What’s On teams up with Hype to bring you an interview with Aloe Blacc as he prepares for Blended Festival in Dubai Media City, alongside Joss Stone and Xavier Rudd. You can also click here to win a pair of VIP tickets to the whole weekend.

Hot on the heels of scoring a UK No.1 with The Man, Aloe Blacc is one of the stars at the first Blended festival in Dubai this weekend. To celebrate, Universal Music Group will be offering his hit track ‘Lift Your Spirit’ as a free download all this week on iTunes. The title track to Aloe’s new album will be available to all UAE iTunes account holders until Friday May 2 by visiting blended.ae.

Get to know the man before he takes to the stage at the two-day event on Thursday…

Your single The Man recently hit the No.1 spot in the UK. Where were you when you found out? I was in a meeting with Malaria No More UK learning about their latest initiatives and how I can help. I was surprised when they told me the news and I decided to donate $20,000 to help them reach their goals.

The Man samples Elton John’s Your Song. First of all, why Your Song, and have you had any feedback from Elton? As a hip hop fan I enjoy sampling to make beats. I used the line from Your Song in a beat but wanted to modify it so I decided to sing it instead. I am a big fan of Elton John and Bernie Taupin and was pleased to hear that Elton was flattered by the interpolation.

Tell us a little bit about the video for The Man, which sees you paying tribute to several different historical figures… I came up with the concept to depict album covers and had the help of Paul Walker and Matt Barnes to further develop the idea and execute it. Each individual I pay homage to is someone I consider “the man” for one reason or another. Marvin Gaye for standing up for his art when Motown Records refused to release What’s Going On; Muhammad Ali for refusing to join the US draft to the Vietnam War; Malcolm X for making his transition from separatist politics to integration; Martin Luther King Jr for fighting for the rights of all oppressed and impoverished people.

Do you feel a responsibility to be political in your songs? I believe everybody has a responsibility to be political no matter their profession. We are all part of a global community and what we do in developed countries as consumers affects people everywhere, from mining natural resources in developing nations to air and water pollution. We all need to work towards positive change.

Can you tell us about Pharrell Williams’ involvement with your album Lift Your SpiritPharrell produced the song Love Is The Answer. I was finished with the ten tracks that I wanted but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with Pharrell. He had a very clear goal in mind of what he wanted the song to sound like. I had a clear idea of the message and lyrics. I figured I would sing the strongest message I had on this song with the one of the world’s biggest producers.

Millions of EDM fans also know you for the track Wake Me Up, which you voiced and co-wrote with Avicii. How did that collaboration come about? Avicii contacted me to sing on his album. He was recommended to work with me by Mike Shinoda from Lincoln Park. After one studio session, Avicii invited me to another session with Mike Einziger from Incubus. I arrived with the lyrics for Wake Me Up and Mike played the guitar. We recorded the acoustic demo that night and a few days later Avicii finished his dance mix.

Did you have any idea that Wake Me Up would become as big as it did? The success of the song was a surprise. I’m still amazed by how well it has done. My goal is to make it to the songwriters’ Hall Of Fame, so I’m always going to write the best song possible. If it had commercial success then I’m happy, but success for me is making a great song that I’m proud of.

With its folk/country overtones, Wake Me Up was a bit of a curveball for the EDM crowd. How do you feel about genres being blended together like that? I love blending genres. My first solo album, Shine Through, consisted of multiple styles of music so this combination was not very strange to me. I didn’t even think twice about it. It just felt like a good song. In my opinion any song can be played in any style. What matters most is the quality

of the song writing first and the skill of the musicians in the recording.

Your real name is Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III. That’s quite a title… My birth name is very colonial and was chosen by my Jamaican great-grandfather who named my grandfather. There was a Dawkins slave plantation in Kingston and my family, along with others who are likely not blood relatives, adopted the plantation name. Egbert is a Dutch/German name that means ‘splendor of the sword’s tip’ and Nathaniel is a biblical name that means ‘gift from God’.

What music inspired you when you were younger? I grew up listening to and making hip hop music. I was a fan of A Tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube and Nas among others. I also loved Latin music because my parents are from Panama and I heard a lot of salsa, calypso and reggae.

May 1 and 2
Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, Dubai, Thur 6pm, Fri 4pm, Dhs350. Tel: (04) 4390900. Metro: Nakheel. blended.ae