Aloe Blacc is a platinum-selling singer, songwriter, producer and activist who aims to use his voice to bring about change in the world. With his huge 2010 hit I Need A Dollar, Blacc captured a hand-to-mouth experience familiar to many.
He recently returned with his new album All Love Everything, an album he hopes “could be there to hold you and carry you and lift you”.
He joined The Big Issue on The Music That Made Me to explore the artists who inspired his transformative, emotional approach.
A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke
I am indebted to soul greats like Sam Cooke, who use their voice and their artistry in such a way to inspire a person like me to sing. When I had the opportunity to record with one of my favourite hip-hop producers [Oh No], I recorded an entire album of rap songs then there was one more beat left to record to and I decided to sing A Change Is Gonna Come. He was so impressed that he took it to his label and they were gracious enough to sign me – not as a rapper but a vocalist. And that started my career as a singer.
Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi
Joni Mitchell’s voice, her musicianship, her lyricism – all of it is very unique and super inspiring. She is one of a kind. When she wrote songs, you could feel that the stories were genuine and true and deep. And when she sang those songs, you could really get a sense of her humanity. That, to me, is the hallmark of a great artist.
Redemption Song, Bob Marley
Bob Marley is an example of an artivist. He is an artist who used his voice in the way that an activist would push for change. Redemption Song is about the history of oppression, the history of servitude and subjugation that Africans faced in the slave trade. He was not afraid to put these lyrics into his music and to share that with the world. He knew he had a platform that could humanise his ancestors, his peers, himself and his descendants.
Lean On Me, Bill Withers
Another one of my heroes is the late Bill Withers. In his lifetime he accomplished so much but within his music career he accomplished so much in such a short time. Lean On Me is such an important message. When you’re feeling down, or you’re depressed, songs can lift you up. They are a playground you can play in all day long as they run through your head and give you a little bit of spirit. Whether or not you have a friend near to help you get through a tough time, a song can be your friend, the artist’s voice can be your friend, the melody can be your friend. That for me was very instructive, writing songs that can potentially be there to hold you and carry you.
Working with Avicii on Wake Me Up
A huge musical moment for me was writing and performing Wake Me Up with Avicii [in 2013]. There’s no telling what a song is going to do, where it’s going to go and how it’s going to affect people. You just have to know that it’s something that means something to you when you write it. And hopefully it’ll resonate with other people.
The deluxe version of Aloe Blacc’s All Love Everything album is out now on BMG. www.aloeblacc.com
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