It was about six years ago that singer/songwriter Aloe Blacc had a major impact in the music world. He co-wrote and was the lead vocalist on one of the biggest hits of 2013 & 2014: “Wake Me Up” by Avicii. Then in 2014, he released his album Lift Your Spirits, which was nominated for a Grammy Award and included the Top 10 pop hit, “The Man.”
It was during this period that Blacc showed he’s a powerful, soulful singer and a thoughtful, articulate songwriter. Particularly on “Wake Me Up,” the combination of his strong, deep vocals with Avicii’s electronic, dance/pop style, created one of the most unique and cutting-edge records of the time.
Now in 2020, Blacc, who is based in Los Angeles, is returning with his first new album in six years. This week (on October 2nd), he will release his album, All Love Everything (on the BMG label). The album is an excellent collection of 10 new songs co-written by Blacc, that reflects the changes in his life and his new experiences over the past six years.
Blacc’s music is guided by a theme that he calls A.I.M., which stands for Affirmation, Inspiration and Motivation. He says that his hits like “Wake Me Up,” “The Man” and “I Need A Dollar” may not fall under the same musical umbrella, but they’re united by how they make listeners feel. “After so many opportunities to talk about my music and not feel comfortable saying, ‘I’m a pop artist’ or “I’m a folk artist,’ I had this realization. My songwriting genre is thematiic.”
Prior to the album’s release date, Blacc has already released three new songs. One of the highlights is the anthemic “My Way,” which affirms his very positive and hopeful outlook on life, even when faced with adversity. Bolstered by a strong melody and soulful lead & harmony vocals, “My Way” is one of Blacc’s best songs. Also released is the upbeat, hooky “Hold On Tight” and the love ballad, “I Do.”
Two other highlights on Blacc’s album are the songs “Family” and “Corner.” “Family” provides a thoughtful introduction to the album, by emphasizing how important his family members (his wife and son) are in his life. “Corner” is a heartfelt song about trying to very supportive to friends and family.
Here’s the video of Aloe Blacc’s new single, “My Way.”
For his new All Love Everything album, Blacc collaborated with several top songwriters & producers. He wrote songs with hit writer/producer Jonas Jeberg (who co-wrote the hit “High Hopes” for Panic! At The Disco) and Neil Ormandy & Steve Solomon (who co-wrote the hit “Say You Won’t Let Go” for James Arthur).
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Aloe Blacc. He discusses the making of his new album and his songwriting. He also discusses his special collaboration and relationship with Avicii (who died in 2018). A second song that Blacc recorded with Avicii, “SOS,” was released last year.
DK: I’ve listened to and like your new album, All Love Everything. Can you talk about the past five years, leading up to making your new album?
Aloe Blacc: In the years leading up to the album, I did a lot of songwriting and a lot of traveling. I had different album concepts for this new album over the past five years. But in the end, I decided to compile the songs that focused on family, and my personal relationships, in order to create this body of work. So each song was written individually, but not with a particularly album theme in mind, until I decided on the album theme. Then I put together the songs that made the most sense, which was the theme of family.
DK: In your bio, it says that you’ve become a father, and the first song on your album is called “Family.” So can you talk about being a father and writing that song?
Blacc: As a father, I decided that this is a great time to start sharing more about who I am. It’s hard as an artist to keep a mystique in this day and age, because social media makes everything so present to our fans. And you can’t deny some of the aspects of your life that are just available to everybody. In the past, an artist like Michael Jackson had kids, but he was also still a huge pop star. No one ever thought of him as a father; they just thought of him as Michael Jackson. I think that keeping up a front of just being a pop star is a relic of the past. I want to be relevant and of the time, which is to share my humanity in total, and not hide any parts of who I am because of industry impression. So I wanted to share that on this album, and the song “Family” is one where I talk about my experience with my parents and then my experience with my kid, and some of my experiences with my wife. I put that song at the top of the album, so that I can set the tone, to say this is what the album is about, and this why it’s called All Love Everything. My family is part of all the things that I love.
Here’s a video of Aloe Blacc performing his new song “Hold On
Tight” on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
One more thing about that—my parents are from Panama, so I grew up listening to a lot of Latin music, so the Latin rhythm in the song “Family” is very intentional.
DK: My favorite song on your new album is “My Way,” which has an excellent lyric about being positive, keeping the faith and doing it your way. What inspired you to write this song?
Blacc: “My Way” is definitely inspired by personal adversity. In the music business, trying to keep my music relevant, my presence relevant and fighting to have the messages that I want shared with the world, to be a priority by the record label or the partners that I’m working with. I always want to write songs that can be motivating and anthemic, and “My Way” is one of those songs that I think fits with “I Need A Dollar,” “Wake Me Up” and “The Man,” in the sense that it’s anthemic, but it’s also a theme that I like to focus on called A.I.M.—Affirmation, Inspiration and Motivation. “My Way” is an affirming song…that I’m going to do it my way. It’s also a song that should motivate the people who hear it, to achieve the goals that they have and that they aspire to achieve, no matter what the obstacle. It’s really one of my main goals in music, to offer people the words that they may otherwise not have.
DK: Another song I like on your album is “Corner,” which has a strong message about being supportive to friends and the people you care about. Can you talk about writing this song?
Blacc: “Corner” is a song that came out of the idea of being someone’s go-to support. Since the passing of Avicii (Tim Bergling), I’ve been much more conscious of how my closest friends are doing mentally. You always take for granted that our friends will be there, that they’re just a phone call away and everybody’s doing alright…we haven’t heard any bad news. But quite often, people don’t want to share their bad news, so it’s important to reach out and always let people know that you’re there for them.
DK: With Avicii, you had a huge hit, “Wake Me Up.” Then last year (a year after he died) another song you did with Avicii, “SOS,” was released. Can you reflect on your collaboration and friendship with him?
Blacc: Yeah, working with Avicii was a really important part of my career. The songs that we were able to create and release had a huge impact on the world, and on his fans and my fans. Also, people who really don’t know who we are, they ended up hearing the song and love it. And the song “SOS” was one that he’d started writing, while I was working on trying to finish up lyrics to other songs that we’d begun.
Here’s the video of Aloe Blacc’s new song, “I Do.”
When he passed away, his record label contacted me to sing the lyrics, because in his notes he wrote that he wanted me to sing “SOS.” So of course, I obliged their request to sing it, and I feel like it’s a unique position to have so much success with this artist, and carry on his legacy by singing these songs and sharing them with the world.
DK: For your new album, you collaborated with some excellent writers & producers like Jonas Jeberg, Matt Prime, Neil Ormandy and Steve Solomon. Can you talk about your writing process and the collaborations you did?
Blacc: Yeah, the album is full of these songwriting and production collaborations. I enjoy working with really talented artists. I think Neil Ormandy is one of the unsung talents within the songwriting world. And Jonas Jeberg is one of the unsung producers within the production world. I was lucky enough to combine their talents and work with them on this album, and there are other talented songwriters that I had the opportunity to work with.
DK: Besides the songs we’ve talked about, what are your other favorite songs on the album?
Blacc: I really like “Harvard.” I’m a big fan of storytellers, and singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Bill Withers. So “Harvard” makes me feel like I’m working to achieve the kind of great songwriting that they accomplished. I’m telling a story, and using the music to help tell the story. The instrumentation is also part of the presentation. It’s not just there for the sake of having a sonic landscape…it’s part of the emotion in the story.
DK: Over the past six months, we’ve all had to deal with the pandemic and shutdown. How did the pandemic affect the recording and release of your album?
Blacc: My album was already finished when the pandemic shut the world down. I was lucky enough to have all my parts done, and the only thing we needed to do was mix and master. I think the one issue was whether or not I should release the album during the quarantine. But I thought this was the perfect time to release an album about family, where right now togetherness and community is really important. And I’m hoping that the songs on the album can become music and messages and lyrics, that people can find themselves within the stories, and find their story within my story.