In the Imax film America’s Musical Journey, host Aloe Blacc takes viewers to the home of Louis Armstrong, to Motown Studios and to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, considered to be the birthplace of grunge. Best known until now for his vocals on “Wake Me Up,” a megahit for Avicii, the Swedish DJ and producer who passed away earlier this year, and for his own 2010 hit “I Need a Dollar,” Blacc proves to be an affable guide to the breeding grounds of some of the most seminal sounds on the planet.
The singer-songwriter takes us along to New Orleans, Chicago, Nashville, Miami and New York to explore the roots of American music. But Blacc’s yearning to see the world is not restricted to the 50 states of the union. “Brooklyn in the Summer,” released this spring, is the first single off a new album expected later this year.
Where in the world have you felt happiest?
I feel happiest in Los Angeles, where I’ve made my home and where my family is. I’m a Southern California native, so I have made a lot of good memories in L.A.
To get away from it all, I go to…
Australia, where I can relax, shut off the phone and just be with family. My wife, Maya Jupiter, was raised there and we have a place near the beach for vacations.
What’s the one thing you pack for every trip?
My electric shaver. That way I can choose to have three-day stubble or a fresh clean shave, depending on how I feel. You never know when you might get invited to an imperative event that you have to clean up for.
What’s your essential item for making travel more comfortable?
Definitely a Do Not Disturb sign. While there isn’t anything specific I bring with me to make a trip more comfortable, I think bringing a really good carry-on suitcase makes all the difference in the world. That way, you know you’ll be able to fit everything and don’t need to worry about waiting at baggage claim.
Confession time: name one thing you’ve taken from a hotel.
I’ve never done anything crazy, but I really appreciate good quality soaps and lotion and like to have them at home. So if a hotel has one that I like, I’ll bring it home and ask Maya to look up the brand to see the ingredients and buy some.
Which is your favourite hotel and why?
The Steigenberger Hotel in Frankfurt, Germany. It’s extremely private, with amazing rooms and the most ornate breakfast buffet I’ve ever experienced.
What’s your guilty pleasure while travelling?
Definitely trash TV! I don’t watch TV at home often so I find myself watching all the mind-numbing reality shows that cable has to offer.
Which is your road most travelled?
Most people would be surprised to hear that it isn’t NYC, but I’d say it is L.A. to Berlin. I had early success there with my hit song “I Need a Dollar” and it has become like a home away from home.
Who is your favourite travelling companion?
Maya is the best travel companion because she will find the most interesting attractions for us to visit and activities to do. My dad is pretty cool, too. I bring him around every now and again; it’s nice to have him with me to hang out and spend time together so he can experience what I’m up to.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met on your travels?
President Obama is definitely one of a few interesting people. I also quite enjoyed meeting Richard Branson and also the Dalai Lama.
What inspires you to keep exploring?
Exploring helps me with my creative development as an artist. I’m always inspired by the places I visit and the people I meet.
What would be your trip of a lifetime?
Spending a few months exploring all the wonders of the world with Maya and our kids.
I lost my heart in…
Paris, France. It’s a magical city and I really enjoy my visits to perform, record or just hang out.
Which travel experience most changed your worldview and why?
Traveling to Ghana and visiting the rural areas, as well as the metropolitan city of Accra, because I got to see people that live directly from the land and who struggle to get by, in contrast with the people in a big, bustling city, trying to live the modern life. It gave me a deeper appreciation for the quality of life I live in the United States.
Tell us about a time when you got lost or otherwise knocked off course.
I was working for a big corporation after university and got laid off. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to find another job, go back to school or focus on music. I inevitably chose music, and it worked out being the right choice. That said, there was a time when things weren’t picking up and I thought maybe I should cut my losses and get a more traditional job, but I stuck with my gut and things turned around and I’m extremely grateful.