Ziggy Marley, the eldest son of reggae icons Bob Marley and Rita Marley, has a message for the world and he’s spreading it in as many ways as he can. As a musician, he’s won several Grammys for his albums, produced an album of children’s songs, and is now gearing up to release his brand new album Fly Rasta, followed by an international tour. But that’s not it – He has injected his creativity into comic books, children’s books, activism, and his very own organic food line; all in the hopes of spreading love, peace, and respect for the earth. If you think Ziggy Marley is just about music, you’d be wrong.
His focus right now is being channeled into Fly Rasta, which is set for release on April 15th and will include ten tracks featuring U-Roy and the Melody Makers, including Cedella Marley, Sharon Marley, and Rica Newell. Ziggy has already released a few of the songs off the album to give fans a taste of what’s to come, as well as a music video for the title track, “Fly Rasta”. His energy for the album, inspiration for new projects, and his love for his fans radiated throughout the conversation with The Pier. Read on to hear more about Fly Rasta, his upcoming performances, working with his family, and more.
First of all, I wanted to congratulate you on your recent Grammy win for best reggae album of the year. That’s your sixth one right?
It is the fifth one in best reggae, but sixth overall.
That’s right, sixth overall. So what were your thoughts when you heard that your album In Concert had won the award?
My first thought was…I think I was watching a soccer game. It’s cool and I have a good appreciation, you know, I respect the Grammys.
Right, and not only did you just celebrate the Grammy win but you’re also gearing up for the release of your upcoming album Fly Rasta and that’s already received a huge amount of attention, especially when you released the title track and the music video for that featuring Jim Mahfood. What do you think about all the hype that this album has gotten so far, and where do you think it’s coming from?
I don’t know where it’s coming from, I mean maybe it’s coming from the music that they hear, I don’t know…I have no idea where the hype is coming from… Maybe I’m hyping it up…I hype it up.
What were your creative thoughts behind the video you posted for the single that featured Jim Mahfood painting to the music?
We just wanted to do something cool, you know? I like Jim, he did the the art for the Marijuanaman graphics, so it’s something that’s different and interesting and it interests me.
I also heard that you’re giving away a packet of wild flowers with every album, what’s that about?
(Hahaha) -They are a part of the earth, they are a part of the planet and let you become a part of the planet, so you understand the delicacies of the whole earth. It’s about getting back to the earth because there’s a song on the album called “I Don’t Want to Live on Mars” and it’s a love song. We want people to get back to the earth, ya know, remember the planet more, and the more we can sustain and the more we can flourish.
Right and make it a beautiful place. I just saw that you posted a photo on Facebook with you and Judah filming for the music video for that song, how did that go?
It was good, we finished it and we just need to see how it looks and then we’ll be putting it out.
When can fans expect the video to be posted?
The video…probably in late April once we make sure everything is alright. It’s a fun video, I enjoyed it.
That’s great! So what can fans expect from the new album? I know you’ve mentioned that it has a new focus, a new sound and is different from past albums. Can you explain how it’s different?
Different…I mean it’s not like a great big leap, but it’s different because with a new planet, there’s new sounds and new music and it’s different because it naturally couldn’t be the same thing we played on the last record. I think there’s more adventure, there’s more use of the universe of music, you know, I think of it as a mind expanding thing. We went out even more into the universe than we did with the last one. But with every album, we venture out further into the galaxy of music. You know what I’m saying? This one goes further out there, looking for more sounds, that’s what we do. Every album is a further step out into the universe.
I can understand that. You also recorded with a lot of family members on this album, how did that feel? Was it like a reunion?
It was really good! I mean musically, it really added something to the album! It kind of finished the record, like this is the cherry on top. Having Cedella and everyone, it was a cherry on top.
I’m sure! Did it feel like old times with the Melody Makers?
No! It feel like new times! Good times ya know?
Yeah, haha it’s all new.
So in addition to the album, you’ll also be busy on a national and international tour and one of the main venues you’ll be playing at is the Cali Roots festival in May. Is this your first time playing at Cali roots?
I think so…yeah.
The festival has a huge range of bands, whether they’re just breaking into the reggae scene, or have decades of experience. Do you think this new wave of reggae artists brings in a mix of new and old fans?
Yah mon. Music lives mon. Reggae lives.
So you can tell there’s a mix of fresh fans and old dedicated fans?
Yah mon, it’s always been that way. Reggae music has always been a music that has new fans and those that love it who always love it.
Absolutely, and that makes me wonder if that says something bigger about the genre in general, because it always has that mix of old and new. What are your thoughts on how reggae is always changing?
Well…it depends on the individual artist since they’re individual people and what their mindset is to the music. It’s found a place in all generations. It has strong roots as a genre and it will always be the music that is known to uplift and known to be meditative and help people. It’s well known that the reputation of our music is very positive and it will always be that way.
Where do you think reggae will go in the next, five, ten, fifteen years?
Fly Rasta! We are just starting, but Fly Rasta is the music we are going to in the next five or ten years, it’s already there and it’s Fly Rasta.
I agree! Now are there any new wave reggae bands that you’ve taken a notice to?
I’ve been so busy with this record work and practice that I haven’t really had a chance to check out anything. Everything has been about Fly Rasta right now, ya know?
Understandable. So will you be playing mostly new music from Fly Rasta at Cali Roots or some old material also?
That makes it tough, that makes it tough. Blend the new and the old ya know.
Any cover songs?
Yeah some cover songs, my fathers songs mostly. I like doing that. I like playing those songs.
I think your fans like to hear them too. So I had the opportunity to interview your son, Daniel, this past summer about his music success & I was just wondering what your thoughts were about his direction in the music industry?
Nice. He has the freedom with his direction, he’s exploring. You know when we were young, we had to explore and try some things to see what works and what doesn’t work, so he’s at that stage, working it out and trying to figure out what is what and find a place that he can be comfortable in.
I know you were exposed to being in a music recording studio with your own father at a young age, so do you think Daniel has been able to have that same experience?
Some of it, but it’s gonna be different. It’s not gonna be the same, he cannot really experience the same experiences, you can only create new experiences that haven’t happened before and live your own experience based on what you do and your point of view and your way of expressing yourself.
You have so many projects going on right now with the new album, shooting music videos, the Marijuanaman comic book series, a children’s book, Marley organics…it’s just incredible how many things you have going on right now. How do you possibly find the time to take on so many projects?
You set it up and you let it go. I’m not constantly trying to be in the money and business side of things, like many artists do. It’s all to expand where I am and where the message lives, because the message doesn’t only live in the music, the message lives in comic books, the message lives in children’s books, the message lives in food. It’s just a way to expand the message.
All through so many creative outlets. How do you decide what project gets your attention? Right now, obviously, Fly Rasta is the focus, but how do you normally decide that?
I think the way I decide is that it just flows naturally because it’s just the way it’s supposed to be, what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s not like a big list of things to do. Things come from a creative point of view and a point of view of how can this help other people? It comes from a place that says, ‘how can I help somebody?’, not ‘how can I make money or how can I exploit this or exploit that’. When the intention is a good and positive intention, there’s not much negativity about the choice, you have to do it.
Absolutely, and I think that’s a great model to set for other musicians in the industry to not worry about the business and just follow the passion and stay with the music that you love to do. Do you try to target the same audience in all your projects? Do you think the same audience that’s reading Marijuanaman is also the one that’s listening to Fly Rasta?
You have to try to expand, because..what do they call it…preaching to the choir? Or preaching to the church or whatever that saying is, if you keep talking to your own people, then where do you go from there? You have to expand the messages to the world and reach more people than just your own circle; that’s what this is all for. It’s not just for me and you, it’s for everyone out there to hear and know. Target the whole world, ya know?
Sure, and keep reaching out. So can you tell me a little bit about the Fly Rasta artwork on the album cover? Was that your design?
Oh no no, I haven’t reached there yet! Just one project at a time.
Maybe some day!
Yes, maybe some day I’ll be there, that’s where the message will be haha. But no it was by an artist Salazar, his name is on the record. I saw a piece of his art and I really liked it so that’s the artist concept for the album cover.
So you’re going to be in Brussels on April 15th, which is also the day your new album drops right? Will you have any special release plans for that?
No, no, I mean the concert will be the whole party, that’s where we do everything. That’s the way to do it–by experiencing the music.
Sounds like Ziggy has enough to keep him busy and the fans happy for months to come. Yet, the most refreshing part about his projects is his sense of humility and lack of commercial interests. It’s clear that he’s in the music industry just for his love of music and the fans, not by making huge sums of money and becoming a celebrity. Ziggy’s clear focus on the message and quality of everything he puts his name on, serves as a model for others in the industry to follow.
Get ready for the release of Fly Rasta on April 15th and his upcoming shows!
Watch: Ziggy Marley – “Fly Rasta” (ft. U-Roy)