At one time Bob Marley's most famous son, of late Ziggy Marley is concentrating on children's music before re-emerging with Wild And Free this month. His recording career began with his brothers and sisters, the Melody Makers, in 1979 with the Bob-written "Children Playing In The Streets." His peak commercial years were during the late '80s and early '90s with such albums as Conscious Party and Jahmekya, which evoked his father's personality within brighter, more pop-oriented material. He's won four Grammy awards and as a result of his work for the junior set, is now probably most recognizable for the theme to the relentlessly syndicated TV Show Arthur. He's changed up his approach for Wild And Free. It's still recognizably Ziggy's brand of easy skanking reggae but with a California soul/rock twist.
So what's it like working with your new band?
It says in your bio that Wild And Free was done with quite a few session musicians in California.
Not session musicians. We had Santa Davis on drums, who's a legendary Jamaican drummer (who is based in California). I have a crew in California and we use some of them and bring in some other musicians. [Bassist] Daryl [Jones] plays with the Rolling Stones, Miles Davis. They're not session musicians, just good musicians that I know.
The preproduction process was more detailed than ever before, can you tell me about how it affected the music?
Yes, usually I don't have things so thought out and complete before I get into the studio but this time I did. Just to give direction to the record and what I was feeling at the time. It's never about make this music for this reason or that reason, it's just how I feel right now. There's no other motive. There were a lot of ups and downs but it was great experience, it teach me a lot. Always the writing process teach me a lot about life. Patience and faith.
There are some new sounds in the recording, a lot of American classic soul influence, but it's more deeply incorporated into your trademark sound. Is that the intention, constant fusion but with respect to what's come before?
That sounds good but I didn't make it that way! That's a very good description. Maybe I should use it.
Hey, I'd write your bio. I'm available.
[Laughs] Well it's like all that stuff is in me. I like a lot of different music ― rock, hip-hop ― but it's a combination of all the stuff that subconsciously inspires the music.
"Wild and Free" was used in the campaign to legalize marijuana in California. Are you disappointed that initiative failed?
The song is written to stand up for your rights, the plant exists for the benefit of the planet in all its aspects. Not just the aspect that we all stereotypically smoke and get high. But medicinal and especially industrial use where people who aren't of a certain mindset don't know about. So this song is about the time when the plant will be wild and free.
Is there political allegory behind "Elizabeth"? If so, is it England you're talking about and comparing the Queen to a prostitute?
That song was written probably 20 years ago, a long time ago. I've been sitting on it for so long, I didn't really want to release it. because of the political connotation. I finally put it out. When I wrote the song, my mindset was a different way and things were different in the world. It's a little different and things became a little sensitive so I was trying to be careful.
So there's an Uncle Sam character and an Elizabeth character ― is she meant to be the queen of England?
I don't know, I'm not sure. I can't translate it for nobody.
You've been very successful in working with kids TV. When did that start and what kind of artistic fulfilment do you get from that?
I get a fulfilment not necessarily working as an artist but as a human being. For me that is the most beneficial thing I could do because to affect children in a positive way is to effect positive change in the world. Things won't change overnight but things will change in time so children are the hope of that time. It's like some people invest money at a certain interest rate but if we invest in children we can make a big profit down the line as a planet! Maybe we can find leaders who aren't corrupt who will do the right things for people. Because right now we have none. Right now the world, everybody is for themselves and the world is economic schemes and political strategy that work for the minority of people while the majority of people suffer.
Well every single Marley family member has been dedicated to the upliftment and unity of people around the world to fight against oppression, what you're describing is very consistent with that message.
Speaking of your dad, what do you think of the court case last year that ruled your father was an employee for hire of Universal records?
Listen, anybody who knows my father knows better than that. It's what I just spoke about it's a big corporation always trying to take advantage of the people. It's corporations trying to protect themselves.
As you continue with your own musical career, do you find that something you're mindful of?
I'm very mindful. That's why I'm independent. That is what my father wanted to be. He didn't want to have his records owned by a record company, he wanted to own his own records. So now my record isn't owned by anyone. We get distribution, it's not easy. It's not glamorous, you don't get all that much publicity, but it works. Morally and spiritually, it works.
Recently, Damian joined that supergroup with Mick Jagger. Do you feel rivalry with your brothers?
There's no rivalry. Everything the whole family does is right and positive. Each of us has our own little nation, our own little sound that we do. It's quite different what I do from Steve or Damian, Julian has a different sound. It's not like we're using the same band and doing the same things. It's different; it should be because we're different individuals.
What do you think of the state of reggae today? Is it strong in Jamaica?
In Jamaica, I always kind of complain a little bit about what is being the most dominant sound, what you'd hear on the radio. The fact is that I don't think we cherish the history of the music enough where the younger generation knows enough about past generations. To pay nuff respect to them, but reggae music in general is always on the rise. It's not like disco, a sound that comes and goes, reggae music is forever. It's not a fad. It's always rising; it'll never get there but it's always going there. It keeps progressing.