ZIGGY MARLEY – Man of Dreams, Visions, and Ideas
Interview and photos by Jan Salzman
January 7, 2008 – Los Angeles, CA – Ziggy Marley is a four-time Grammy winner who has been playing and recording music for more than 20 years. David “Ziggy” Marley, the eldest son of Reggae legend Bob Marley and wife Rita, first experienced recording and performing at the tender age of ten. His main message was, is, and always will be Love.
He began recording independently in 2003 when he released his first solo album entitled Dragonfly. His most recent endeavor, Love Is My Religion, has received worldwide acclaim and earned him his fourth Grammy Award. He took some time to talk with Reggae Report recently after sound check at the Greek Theatre in Hollywood, California. We spoke about his philosophy, music, dreams, and a few secret projects he’s been working on. Here’s our conversation with Ziggy Marley!
JS: You’ve been touring heavily the past two years. Have you built up some experiences to trigger new songs…like you did with “Love Is My Religion?”
ZM: Yeah, I mean…we’ve been on the road, and what it did is…it kinda help me relate to the audience better. The more you play in front of people, is the more you understand what it is.
JS: Is your message in “Love Is My Religion” being accepted worldwide?
ZM: Yeah, yeah. It’s hard to not accept love. Love is something that every human being needs. So it’s really hard for somebody to say I don’t want to hear that song or I don’t want to sing that song. Everywhere we go people sing it if we ask them.
JS: According to the songs “Lifetime,” Beach In Hawaii,” and “Make Some Music” it appears your lovely wife is a great inspiration to you. Do you have more love songs coming?
ZM: Yeah, I mean…Everything is about love really. Songs that don’t specifically speak of love…we sing them because we have love. So if we’re sing a song about oppression, freedom, it’s because we have love for the people. There’s nothing that doesn’t come from love when it comes to me, and my music, and what I have to say. That is the foundation of all my cares and concerns, hopes and dreams… all from love.
JS: Are any of your children interested in the music business yet?
ZM: Yeah…the oldest one, Daniel, him a try to do some music things. He’s interested, but fe dem future, it’s their future, so we’ll see what happens.
JS: You wrote a song about your best friend. Is that dedicated to anyone in particular?
ZM: Well, in particular, it is about all the people who I’ve been around who care. My mother, my father, my brothers, my sisters, my woman. It’s about all of my friends dem. All my real friends dem, who really care about me and have love. It’s really for everyone [though] ‘cause a lot of times songs are much bigger than even what we perceive them to be. At times, even when we write a song it develops its own area of growth. Every song has a life of its own. It always means more than what you think. I know that. Maybe nobody else knows it, but I know dem always have other meanings…always deeper meanings.
JS: What would you be doing if you weren’t a music star? What kind of profession?
ZM: I don’t know if I would be a professional anything. I don’t think I could have a 9 to 5 job, with structure and like that. I like freedom. I know I would do something that would be helping people, cause that is a part of who I am. But in particular, I don’t know what. I have a lot of skills, you know? I could be a farmer, I could be a caregiver, I could be somebody that does charity…I really could be anything I want to be. My mind is open. I have a wide view of the world, so I could do anything if I wasn’t in the music business. That doesn’t mean that music wouldn’t still be a part of my life, cause music would always be a part of my life, it’s just that I wouldn’t be IN the business. I like just living simple, so I would probably have a piece of land and grow food and just live. (laughs) Yeah. And whoever comes in contact with me would hear me speak the things I speak in my music, which is love and rights and freedom. Those things are still inside of me. They would just come out in another way. Maybe not such in a public way, but they would still come out.
JS: Of your vast repertoire, do you have any favorite songs?
ZM: “Love Is My Religion” is my favorite song. The reason for that is because, it’s a song inspired by what people call God. We say Jah, some people say whatever, but it is a song inspired by the infinite knowledge that is out there. That song is coming from the source of all things. I appreciate being the vessel that was chosen to give that message to the world. I love it because I am happy that I was chosen to give the message.
JS: Do you have any favorites among your father’s songs?
ZM: No, not really among my father’s songs. There is one album [however] that was very influential when I was growing up – Survival. This is a song that I used to play a lot when I was in high school. I used to play it every day. It started to mold or open up my mind to, I would say, a revolutionary (way) of thinking…struggles of Africa, black people. I want to seek more knowledge regarding Africa and the struggles of black people all over the world. That’s the only album I really played over and over again.
JS: What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
ZM: The biggest obstacle is the obstacle that is in our mind. It is doubt. It is frustration. There is nothing that we can’t do. There is nothing can stop us. Obviously we have ups and downs, trials and tribulations. These internal struggles are the obstacles to achieve a positive way of living, to understanding unconditional love and to living that concept. These are what I overcome. I overcome the internal battle. The battle of conscience. The battle of what is right and what is wrong, and knowing what to do when you have that question in front of you. Do you go left, do you go right, do you go around? It is an internal struggle. This is what we overcome in life to achieve where we are today.
JS: How was it striking out on your own after having your brother and sisters to play with…musically?
ZM: It was a good experience. It is like when a bird have a chick and the first time the chick fly out of the nest. It’s a freedom, it’s an independence, it is a test of me as a man. So for me…everything happens in life for the purpose. That happened [and] it tell me to grow. It helped me to be a man…from a boy to a man. It helped me to depend on myself. It helped me to face all these obstacles that we speak about on my own…without no distraction…without no one to share certain burdens, yeah? We have fe deal with it weself. So it was almost like an initiation into the other or next level of my existence. That was my initiation…going out on my own. It was a spiritual and physical initiation. It was necessary and there was a reason why it happened. That was the reason. To help me develop spiritually, mentally, to move to the next level of my existence.
JS: Your song “Still The Storms” seems rather prophetic in the aftermath of hurricane Dean. Do you have any comments about this?
ZM: Well, you know…it’s the Almighty, you nah mean? It’s really the Almighty. It’s not a prophetic thing. We grasp music from a well, and certain songs come from that “well.” And that well is established for us to draw from, or us to be given from, and that’s what we talked about [as] the Source. That’s where we get a lot of songs from…that Infinite Source, that infinite Knowledge that lets us sing and speak things that sometimes seem profound. It’s not really from us. It’s not about me…who I am…it’s about what the Source IS. And that is where we give the credit. It’s not prophetic, it’s just reality.
JS: What do you like to do in your spare time?
ZM: Spare time me like to do nutin’ you know. (we laugh) Nothing! That’s what I like to do.
JS: I know you like to play video games…
ZM: That’s nothing! (laughs) That’s a part of doing nothing. Hey. That’s all right. After awhile I get tired [of that.] You know what I like to do? I like planes, right, so I build computers sometime, in my spare time. I put in software that simulates airplane. I‘m very imaginative, so I use my imagination and I pretend that I’m a pilot flying some kind of plane. From a child I like planes, but I haven’t gotten to a point of going into a real one and trying to fly it myself, but that’s one of my dreams that I want to do. I study how planes work…how to read the gauges…how to understand navigation. It’s my hobby, you know?
JS: Who in show business is an inspiration to you?
ZM: I would say that my inspiration mostly comes from people that are not here anymore. There are artists today like Michael Franti, Ben Harper, a few songs from rock bands like Green Day…a couple rappers…certain songs…like Jadakiss. I think my greatest inspiration, and a lot of artist’s today, are inspired mostly by artists from our past. We are the students and they are the teachers. We learn a lot from them. It would be those…Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, my father, Stevie Wonder…all the greats from the past…Sam Cooke, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday…all of those people hold a special place spiritually for me.
JS: What’s in your CD player right now?
ZM: Mind Control, Steve’s [Marley’s] album.
JS: How do you like living in the Los Angeles area?
ZM: I don’t really see it as living in the Los Angeles area. I see it as living on Earth. I don’t really care. I like trees, I don’t really like the concrete jungle…but from I am around the creation that’s organic and it is earth. So, I don’t live in the Los Angeles area…I live in my mind. I have no permanent place, so I am here today, but not tomorrow. It’s just for now. Until the next cycle of moment takes place. But, I would say this…in terms of the energy that is here, in LA, I like the energy. Creatively, there’s a lot of musicians here, creative people. You meet a lot of people that could help you on your way, help the message get out. I like that energy. There’s a lot of activity. I can achieve a lot more than if I sit down somewhere where nothing is happening. If I really have a song or album that’s important and I want its message to get to the world, I can’t sit somewhere where nothing is happening. I need to be where something is happening…where it can help facilitate that mission. So we haffa be here to facilitate that mission at this point in time.
JS: What can we expect from you in the near future?
ZM: Well, I have some top secret projects…(laughs) but you know, it’s multimedia. I’m going to expand. I have plenty visions. Plenty, plenty ideas. Sometime I wish I could move fast on them. I have plenty ideas that is outside of Ziggy Marley playing music and making albums. I’m writing a script…developing children’s programs, developing children’s albums, just other avenues of creativity.
JS: How is URGE doing these days and what projects are they up to?
ZM: URGE is doing good. You know every time we do a show a certain amount of money from the tickets goes to URGE. Right now we’re developing a park in Jamaica. That is one of the things I want to do. URGE focuses on children. We want fe start alleviate children’s minds. So, in the impoverished areas of Jamaica we want to develop more parks for kids… to be free of the pressures of where they are, to help them to live, for even two hours to enjoy something. You nah mean? So that is a big dream of mine. So I have plenty dreams, plenty visions, plenty ideas. Sometime I wonder if mi can accomplish all of them. I hope so.