After a period of indie success, Aloe Blacc has finally broken into the mainstream—and he’s done so in a big way.
His collaboration with Avicci on “Wake Me Up” went to No. 1 in 22 countries. He’ll be performing at Morongo Casino Resort Spa this Friday, Oct. 23.
During a recent phone interview, Blacc—who grew up in Orange County—extolled the virtues of music education.
“It was really important,” Blacc said. “Learning how to play an instrument helped give me a better understanding of musical movements—learning classical music especially. It gave me a very melodic mind, and I think that’s what helps me write melodies for my lyrics.”
Blacc’s music is indeed very melodic. His music combines jazz, hip hop and soul, while his songwriting abilities have earned him praise throughout the music world. His first album, 2006’s Shine Through, was given high ratings by critics. His second solo album, 2010’s Good Things, was a commercial and critical success, selling more than 1 million copies.
“I think the success of Good Things came from the resurgence of retro music,” he said. “Plus the single ‘I Need a Dollar’ was the theme song to the TV show on HBOHow to Make It in America. Those things helped really make that album relevant at that time.”
In 2007, Ace Hotel Palm Springs’ resident DJ, DJ Day, collaborated with Blacc on a song called “Closer.”
“I’ve known DJ Day for more than a decade,” Blacc said. “He’s a great human being, and working with him is very easy. We both love the same music, and we speak the same language. He sends me examples of music and songs he’s really interested in, and I try to make music that he’ll like. One of the markers I use in the studio is, ‘Do the musicians I’m working with really like this, and will my real friends like this?’ It’s not all the time that I hit that mark; sometimes I take a lot of risks, but for the most part, I think I’m making my buddies and DJ Day proud.
“I value DJ Day’s opinion. I think it’s important for a DJ to not to be doing what everyone else is doing, and that’s what makes him one of the best DJs in the country. ”
His success with Avicii on the mega-hit “Wake Me Up” in 2013 launched Blacc fully into the mainstream. While performing in the Mojave Tent at Coachella in 2014, he drew a bigger audience than the tent could hold.
“I didn’t expect that at all,” he said about the song’s incredible success. “Luckily at the time, dance music was really taking off and becoming the pop music of the modern day. Lyrically, I think was able to capture something that resonated with a lot of people around the world. I think that’s why people choose to play it so often, remix it or cover it.”
In November 2014, Blacc wrote an opinion piece for Wired magazine on the subject of streaming services; he said these services are killing the music industry because they do not adequately pay artists. He explained that he only received about $4,000 after splitting Pandora royalties three ways for “Wake Me Up.”
“The (industry players) all have different stakes in the game,” he said. “The record labels are the ones who have already invested in Spotify and the other companies, and they prefer not to be too public about income, because they’re part-owners. They don’t distribute the funds to the artists equally. There are also the performing-rights organizations that collect for every song that’s streamed, and they’re bound by government entities. The Department of Justice limits the amount of money that an artist can make with a song they write that gets streamed, which is absolutely crazy. You go to the grocery store, and the store can sell apples for any price they want, and this court is coming down and saying, ‘Aloe Blacc, you can’t sell your song for as much as you want. We’re going to tell you it’s only worth this much. In fact, we’re not even going to consider the market; we’re just going to tell you what it’s worth.’ I think it’s really pitiful. I think it will change, but it’s going to be very slow. I don’t have the same amount of money the Koch brothers have to pay the right people to change anything.”
Blacc said he has new material in the works.
“I’m working on my next album,” he revealed. “I’m writing new songs and trying to figure out the sound for the next album. For me, everything starts with the songs. A capella, over the piano, over the guitar—and if it’s good, it’s going to get produced. I’m trying to determine what format I’m going to produce it in.”
Aloe Blacc will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 23, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $55 to $65. For tickets or more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit www.morongocasinoresort.com.