I worked on my artistry and be able to fund myself through selling my music. As I began writing for people, I realized that even though many of the songs were really personal to me, if I gave it to a bigger artist who had a bigger reach, it could be better for the song. I started to realize the song was bigger than me.
After years of writing for others, you’re working on your debut EP. How is that going?
It’s the culmination of my life experiences. I haven’t shown much of my life on social media. It’s me, my little secrets, and relationship stuff. I’ve never posted about a man, and I probably never will. I’ll probably have popped out a third kid by the time I post about a man (laughs). I’m really tapping into the relationships I’ve had in my music. I feel like it’s been a long time coming. Many of my artist friends I write for are super excited as well, and I was blessed to get features from them willingly. I didn’t have to ask. They were like, “Nah, that’s fire. I want to be on it.”
What was one of your most emotional sessions?
I have this song called “Deadbeat Dad.” It’s the first time I ever spoke about my father in a song. That was something I always said I would never do. But, that day, the producer I was in with was playing chords that reminded me of a wedding but in reverse. It sounded like the music you walk down the aisle to, but reversed. So, it drew out the emotions, and I went off. I wrote the song from my mom’s point of view. I ended up playing it for my sister while I was on my iPad doing voice memos. She called me while I was writing the song, and I told her, “You should hear the song that I wrote about our father.” My voice memo was still recording on my iPad, and I ended up catching her reaction to it. So, I put her reaction in the song. It’s crazy. She was balling crying.
Were you crying too?
Not externally, but definitely internally.
When can we expect your debut EP project? How long is it?
Right now, we’re looking at six songs. I’m actually doing two EPs. We’re doing a spring release, and then I think we’re doing the fall release. They’ll probably be six songs each. I’m really excited about this next release, “Rose Water,” because I’ve been in a real s**t-talking mood lately, and this is the first time I’m showing my lover-girl side. That is a big part of who I am. I don’t want people to think I’m mad and petty all of the time. There’s also a song on the EP called “High Road.” I’m very excited about that one.
What do you have coming for the rest of the year?
Besides the two EPs, I have tons of songs coming out with other artists that I’m super excited about. I have a show that I’m starting that I’m really excited about. I have some merch coming. I’m super into clothes and fashion. It’ll be my first product for real. So, I’m hype about that. I’ll probably be doing South By Southwest this year, but I’m not completely sure. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do some more festivals this year. We’re going to see what happens.