The rich cultural diversity of the US – and how it has shaped the music we listen to today – is the underlying theme of America’s Musical Journey (2018), one of the latest 3D IMAX movies to hit theaters worldwide.
Starring Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc (“Brooklyn In the Summer,” Avicii’s “Wake Me Up”) and narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman, the film takes viewers on a musical expedition across ten iconic US cities including New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, New York City and Nashville, introducing the visionaries, artists, music makers and innovators who have molded America’s culture.
Blacc sat down with Culture Trip to discuss his musical journey across the country, as well as how music offers unique insight into a place’s past and people.
Culture Trip: What made you want to be a part of America’s Musical Journey?
Aloe Blacc: Well, I love music – obviously, it’s part of my career – and this was a great opportunity to explore the roots of American music and at the same time learn more about the cities that I’ve traveled to before but never had the opportunity to spend time in. As a touring artist, you get to spend maybe a night in a city. This gave me the opportunity to spend a lot more time in each place.
And you were able to travel to just about every region of the country, correct?
Yes. We put together a tour that was based on cities where different genres of music were born. We wanted to touch upon soul music, rock music, country, pop, blues and jazz. So, we found the cities where these genres were born, and these are the cities we decided to visit.
Was there any particular place that had an especially profound effect on you as a musician?
New Orleans is a phenomenal city, full of energy and life, music and culture. It’s the birthplace of jazz, and jazz was very influential in the creation of genres that are important in my life. There are several figures in the jazz world that have inspired me to do what I do, one of whom we showcase in the film is Louis Armstrong, who became the ambassador of jazz music to the world.
In addition to history, what else can we learn about a place through its music?
Through music, you can get a sense of whether a place’s people are extroverted or introverted. The grunge music that came out of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest isn’t the same as the Miami Sound Machine that came out of the Southeast. The energy is different; the presentation is different. There’s a different character and personality going on there.
Take rock and blues. Even though rock is a derivative of blues, there’s a different character. Blues is more laid-back and relaxed and contemplative, where rock is more expressive and deliberate. And I think that with those kinds of things, you get a sense of the people from the sound and style of music.
You talk about the differences in the musical styles of each region of the country, but did you notice any similarities in any of these cities and their music?
There is a similarity in that music is the common thread – it binds us all. It helps us to experience and celebrate our happy times. It helps us to be comforted in our sad times. And every city uses music as a form of communal communication. It’s hard to find a place where people aren’t entertaining themselves with music.
Many musical genres that were created in America were born during the darker moments of the country’s history as a response to the atrocities of those times. In this way, it seems that music can paint a picture of our past in addition to our contemporary culture.
It does, and we explore that in the film. American music is a representation of the immigrant story. And whether it was voluntary immigration or forced immigration, for whatever the reason why people came to the US, they brought their culture and their music with them, and those musical styles have combined in remarkable ways.
You wrote a song called “My Story” that was inspired by your journey across the country. Do you think that your experiences while making this film will continue to influence your music going forward?
I certainly feel like doing this has given me the motivation to learn more about the musical histories of the cities that I visited. And I imagine that that will influence the music that I make. I’m always inspired by music of the past; I spend a lot of time listening to music that’s pre-1970s. And getting into the depth of a city and the music that was born there will definitely inspire me going forward.
Are there any other music cities that you didn’t visit while filming, but would like to go back to and explore in more depth?
We didn’t touch on funk, and there was a lot of funk that came out the Midwest. We went to Detroit for soul music. But Ohio and Minnesota would be a couple of places that I’d like to visit to explore funk.
What do you hope that audiences will take away from America’s Musical Journey?
I hope audiences find their own reasons to visit the cities that I visited. And that they find something special about them in the music they are representative of. I think that everyone has something to offer, whether they sing, play an instrument or dance. So I hope that they find their own musical voice, some way to express themselves.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.