Hit Songs Just Afford Aloe Blacc "The Opportunity To Be A Philanthropist"

13 February 2019 | 1:15 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

He already boasts three global hits, but Aloe Blacc tells Bryget Chrisfield it's "the opportunity to be a philanthropist" that he's most grateful for.

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While discussing his appearances as part of the 2011 Good Vibrations touring festival, this scribe happily informs Aloe Blacc that the giant crowd assembled for his early-arvo set in Melbourne is a rare occurrence. But Blacc remembers his Sydney appearance way more clearly. "Ok, so this was a special day. I think I was supposed to be [performing] later in the day. The secret is, though, that I had gotten married in the US to my wife Maya Jupiter, but her mum had set up for us to have a special Australian celebration on the beach and the promoters allowed us to perform [earlier] so I could skip out and go to my wedding celebration." 

At the time of our chat, Blacc has just returned to Los Angeles from New York. "I was at a Kennedy family event, at a gala, to support the philanthropy that I do throughout the year," he reveals. "And it was in honour of [former] President Obama, so I got a chance to hear him speaking."

Many recording artists dream they'll release just one chart-topping song in their career. Blacc has already released three smash hits to date, which he also points out straddle "multiple genres".

"I Need A Dollar is different from The Man is different from Wake Me Up... I think that the songs becoming hits are my greatest accomplishments, because they allow me to accomplish so much more because of that. In the music business I spent many years being an obscure, underground kind of niche artist, but to have success with I Need A Dollar and to have success with The Man and to have success with Wake Me Up was unexpected every time, but, you know, very welcome every time," he laughs. 

"Those huge, visible songs afforded me the opportunity to be a philanthropist, to then work with Malaria No More and visit Ghana and help the organisation to raise funds to work toward eradicating malaria around the world. And [the success of these songs] also helped me to join forces with NDLON - the National Day Laborer Organizing Network - here in Los Angeles to speak about the growing discussion around immigration, which is a discussion that's happening in Australia and the United States and Europe, with my music video for Wake Me Up."

"I will say that they all fit what I am now recognising is my style, which is Aspiration, Inspiration and Motivation - I call it AIM."

The Alex Rivera-directed video of which Blacc speaks features a cast of immigrants playing out their own struggles: a day laborer, an actress/producer who was deported (when she was a child) with her mother despite being born in the US and a leader in the immigrant youth movement who is working to stop her own father from being deported. 

After the success of Avicii's inescapable summer anthem Wake Me Up! (styled with an exclamation mark), which Blacc cowrote and supplied vocals for, Blacc recorded an acoustic version of the track - Wake Me Up (no exclamation mark) - and released it as a standalone promo single. This song is also the title track on Blacc's Wake Me Up EP (2013) and opens his Lift Your Spirit record of the same year as well. 

On how Avicii came into his life, Blacc explains, "There were a few different people who I believe Avicii could have connected with me through, but Mike Shinoda sent me an email personally and connected me with Avicii. And I had never actually met Mike in person - we had a lot of mutual friends, we just never had linked up in real time - so for him to be thinking about me was really cool." 

Isn't it amazing how one email can change the entire course of your career!? "Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. In a major way."

When asked whether he had a special feeling about the three aforementioned songs or can determine a common thread running through them, Blacc ponders, "I will say that they all fit what I am now recognising is my style, which is Aspiration, Inspiration and Motivation - I call it AIM. Because a song like I Need A Dollar is aspiration, a song like The Man is motivation and a song like Wake Me Up is inspiration. I think that they have very universal themes that work to inspire and motivate people from anywhere in the world."