Aloe Blacc Talks "Creating Positive Social Change Through Music"
Aloe Blacc hardly needs an introduction after 2013's "Wake Me Up" -- produced with Avicii and first introduced live at Miami's Ultra Music Festival -- peaked at number one in over 20 countries.
Though that hasn't been Blacc's only commercial hit, he's hardly a manufactured pop act. In a way, his brand of socially conscious thinking-man's soul music makes Blacc the millennial generation's answer to Marvin Gaye.
So Miami's in for a rare treat tomorrow when Aloe Blacc delivers an intimate solo performance at the Electric Pickle for Beck's Live Beyond Labels artist showcase. Ahead of the show, Crossfade chatted with Blacc about his Latin roots, new album, and "creating positive social change through music."
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Crossfade: You come from a Panamanian family. Do your Latino roots inform what you do as an artist in any way?
Aloe Blacc: Latin music definitely informs what I do. I often use rhythms from Caribbean music and Latin music in the songs that I write and produce today. Songs like "The Man" are infused by rhythms that are hidden. Most people can't hear the specific rhythms that I'm using because there is a dominant hip-hop rhythm, but even in a song like "Love Is the Answer" with Pharrell, I asked him to play a montuno, which is the specific piano rhythm used in salsa, and he made kind of a light hybrid of that Latin rhythm.
What was it like collaborating with Avicii on "Wake Me Up"? Did you find it rewarding to channel your voice through the EDM genre?
It was great to collaborate with Avicii on "Wake Me Up." I never expected to be approached by an EDM producer, but I knew that it was a great opportunity to share my songwriting and my voice in a different way. When I came into the studio with my lyrics for "Wake Me Up," Mike Einziger, who was playing the guitar, was playing a chord progression that worked perfectly for the lyrics I brought. After we finished the acoustic demo, Avicii mixed it into a fantastic dance hit. I never expected it to be such a huge success.
What can you tell us about the creative process on the new album, Lift Your Spirit? How did you approach the songwriting? And what inspired the uplifting themes on the album?
The uplifting themes on the album were inspired by wanting to go in a different direction from my previous album, Good Things, which was largely about social, political, and economic issues. This new album, Lift Your Spirit, is about creating positive social change through music, by making people happy when they hear the music. It's focused more on compassion, love, and celebration. Musically, I wanted to combine three different elements: the sonic fidelity of hip-hop, the musicality and soundscapes of soul music, and the edge and attitude of classic rock. And I think I was able to accomplish that really well with the producers that I worked with, especial DJ Khalil.
Miami is excited to see you perform at the Electric Pickle. What can we expect from such an intimate small-room performance?
The beauty of performing solo to a small room is that I get to share a lot more of myself with the audience. I don't have a band covering things up. So I'll be singing my hits: "Wake Me Up," "The Man," "I Need a Dollar," and some new songs that will soon become hits, hopefully, like "Here Today."
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Aloe Blacc. As part of Beck's Presents Live Beyond Labels Launch Party. Tuesday, July 8. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Free with RSVP via eventbrite.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.