Have you ever been in a bad mood (i.e. stuck in traffic that hasn’t moved for hours or you spilled hot coffee on your white pants) and your stress is lifted as soon as you hear the right song? For me, that song is Aloe Blacc’s “You Make Me Smile” off 2010’s Good Things. It doesn’t matter how many e-mails /meetings went to hell that day or pots of water I’ve burned attempting to cook, it’s almost impossible not to smile (duh) once you hear that song. Hooked initially by this track, it’s been a pleasure exploring this talented artist’s classic solo discography (was thrilled to discover as an Afro-Latina he was Afro-Panamanian and had some Spanish songs) and his brilliant hip-hop Emanon albums with producer Exile.
I connected with Aloe while on tour in Europe recently to discuss his first musical memories, dope career moments, connecting with Avicii for their hit song “Wake Me Up” which has now gone #1 in eight countries and more! Peep the videos and answers below!
Q: Can you remember your first musical memory?
Aloe:My earliest memories include my dad’s home stereo system blasting salsa music, most likely some Ruben Blades. I also remember a lot of TV show theme songs from when I was as young as 3 years old. Shows like “Good Times” and reruns of “What’s Happening” are embedded in my brain. I’ve flirted with the idea of a tour playing just TV themes with my band The Grand Scheme.
Q: What’s the most surreal like “WTF am I doing here?” moment you’ve had in your music career thus far?
Aloe: After the release of my second solo album, Good Things, I was invited to perform two songs on the Jools Holland Show in England. The other performers on my episode were The Black Keys, Elvis Costello, Neil Diamond, and Sir Paul McCartney. I remember looking over at Mr. McCartney while singing “I Need a Dollar” and to my surprise he was grinning and grooving along to the song. That was a special moment.
Q: What’s your favorite city to tour and why?
Aloe: I feel really good in Paris. For some reason I always try something a little bit different there. The people are always ready to have a good time so I take risks that could prove disastrous but somehow turn out just right. I’ve got some good friends in Paris as well that I have created a side project with the Roseaux production team where I am a featured singer on an album full of acoustic covers.
Q: If you were trapped on a deserted island, name four things you couldn’t live without.
Aloe: – My family (that’s a thing, right?)
– a copy of Eugene McDaniel’s “Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse,”
– a mango tree
– an oil painting of Jesus Christ or Quincy Jones or anyone else who can walk on water.
Q: At 10PM every night, I can be found doing…
Aloe: Writing random lyric notes into my phone to later be synthesized into the next song that you can’t get out of your head while in bed listening to a TED talk about singularity on headphones so I don’t disturb my wife’s beauty sleep.
Q: Where were you when you first heard your song on the radio or TV?
Aloe: I was driving home from the KUCI radio station on a school night. As soon as I got my driver’s license back in high school, I would go to the hip hop show hosted by The Beat Junkies or DJ Cheapshot to freestyle on the air. Eventually, they began playing recorded material from my hip hop group EMANON.
Q: How did you connect with Avicii?
Aloe: DJ Cheapshot’s good friend Mike Shinoda, whom I have yet to meet in person, suggested to Avicii that I record a song called “Black & Blue” written by Mac Davis for Avicii’s album. After that recording session Avicii invited me to write with him and Mike Einziger, which is where I delivered the lyrics to “Wake Me Up” while Mike played guitar.
Q: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself?
Aloe: I read once that I was a one-hit-wonder. I always found that to be a funny term. One hit is much better than no hits at all.
Q: Who would you not want to trade lives with?
Aloe: A proctologist.
Q: What do you have planned for the rest of 2013?
Aloe: My next album is almost done so I plan to release a single and a video, then the album. I’m producing for Maya Jupiter as well, and looking forward to releasing another EMANON album.