Aloe Blacc on soul, his heroes and playing at a rock festival

04 August 2014 - 12:15 By Nikita Ramkissoon
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Aloe Blacc performs in 2011.
Aloe Blacc performs in 2011.
Image: Wikipedia

Aloe Blacc’s real name is Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III, and he plays the trumpet. But those are not the only things interesting about him.

He’s a soul artist headlining South Africa’s biggest rock, alternative, folk, blues and metal festival.

Speaking to him on the phone, he sounds like any other American guy. But as soon as he starts speaking about his craft, the timbre of his voice changes, and it sounds like honey glazing over something delicious.

Aloe, as he prefers to be called, says his journey has been fun, because he initially wanted music to be his hobby.

“Making music my career, that’s just the icing on the cake. That’s a bonus through what I see as this passion project.”

You may know Aloe from his hit single The Man, but his rise to superstardom also came with help from Swedish DJ Avicii, whose hit track Wake Me Up features Aloe on vocals.

“It was the perfect balance of a great dance song and vocals, so that kind of introduction onto the international stage was great.”

Aloe also worked with Hip Hop act Emanon (No name backwards) and he says that helped him marry different genres.

“With Emanon, we borrowed from every genre, jazz, classic rock, soul and Hip Hop.

“And with Avicii it was more like an updated and contemporary style of soul mixed in. It was great to do that.”

Hailing from Laguna Beach, California, he began playing a rented trumpet in third grade. Music was a hobby for him, and he finds it hard to believe it’s now his job.

His in-road to the music industry came with playing in high school and getting those collaborations, which paved the way for his own music to flourish.

He describes his music as ‘brand new old soul’.

“It feels like new music in the kind of recording and how it’s made, but it sounds old school and has a classic style, which people can connect with.”

Aloe reckons that his musical influences have a lot to do with it.

“In terms of Hip Hop, it’s Nas, Run DMC, LL Cool J… Soul it’s Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. I love singer-songwriter stuff and with I’m The Man, we sampled Elton John.”

You may not know it, but Aloe has three solo albums to his name, each with a different evolution to them.

Shine Through, which was released in 2006, is a bit disjointed and he says it’s a mix of different genres in each track and was produced by Aloe himself. It was also released on vinyl, which is seen as a soul artist’s medium.

“It was varied,” he said.

“The second album [2010’s Good Things] was a lot more classic. Classic soul and funk, really.”

Now with production from the likes of DJ Khalil, Pharrell Williams, Elton John, Theron Feemster and Rock Mafia, his third, Lift Your Spirit, has shot Aloe to superstardom.

“Everything on the album uses different styles, and it can’t be pegged down.”

From an acoustic version of Wake Me Up, to the classic R&B Love is the Answer, it’s kind of a portfolio of what Aloe is capable of musically and lyrically.

He’s excited to be coming to South Africa, and it’s his first trip here, and he will play on Saturday, August 9 at the Oppikoppi Music Festival in Northam, Limpopo.

“I don’t know much about the festival except that it’s a really long drive outside of Johannesburg.”

I tell him it’s dusty, drunken and the people are crazy, and he says it’s all the more reason to be excited.

“I don’t care about genre and I expect I will be playing to all kinds of different people, but my goal is to entertain. That’s just it. To entertain people.”

Aloe is a soul man, whose personal heroes are people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mandela, and he says, like he sings in his song, love is the answer.

“If that is the last thing I ever say in the world, this is true. Love is the answer. You can’t get more truth than that.”

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