Today sees platinum-selling singer, songwriter, producer, and activist Aloe Blacc release his first album, All Love Everything, since his Grammy-nominated debut, Lift Your Spirit. The album was created through the lens of Aloe as a family man and is also the singer-songwriter’s first collection of material written as a father.
Drawing on an eclectic mix of soul, folk, and contemporary pop, All Love Everything proves that there’s no pigeonholing the human experience. We talk to Aloe about his new album, family, inspiration, and using his platform to deliver positive messages.
How have you managed to stay positive during lockdown? Generally, I am a positive person. Music has given me an opportunity to escape from the madness of the world. I’m just optimistic about what is positive for the future. That is where the positivity comes from, knowing that things can only get better.
What was the writing process for your latest single, “Hold on Tight”? Writing “Hold on Tight” was a session with two other songwriters and it starts off with generally a conversation about our day and then one of us might come up with an idea that we might present. In this case, the idea was of a concept of having someone be a shoulder to lean on in hard times and then wrote a story around the concept. By the end of three hours communicating and writing the song, we have a nice demo, something that we can build on.
I would say writing songs is pretty easy for me, it’s something I’ve been doing since I was 9 years old. So, I have got more than thirty years of experience with it and it comes naturally in a way that I do not really have to struggle with it. I have a lot of tools I can use and when I do not want to use tools, I can just be free with it.
The new album, All Love Everything is out October 2nd and it is the first album since your debut in 2014. How are you feeling about this upcoming release? It is going to be a great day for me as it has been so long since I have had the chance to release an album. I have been working on so much music. When I put together All Love Everything, I wanted to tell the story and deliver a message of togetherness. A lot of these songs are about family, friends, and close personal relationships. I think it is an important album for this time, as we recognize how much we rely on each other, especially just down to the simple fact of relying on someone to wear a mask.
This is also the first collection of songs that you have written as a father. Do you feel your perspective on things has changed now that you have children? When I am writing music, even before I became a father, I started to transform what kind of songs I sing and what kind of message I want to deliver. When I became an uncle, it became present to me that the music I was making would be available to young and impressionable minds. So, I try to create music that is fun for the family.
How much of a support system has your family been for you during your career? I would say my first inspiration for music first came from my parents who played different kinds of music in the house. Because they had given me such an open palette of music to learn from, it’s inspiring and encouraging. It offers me the ability to make music even through grade school. So, I feel like I can safely say my parents have been a huge factor. You can hear it in the album on a song called “Family” and that is a direct representation of the Latin music I grew up listening to.
If there was one, what song would you say was the most challenging to write? Probably the most challenging to write was “Wherever You Go” or “I Do.” “Wherever You Go” was the most challenging as I was writing with new writers who I hadn’t worked with before and it was just the element of getting to know the people I was in the room with and getting to know writing styles. It was also about knowing how not to offend people when ideas are not as good as others.
With songs like, “I Do,” a romantic ballad that is not necessarily my forte, I was lucky enough to work with other songwriters who were very good at writing love ballads.
What songs on the album are you most excited for people to hear and why? I am most excited for people to hear songs like “Harvard” and “Nothing Left But You.” I feel like it has a really touching story, comparing my life to someone else’s life and finding the similarities and differences. “Nothing Left But You” is a completely different kind of song, a pop ballad about the relationship with my wife.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how have you found the best way is to overcome it? Writer’s block is not something I struggle with because I have so many ideas I have written down, so I can just go to a list of ideas that I have. I generally have ideas before I get into the studio. The only way I would not have an idea that is already planned is if the vibe is really really good and the song is flowing by itself and that happens quite often as well.
When people listen to your new single “Hold On Tight,” hopefully, this will encourage vulnerability and openness. Growing up or even now, what songs or artists did you go to in the hopes of feeling something similar? Growing up, I listened to a lot of Hip-Hop artists who were representing the culture I was part of and a lot of underground artists. Some of my favorite artists today are artists of the past, so artists like Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, and Nina Simone.
Apart from music, what else inspired you? I get inspiration from films a lot. Watching a great film or hearing a great line from a movie can inspire an entire song. I have favorite movies in different genres, but The Shawshank Redemption and Gattaca would be some favorites.
Fashion also inspires me to. I started making prototypes at home. I started getting a manufacturer to help create them. I am slow when it comes to working around things that are not my forte. I am always looking for the best person to work with. I am glad I did not create a whole clothing business before COVID. When it comes to merch, it’s been other folks designing it. But in the future, I think it is going to be way more than a fashion brand than just merch. I am looking forward to it for sure.
What’s your work ethic like now compared to when you first started? My work ethic is still the same. I do not work as often as before as I wanted to have more time devoted to family. The calendar does not really move until I and the wife figure out what we want to do.
You had the opportunity to speak at the Democratic National Convention preshow last month. What did you take away from being part of such an important and powerful moment that can help make a change? We have this power to change the way our government operates. I am lucky I have a megaphone to tell people what I think about how they should get engaged and be involved. This was my opportunity to influence others to exercise their rights to vote.
What are you looking forward to for the rest of 2020? I am looking forward to science really coming in and being able to dictate new protocols of how we can sort out this pandemic. I am looking forward to creating new artistic projects, like children’s media, books, maybe cartoons and maybe releasing another hip-hop album. But I am just happy my fans finally get another album.