Grammy-winning singer-songwriter discusses his father’s legacy and explains why every song on his latest album is from his heart; he also performs a track from “Wild and Free.”
Musician Ziggy Marley
Tavis: Pleased to welcome Ziggy Marley back to this program. The five-time Grammy winner is out next week with a new solo project called “Wild and Free.” As I mentioned at the top, this year also marks the 30th anniversary, believe it or not, of the passing of his iconic father. In just a few minutes he’ll perform song from the new project, but first, Ziggy, good to have you back on the program.
Ziggy Marley: Yeah, thanks for having me, Tavis.
Tavis: You been good?
Marley: Yeah, man, I’ve been good.
Tavis: Good. Thirty years.
Tavis: Thirty years.
Marley: Doesn’t seem that long to me, though.
Tavis: It doesn’t seem that long?
Marley: It seems like yesterday, still. Yeah, I don’t know – we live with him every day, you know what I mean? I see him every day anyway. Actually, I just – we’re doing a documentary about him with a director named Kevin MacDonald, so I just saw, like, a screening of where we are already, and it’s pretty heavy. The emotion is still high. We still have that emotional thing. I remember the day, and it’s not too long for me.
Tavis: I would think that one of the reasons, Ziggy, why it seems like yesterday for you – you tell me – but I would think that one of the reasons why it seems so soon, so recent, is because people won’t let you forget it.
In other words, everywhere you go (laughter) people are playing your dad’s music, everywhere you go, people are still talking about Bob Marley, everywhere you go, you see posters of Bob Marley.
I don’t mean just in Jamaica, I mean around the world, obviously. But I remember having this conversation with some members of the King family, and if everywhere you look up you see street signs with your dad’s name on it, or Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and holidays every year, it’s kind of hard to ever put it in the past when people are reminding you of it every day. Is that part of what this is about?
Marley: Yeah, man, that’s a part of it, of course. But I don’t mind at all. I don’t mind. My father, his spirit is with me constantly, and I’m a believer in that world and the world of dreams and that stuff. So I’ve had dreams of my father over the years, and that’s the way I really stay connected to him now, you know what I mean? He’s still in my subconscious. He lives in there.
Tavis: When you say you don’t mind, how is it that you don’t mind, how is it that you’ve come not to mind, when you’ve tried to create – you’ve done a good job, obviously – but when one has to create his own career, his own song stylings, find his own voice in the massive shadow of a guy like Bob Marley. How do you do that and not mind?
Marley: Well, I think in the beginning it was – well, I wasn’t as conscious of it as I am now, but in the beginning it was harder. But I think it’s humility. Because Bob was such a great artist and individual, you have to be humble. You have to look at the bigger picture of what the movement and what he was about, and on your place in that movement.
I think that is the main key to it, where I was very humble. I wasn’t trying to – I wasn’t really trying hard to step out of his shoes. I was doing it, but I wasn’t, like, angry at why am I always in the shadow of my – I wasn’t angry about it. I accepted it and I was humble enough.
But then after so many years in the music industry and becoming a man, I’m much more comfortable with who I am now and so much more comfortable with that fact. I can live with it very easily.
Tavis: Was there ever a point where you were upset, had to wrestle with, find your way through the comparisons between Ziggy and Bob? Because that’s inevitable. Was there ever a point where that just got to you?
Marley: Well, it get to me sometimes back in the day. It’s the critics who cannot see – just judge your thing on its own thing. It’s always compared to – and you’re not trying – it’s not fair to really compare to that, because you’re not trying to be like that. You’re trying to be your thing. You should just judge it on its own merit.
But sometimes, that would get to me. Like, why them always (unintelligible) that? It’s not about that. It’s just about what it is for its own work of art. Think about it in that way. But at the time – but again, those things, we don’t keep them on our minds. Just let it go.
Tavis: Well, you Marleys stick together as a family, because the last time you were on this program your daughter was on your project. This time your son is on the project. So you keep it in the family, I see.
Marley: Yeah, man, we’re always – they’re interested in music, the kids are, and we try to encourage them if that’s where they want to go. But still, we encourage them with a realistic point of view where listen, just like it wasn’t for me the way it was for my father, it won’t be for you. It’s not easy. It’s hard work – hard, hard work, because the generation of today is more different than even my generation.
They have a much more easier, a much more smoother road. So the mission is to instill in them hard work, hard work. Don’t make it be easy – hard work.
Tavis: How do you do that? I’m glad you raise this, because this is not just a question that the Marley family wrestles with. I know a whole lot of families in this day and age who are trying to instill that in their kids and the more they have, the more they have access to, the more difficult it is to get them to focus on the fact that there ain’t no shortcut – it’s about hard work. You’ve got to work hard. How do you go about doing that, instilling that in them?
Marley: Well, again, it’s such a learning process, because I had kids when I was young, and I really never understand it that much, that well, at that time. But as I grew and I saw how they were growing, I was kind of like this is not right. It cannot work that way.
Them have to be able to have a mentality that yeah, my father have, but I need to work for my own thing too. I can’t just be lazy, sitting around, thinking it’s just going to happen. So we do it with hard love and sometimes they hate you for that. But eventually they will understand it, but I tell you. (Laughter)
Tavis: That sense of entitlement can be tough, can’t it?
Tavis: That entitlement, that can be tough, man, yeah.
Marley: Yeah, entitlement, yeah.
Tavis: Yeah. (Laughs) Speaking of your son Daniel on this project, how would you describe the new project, “Wild and Free?”
Marley: “Wild and Free” I think is a – I started out with this idea of it being a project around telling people about hemp, the industrial uses, and I like the title, “Wild and Free.” But I think that the project is right now – I think it’s my most personal project, in terms of what I’m singing about.
Every song on this album is from my heart, is from my perspective, basically. I’m not singing about – I’m not commenting. It’s my experiences in life. So I think the relation with the title, “Wild and Free,” is that I am much more freely able to express myself honestly to the public without trying to polish it over, trying to hide something. I’m just trying to be free with my expression.
Tavis: You’re not the first person to do a project that is trying to make a social statement, trying to comment about issues that matter to you. There are all kinds of folks – Marvin Gaye most famously comes to mind with “What’s Going On,” something that everybody can just familiarize themselves with right quick.
So there’ve been any number of projects. Not every song lyric has to be socially redemptive, but there have been artists and projects that are trying to make a statement.
So Ziggy Marley is talking about an issue that matters to him and trying to get us to look at it in a different way, but when you are unapologetically, and by your own admission, putting out a project that talks about, as you say, “hemp,” or cannabis or marijuana by any other name, when you put a project out that talks about that, how do you do that and make the music entertaining?
You’re making a statement, but how do you do that and make the music entertaining, not make it preachy, not proselytize, not stand on a soapbox about the issue, but you are an artist. We buy this; we want to be entertained by it. How do you do all of that?
Marley: I make music that I know that people will enjoy, and balance the ideas and philosophy that we put in music with music that when we play it live, people can move to it and groove to it. I think that’s the way. I don’t think too much about it because as an artist myself I don’t like to be preached. I want to enjoy myself as well, so I kind of use that perspective to make music.
Tavis: Woody Harrelson.
Marley: Yeah, Woody. (Laughter) Why everybody laugh?
Tavis: Why everybody laughs – because it’s Woody Harrelson, that’s why everybody’s laughing. (Laughter) Track number one, “Wild and Free,” featuring Woody Harrelson. How did that happen, right quick?
Marley: Yeah, Woody is a friend of ours. We share some likes and stuff and ideas, and he came around the house when I was recording the song. I didn’t expect Woody to be on the record, really. I just said, “Woody, come on.” I was joking.
He came, but when he sang, I was like, “Oh, that’s cool, Woody, let’s put you on the record,” and he was up to it and we did it and that was it.
Tavis: So if on your next project I just happen to stop by the house (laughter), is it possible that I could end up on the record?
Marley: It’s possible (unintelligible) yes, sir. (Laughter)
Tavis: All right. I’ll be by, then, in a few weeks. Ziggy suggested a moment ago he’s not trying to preach, not trying to proselytize. He wants us to enjoy his music, so we’ll give you a chance right now to see whether or not, and I’m sure you will, you enjoy the new stuff from Ziggy Marley.
The new project is called “Wild and Free,” and we are now going to have a special performance from Ziggy Marley in a moment. (Laughter) Ziggy Marley in just a moment – stay with us.
From his forthcoming CD, “Wild and Free,” here is Ziggy Marley, performing “Forward to Love.” Enjoy.
[Live musical performance]
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