As a third generation Marley, Jo Mersa has whole-heartedly embraced the family legacy, and is making a name for himself in the music industry. With Jo barely taking a break in between touring with his father, Stephen Marley, and hitting the road again with Slightly Stoopid, The Pier was lucky enough to chat with him about the projects he’s got on his plate this year. After debuting several songs from his new & debut EP Comfortable while on tour, the EP was ready for release on June 10. Along with preparing for the release, Jo has kept himself busy filming music videos for several of the songs, including title track “Comfortable”, which he described in detail, from the original vision to working with the director, and the final product.
Although he wouldn’t give away all the details about his upcoming video projects, he shared the intimate story of how singing lullabies to his baby sister turned into one of the main tracks on the EP, exemplifying the meaningfulness behind his work. He attributes a lot of his success to the advice and support of his family and friends, explaining that the foundation to his music comes from past music and his elders. His pride and gratefulness for having family and friends by his side exuded throughout the interview. Read on to get the full story on this talented musician as he develops and grows a sound of his own within the Marley name.
The Pier: First of all, I wanted to thank you for taking the time today to answer some questions for us.
Jo Mersa: Thank you for having me (haha).
The Pier: So, you just finished up a tour across the country with your dad, Stephen Marley. You must be still trying to rest and relax after such a big tour, right?
Jo Mersa: Haha yeah, I mean, I’m getting there, I’m almost revived and I’ll be ready for the next run.
The Pier: Good! Because you’ve got a lot coming up! I know you were performing songs from the new Comfortable EP as the opening act for your dad’s Fruit of Life Tour, how did fans react to the new material?
Jo Mersa: Nice…they like it! I’m thankful for the reaction and the response that I’ve gotten to the music.
The Pier: Did you play those songs to give fans a taste of what’s to come and hype up the new release?
Jo Mersa: Yeah, it was to give them a taste of what was coming on the album. Also it just felt right doing it, you know? But it’s only a taste.
The Pier: Your new EP released on June 10th & it seems like the fans have been waiting for it too with Facebook and Twitter flooded with comments about it.
Jo Mersa: Yes, they’ve been patiently waiting. They’ve been waiting…too long.
The Pier: When making the EP, was there a lot of material you had to choose from? How did you decide what songs to include and what ones not to?
Jo Mersa: Yes and no. We had songs to decide through and we already had songs that were set to be on it, you know? That’s just…It’s whichever one is most ready for the time, and how it feels. Whichever song is talking to you the most and telling you: “Put me on now, I’m ready!”
The Pier: Does anyone else help you out with that decision? I know you have a lot of people you can reach out to.
Jo Mera: Yeah, I ask them. My main friends, my father, my uncle, my brethren, my brothers.
The Pier: How involved were they in the process of making this EP?
Jo Mersa: They’re involved. Just as involved as me, I would say, because they’re there while I’m in the process of making it or writing it, or recording it…or building the beat and they’re always giving me advice and saying their opinions and always giving constructive criticism. I wouldn’t say they’re hard or anything on me, but they just give me their honest opinion.
The Pier: I was wondering…A lot of the songs focus on your experience with women and relationships, especially in the song “Bogus” about the lack of sincerity in some women…now are these songs about any girls in particular? Or just a bigger message?
Jo Mersa: [laughter]
The Pier: Didn’t see that one coming did ya?
Jo Mersa: No, no…That’s the first. [More laughter]
The Pier: Well, that’s what I’m here for — hard-hitting questions!
Jo Mersa: Ahh, that’s very funny…haha…But it’s for the message, really. They are personal; so yes…it’s both, ya know?
The Pier: Okay, fair enough. We don’t have to name names! So you also released a music video for the title track “Comfortable”. Can you explain the concept for that video and who came up with it?
Jo Mersa: It was my father that came up with the concept. Its really like…you see that glimpse in the whole yard, as a family…you know what I mean? You kind of see that and it’s a very private video with comfort and vibe and…it shows that other side in a sense.
The Pier: Yeah, it shows that personal side…
Jo Mersa: Yeah, in a kinda sense…its kinda like a family barbeque thing, and its one of those vibes for me. The director is a great director and the video has been released for a year and change now, and at the time, I was not as friendly with the camera yet, if you get what I’m saying, but he made that easy for me. He compromised and yet he still got a lot of natural material. That was a regular day. There was no scene 1, scene 2. It was already just a family barbeque first.
The Pier: Right, it seemed like a little snapshot of life. You looked very comfortable in front of the camera, so I have to say you and the director did a great job. Are you planning on doing any videos for your others songs yet?
Jo Mersa: We’re working on doing one for “Sunshine” very soon.
The Pier: That song had something to do with your baby sister, right? Will the video be another one of those family snapshot moments?
Jo Mersa: I started creating the song singing to my sister, that’s how I made it. When she was a newly born baby, a couple months old, my father tells me, this was a couple years ago, like 4 or 5, but I was holding her and she wasn’t used to me, so she was crying and bawling, and the tears – the works. I’m there, and I’m trying everything to sooth her and get her comfortable, ya know? Anything I was trying didn’t work – I would make silly faces, I would do everything to try and get this little girl to stop crying. And then I just start humming a melody… I just start going like [sings simple melody] and I wasn’t doing it for confidence, I was unsure, but she stopped. She stopped for a second and then I went on doing it more confident [sings melody louder], and I would end up doing that for a little while until she started getting comfortable in my arms. That’s how that came along. And then what happened was that I would be walking around, singing the melody to myself, even when she wasn’t around. Late one night, we sat down and started putting together a drum pattern and I started singing the melody and I said to play some pianos that go along with it, some little lullaby piano you know? That’s how she helped me with the song.
The Pier: That is such a good story, thank you for sharing that with us. Have you decided what you’re going to do for the video yet?
Jo Mersa: I’m not gonna tell you. I’m not gonna spoil it, you’re trying to take from the surprise. No no, I’m kidding [laughter]. I can tell you this, It’ll be something cozy and intimate.
The Pier: Well, after hearing that story, I should think it would be something like that, so I look forward to it.
Jo Mersa: It’s going to have my sisters in there, but the “Sunshine” is more deeper. It’s not talking about just my sister.
The Pier: Right, that makes sense. So I wanted to ask you about your upcoming tour. I know you just came back from one, but you’ll be going right back out in July and August with Slightly Stoopid. What can fans expect from that? Will it be more music from the EP?
Jo Mersa: No, you’ll have to see. I don’t know yet. We’ll have to see what Slightly Stoopid has in store. You know, to be quite honest with you, I don’t even think so. You’ll probably get one or two songs, but not as much as I just did on the Revelation tour. I don’t think the time permits me to do as much.
The Pier: So does that mean brand new music, or old music, or maybe a mix?
Jo Mersa: That’s what I don’t know…what I’m going to do yet. We’ll have to see, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. I know I’ll be more than likely doing one of my father’s songs that will be coming out on his album. Something I’ve been very excited for, same way you’ll be getting a lot of energy from it.
The Pier: I think fans will definitely appreciate that. So you’ve been playing music since a very young age. I was wondering how you’ve shaped your sound to what it is now, and maybe where it’s going in the future?
Jo Mersa: My elders have a lot to do with that and the music itself…Music of today and the foundation of music in general. I’ve gotten a lot of those things from my father. He’s a historian of the music, reggae music, and he knows a lot. I’ll tell you this. He’s very peculiar, you know? He’s interested and listens to everything. But it has to have that singing, rapping, DJing with a message and it has to have potential as a song and it has to have that foundation. Everything in music has been repeated, but someone does it in their own way…their own little different way…. but it’s still something that’s been done before. I’ve learned a lot from them, I’ll just tell you that.
The Pier: I have to tell you, I interviewed your Uncle Ziggy and he said something very similar, how music repeats but everyone does it in a different way, so that’s interesting.
Jo Mersa: Well I’ve learned a lot from them, even Uncle Ziggy. All three of them have influences from my grandfather. A lot of times, the music itself is such a huge influence – the people and the great music that they put out, and the great music my family has put out – that has influenced me and had shaping. My father would usually listen to a lot of DJs like Nina Simone, a lot of old people. Same thing with my Uncle Ziggy. They would listen to Jimmy Cliff, to Aretha Franklin, to Ska…you hear them listening to a lot of other things. They listen to rock, they listen to pop…it’s not something that stays in one zone or genre. So what I can really tell you is music shapes. And where I see myself in the future is where my music decides to take me and what is speaking to me at the time.
The Pier: That makes sense. That brings me into my last question…It’s hard to miss the fact that you’re a Marley, but what does that mean to you? Is there ever any pressure being the “next generation Marley”?
Jo Mersa: No, no there’s no pressure. There’s things that you have to overcome and things you just have to do and that’s how it is. We have to go through life you know? There’s no pressure for me. I give thanks for being a Marley. I’m very appreciative and thankful that I am born where I am born and put where God has decided. I’m very thankful about it and proud. I would tell you the best thing I can do, is to do what I love and know I like to do it. It may be different and it may be similar, but it’s going to have that root to it. It still has to pay homage and has to honor my roots, you understand?
The Pier: Absolutely. Thank you so much! The stories you gave were great. Best of luck with the new EP & Touring!
Watch: Jo Mersa – “Comfortable”