Aloe Blacc's "Lift Your Sprit" debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in March after his vocal turn on Avicii's 2013 hit "Wake Me Up" and his own new single "The Man" turned up the buzz. Now that he's also been a mentor on "The Voice" and rocked Coachella, here's a look at how the soul singer did it all and what he's got on tap for the future.
ONE YEAR AGO
After years on rap-centric indie Stones Throw, Blacc, 35, signed with XIX Recordings/Interscope and began work on "Lift Your Spirit" with producer DJ Khalil (Eminem, Pink). Blacc wrapped the album in early 2013. Around the same time, he linked with Avicii in Los Angeles, co-writing and singing the DJ/producer's "Wake Me Up!" The song debuted June 17, 2013, and quickly took off. Blacc's challenge? Cluing the song's fans to his solo work, as his name wasn't credited. "The lyric video went to 80 million YouTube hits before it even went to radio," says Blacc. "That's confirmation to me that it's just good songwriting."
5 MONTHS AGO
With "Wake Me Up!" flying 48-17 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart dated Aug. 17, Blacc released the "Wake Me Up" EP on Sept. 24, featuring an acoustic remake. On Oct. 25, "Lift Your Spirit" hit Germany, Austria and Switzerland, three of Blacc's past strongest markets. In the United States, Interscope/Beats Music head Jimmy Iovine used Blacc's "The Man" in a Beats ad that aired during a Jan. 12 NFL game, sending the song to No. 7 on Digital Songs the week of Jan. 20. Blacc inked a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music on Jan. 21. A week later, "Can You Do This" soundtracked a Beats Super Bowl spot.
A week after the video for "The Man" debuted March 3, "Lift Your Spirit" was finally released stateside on March 11, during South by Southwest. Blacc lined up a whopping 16 showcases at the festival, including a performance of "The Man" on Jimmy Kimmel Live! with the University of Texas Longhorns' band on release day. "I don't know what the record is for doing the most shows at South By, but I might be approaching it," says Blacc with a laugh. "It's release week — I want to tell everybody." Meanwhile, the title track was iTunes' free Single of the Week, and Target sold an exclusive deluxe CD with two bonus tracks.
Blacc became an even more familiar face as a mentor for Adam Levine's team on the current season of "The Voice." This month, he performed at the Coachella festival, and next he hits the road to open for Bruno Mars on 25 dates through July 18. Blacc also has a small role in the forthcoming James Brown biopic "Get On Up," out Aug. 1. Although Blacc's soul-music star is rising, his next project may be a reunion of Emanon, the underground-rap duo he formed with DJ Exile in the early 2000s. "We've got two mixtapes and an album," says Blacc. "Hip-hop is not like when I was younger. I just do it because I still enjoy it."