Platinum-selling singer Aloe Blacc, 41, draws on influences from salsa, merengue and cumbia in his fusion of soul, folk, R&B and pop. “Wake Me Up”, which he wrote with Swedish DJ Avicii, topped charts globally. His other international hits include “I Need a Dollar” and “The Man”.
What was your childhood or earliest ambition?
To be a neuroscientist.
Private school or state school? University or straight into work?
Laguna Hills High School. I got a full-tuition scholarship to the University of Southern California.
Who was or still is your mentor?
I’ve had micro-mentors over the years. In high school, I was part of a programme called Lead [Leadership Education and Development] — a gentleman called Harold Haskins founded it and helped many students along their path. I had an internship at Ernst & Young, where Jerome Thode and Willard Woods guided me through the corporate experience. When I got into music as a full-time career, my mentors were records — Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin . . . they wouldn’t have known they were my mentors!
How physically fit are you?
Quite fit. I try and eat very healthily.
Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
It depends on your definition. If we’re talking financial success: ambition matters more. If we’re talking about spiritual and personal, internal success: [it’s] talent.
How politically committed are you?
Very. I’m lucky enough to live in a democracy, lucky enough to have the right to vote for my ideals, lucky enough to voice my opinion to encourage others to believe what I believe, so it’s important to me to be consistent with the rights I’ve been given — especially as so many people before me worked so hard to get these rights. I feel it’s an obligation to be political. Politics is part of the culture and if you’re not engaging in the culture, ultimately you’re a drain on the system — you’re not part of the community.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
A certain kind of estate, a certain kind of property, maybe in a few years after I make a little more money and can justify it. I’m pretty good at tempering my needs and my wants.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
The amount of time I spend on music. I don’t really splurge on anything else. Time is such a valuable thing. I only devote it to family and friends and the projects I’m working on.
In what place are you happiest?
At home with my family, for sure.
What ambitions do you still have?
To create a company that allows other artists to realise their dreams in the marketplace and become hugely successful. To create a company that uses technology in useful ways for humanity. And I’d like to get involved in fashion.
What drives you on?
The more that I do in music, I earn a certain respect and social capital, so I’m ready to engage in activism, in philanthropy — people are listening. If continuing to do music helps me have a place in the public sphere, then I can help create positive transformation.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
A healthy and happy family.
What do you find most irritating in other people?
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
“What took you so long?” And: “That’s it? That’s all you’ve done?” He was very ambitious and focused.
Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
My dad is so handy — he’s a plumber, carpenter, electrician. One year he built a workman’s desk and, on a move when he was away, we got rid of this desk — it really upset him. I should never have let it go.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
The existential threat of climate change.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
I entertain that anything and everything is possible.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
Pretty much 10. I’ve got nothing to complain about in my life. Outside of my life, there are a lot of things I can complain about and those are the ones I want to work on — I want to be a change agent.
Aloe Blacc’s fifth studio album “All Love Everything” is out now
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