Aloe Blacc poses for a portrait during the SXSW Music Festival on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, in Austin, Texas. He performed during SXSW 2014 at Stubbs on Tuesday at the Def Jam showcase. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Aloe Blacc is “The Man” at South By Southwest this week.
Blacc enters the annual music conference and festival riding the crest of his perfectly timed hit “The Man” from his new album, “Lift Your Spirit,” expected to be among this week’s top-sellers. He’s playing a number of showcases, appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” with the University of Texas marching band Tuesday night and is taking advantage of every opportunity that comes his way.
“This is the dream,” Blacc said Wednesday afternoon during a quick interview at the Cedar Door before a soundcheck.
It’s a dream Blacc has been pursuing for 20 years as a former bedroom songwriter who has achieved worldwide acclaim based on his songwriting. His first breakthrough hit, 2010’s “I Need a Dollar,” drew a lot of attention, including that of Simon Fuller and XIX Entertainment, and eventually helped land him a deal with Interscope Records.
Last year he teamed with electronic dance music star Avicii for one of 2013's biggest hits, "Wake Me Up," before introducing listeners to "The Man" through a Beats By Dre promotional campaign that kicked off in December during NFL games and immediately resonated.
The song, like his other hits, has taken on a life of its own and become something of a pop cultural moment. It's allowed him to hire people to help with the kind of work he used to do himself — recording, mixing, even creating his own album covers — and open a company to work with other politically and socially conscious musicians.
Blacc, a 35-year-old Southern California native, gives the credit for the song's success to Dre — and he's not talking about the commercials.
Dre is a hero of Blacc's and when he got the chance to show the producer a batch of his songs, he jumped at it. Dre's response? "He was like, in more or less terms, 'You could do better.'"
Dre suggested Blacc seek stronger themes in his songs. The bravado that now fires "The Man," which borrows its chorus' melody from Elton John's "Our Song," comes directly from that conversation.
"So I went to the studio and said, What's going to make him turn his head?" Blacc said. "I said, OK, I'll mix a little bit of hip-hop with a little bit of soul and create a character in the voice of the song that's masculine, but still attractive. ... And so it was the process of creating a song in Dr. Dre's parameters. Considering the license from Beats By Dre, I feel like I executed it properly."