THE AMERICAN SINGER, 41, ON WRITING HIT SINGLES, CHATTING UP HIS AUSTRALIAN WIFE AND HIS NEW RELEASE, MY WAY
How did you come up with the name Aloe Blacc?
Back in high school in the mid-’90s I was making hip-hop music and in hip hop we tend to choose a name that reflects our style. I chose Aloe because I thought my lyrics were smooth or healing and Blacc because during that time my favourite artists were engaged in an educational style of music around being African American and pro-black.
What are your thoughts on the Black Lives Matter protests?
It’s amazing to see so many white allies – people of privilege – join in and take a stand for change in ways we haven’t seen before. Unfortunately, it comes on the heels of another death of a black man by a racist police officer. Hopefully, it will be the critical mass that’ll change our society for the better.
He did it his way:.
Weren’t you wary about releasing a single with the same title as Frank Sinatra’s song My Way?
No. A title is a title, you can’t really own it. The My Way that was made popular by Frank Sinatra will remain a classic but it won’t be played as regularly as a new song by young music fans in this era.
What is your My Way about?
It’s a song about self-determination. In my songs I often speak about triumph over adversity and this is one of those songs where I’m setting out the dreams I have.
You record a lot of love songs too. Are you a bit of a softie?
With my pen, yes. I do appreciate a love song. My first single for my next album was called I Do and was a dedication to my wife [Maya Jupiter]. We’ve been married for ten years and I thought it would be good to commemorate that with a song. Luckily, she appreciated it! But I feel like the majority of my songs are about affirmation, inspiration and motivation. I turned it into an acronym called AIM. Songs like I Need A Dollar, Wake Me Up or The Man fit into that.
Did you know from the start that I Need A Dollar would be such a huge hit?
I had no idea. When I started writing it I wasn’t even near being signed to my first indie label record deal. It was just something I was inspired to write due to my personal circumstances and the music that I was listening to, which was field songs of chain-gang workers. I’d recently been laid off from my corporate job and it was a true and honest response to that reality in my life.
It’s amazing to see so many white people of privilege join in and take a stand for change
How have you spent lockdown?
We live in Los Angeles and we have a pool so we’ve been swimming and we also have hiking areas in our neighbourhood. My wife and I divide the day so we each spend time with the kids and give the other the time to do their personal work. I usually handle most of the meals.
How did you meet your wife?
Music connected us. I released my first solo album back in 2006. She’s from Australia and she was hosting a TV show. When I visited Australia she interviewed me. When she came to the US a couple of months later she interviewed me again. It was Valentine’s week and I asked her out on a date. It was nerveracking but I felt like I had nothing really to lose. She was going back to Australia so if she said no then it wasn’t like
I was going to see her again!
The late DJ Avicii.
Has fatherhood changed you?
It’s taught me more patience. When I know how to do something, then I just get it done and kids often challenge how quickly you can get something done. It’s also made me more aware of how important it is to spend time with family. My dad was in the military when I was growing up so he was often away.
What was it like working with Avicii?
Our interactions were limited to work. He was tremendously dedicated and passionate about creating music but he was constantly on the road so there was very little time to sit and just hang out. I think the work we ended up creating [hit single Wake Me Up] was really powerful and genre-defining.
Were you shocked by his suicide?
Definitely. I’d say everybody around him was shocked. The communications that we had prior to his passing made me feel like he was in a really solid place.
How do you unwind?
I’m interested in technology so I’m always coming up with ideas and businesses. When I’m not making music, my brain is still trying to create something out of nothing.
When are you at your happiest?
When I’m with my wife and kids and we’re all relaxing. Second happiest is when I’m in the middle of creating a really good song.
What’s on your bucket list?
A big ambition is to be on the Songwriters Hall of Fame. It’s not like an annual popularity contest and you can’t buy it, you just have to do good work over your lifetime. I’d also like to see if some of my hair-brained ideas as an entrepreneur will actually hold water.
Blacc’s new single My Way is out now
. . Passionate:.
. . Frank Sinatra.