UPDATE 2020: Julian “JuJu” Marley is currently in Jamaica during the COVID-19. He is keeping busy with his music, his “JuJu Royal” CBD line, & supporting people globally as we go through this pandemic together. Touring to support his latest Grammy-nominated album, As I Am, is temporarily on hold. So instead, Julian streams his campfire sessions where he sings and plays guitar.
In Feb., Julian participated in the opening of Trench Town’s Cornerstone Learning Center, founded by the Marley brothers and the Ghetto Youths Foundation. In April, he was part of Jamaica’s Telethon to raise funds for the first responders. He talks about the new music he is producing now, which highlights the 80s Afrobeats influence he enjoyed while growing up in multi-cultural London.
To watch & listen to Julian Marley’s latest single “Fly,” a tribute to his daughter who passed away in 2019 from cancer, go to the link at the end of this interview ↓↓↓♥
By M. Peggy Quattro
Miami, FL, 2011 – Julian Ricardo Marley, a seasoned Roots Reggae performer, is a multi-talented musician, writer, and singer. Born June 4, 1975, in London, Julian is the only British-born Marley son. He spent summers with his extended family in Kingston, where he tuned in to Rastafari and became immersed in the Marleys’ musical environment. A self-taught musician, Julian is skilled at guitar, drums, bass, and keyboards. Since the 1996 release of his debut CD Lion in the Morning, Julian “JuJu” Marley has traveled the world extensively to perform alongside his talented brothers. The 2003 CD Time and Place, and 2009’s Awake, have resulted in a large legion of loyal fans that attend his solo performances. At the invitation of the Jamaican government, Julian Marley and the Uprising band represented his adopted country and performed at the historic 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Julian spends time between London, Kingston, and Miami; much time is devoted to working and recording in the family-owned Lions Den studio. On a recent mini-Florida tour, I caught up with Julian following his casual and intimate performance at Pineapple Groove in Delray Beach, Fla. I have known Julian since the mid-80s, and have watched him grow as his career evolves. He was first featured in Reggae Report in 1990 and heralded as “The Next Generation.” Now he leads that generation forward, back to the same conscious Roots Reggae that his legendary father personified. No longer a shy introvert, Julian is charming, confident, and well-spoken. He comes with a message of motivation and inspiration. When answering questions, he often uses the royal “we,” a term that denotes acting conjointly with God/Jah. Here, in his own words, Julian allows us into the world as JuJu sees it, with love, hope, vision, and his goals for the future.
MPQ: Julian, you’ve just returned from an extensive European tour – Spain, Holland, France, Switzerland, Germany how were those shows for you, performance-wise? Audience reaction-wise?
JM: The shows were very good for me. Europe has a big fan base for Reggae music so you get a lot of love in Europe through the music. So it was good, yuh know, very good. I enjoyed it.
MPQ: Where is your largest fan base and why?
JM: I don’t know really. (laughter) We’re still traveling, still moving. Cuz everywhere you get loyal fans, people that, if you come again next year, they are there. Wouldn’t want to say anything to offend them.
MPQ: Where is your favorite place to perform?
JM: Amsterdam! [he recently performed at the Paradiso] Beautiful and a lot of greenery and scenery nice. (laughter)
MPQ: It’s said that writers write what they want to perform over and over, what is your favorite song to perform and why?
JM: I really don’t have a favorite, but you have more serious things, more maybe than a party song like T’ings Ain’t Cool [recites lyrics] “Why is there fussing and fighting, I think too much material delighting, when will we come to realize, its not real. [And sings] T’ings ain’t cool anymore. “Yuh know what I mean? It speaks of the time in which we live, so much corruption and war. But at the same time, there’s a positive in it. It’s not just darkness. When you acknowledge and know things ain’t cool, then you search for the light.
MPQ: Your last CD, Awake, was released in 2009. I understand you have been recording a new CD at the Marley Music Studio in Kingston, producing it yourself along with Steve and Damian, is there a name for the new CD? When do you plan on releasing it?
JM: No, don’t have a name yet. We’re still in the early processes of working on the album. Hopefully, everything can realistically, it’s going to be in the next year, hopefully, yeah.
MPQ: For Awake, you’ve been quoted saying that that CD was geared toward motivation. What will this new CD be geared toward? What is the message?
JM: Well, its always about motivating, yuh know. But this CD will probably be more about freedom, yuh know, stand up for your rights. As well as we always have some Lovers Rock, too. But I think this album [will have] more like Get Up Stand Up kinda feel to it.
MPQ: Tonight you added some bluesy/jazzy kinda vibe to the show.
JM: Yeah. (laughter) Well, we have different feels at different times. Tonight’s show was not the full [Uprising] band that we use, so tonight was a different style, more a bluesy/jazzy night with the Reggae. Sometimes that’s the inspiration. We listen to a lot of music; we love music, so sometimes the Jazz and Blues influences count.
MPQ: Why no Uprising band tonight?
JM: I wanna tell you, the people dem requested acoustic. They saw our show a couple months ago [at Miami’s Arsht Center] and requested a concert like that. [Tonight’s band was dubbed the Vista Lane Band and featured James “Jimmy” Malcolm on keys, Ken Fairbrother on guitar, and Craig Taylor on drums.]
MPQ: How would you describe your music in three or four words?
JM: Positive. Uplifting. New Roots. Like we’re the new generation of today. Authentic, it’s still Roots, still new, but it’s still fresh. (laughter)
MPQ: Describe your father’s influence on your musical style.
JM: His influence is embedded, really. When I wake up, [with] my guitar, the first thing that comes inna my heart is that the music comes from my father. It’s in our blood, in our veins. It’s not even a thought; to me it’s something that is needed. Cuz every day I listen to that music, and it’s like when I listen to it, I want to play it, I want to hear it. Because some of the legends are not here today, we have to feel the spirit, as our father would say, and channel and feel the music.
Positive. Uplifting. New Roots. Like we’re the new generation of today. Authentic, it’s still Roots, still new, but it’s still fresh.
MPQ: Do you see a change in Reggae’s direction in Jamaica these days, away from violence and exploitation?
JM: See, you have like three-quarters of a whole. One-quarter a people who sing positive music and another set where it’s nothing, really, nothing really to educate your mind, nothing really to sit down and really listen and solve a problem. Yuh know, is more like you drunk, and probably get drunk, or you want to get high high, too high. So sometimes I see a thing where we need to bring the music forward to roots. Every other music has its roots; no matter how much money they are making, everyone still has their roots. Reggae music is the only music nowadays that just switch. Listen to it. I don’t hear one, not even Dancehall. It’s like Hip-Hop. So if its Hip-Hop, say its Hip-Hop, don’t say its Reggae. We need to open up the music industry wider then. Make it known we have Hip-Hop in Jamaica. Don’t tell the people dem it’s Reggae Reggae, then we come with Reggae and they’re confused. If you really check it, its this original Reggae that’s sandwiched in with music today.
MPQ: You’ve been playing instruments guitar, drums, bass – since you were like six or seven years old and in music for more than 25 years. What is the most important lesson you have learned about the music business?
JM: The most important lesson is that you have to be in the business also; it’s not just making music. Cause you make music, and when you finish make music it has to be promoted. Sometimes as an artist you sit back when it’s not really time to sit back. So what we learn is that while you make the music, you have to find a way to channel it out with the promotion. It’s not like you can wait for it to be released or be promoted. We have to jump up. What I’ve learned is we have to get moving in this business.
MPQ: Yes, especially today when you really don’t have many record companies.
JM: All we have is music. They changed the format but it’s still music. No matter if you want to put it out on something small like my fingernail, I want to hear some Carlton Barrett, Family Man Barrett, or Sly and Robbie of the new age or the old school I just want to make sure I can hear all of these elements on this thing here [he looks at his fingernail].
MPQ: Going back to those early days of performing, how do you feel about your performances today, how is it different now?
JM: When we were just getting started we didn’t have a lot of knowledge on the music itself, like on the instruments to play them properly, like on stage, or maybe singing on key. So it’s been a learning process, like steps on a ladder, that every day you learn something and the stairs never end. (laughter)
MPQ: What I see is that you are more comfortable and confident on stage. You look at the people when you sing or when you talk to them and the people respond, like tonight. That’s what I see, you agree?
JM: I agree. (laughter)
MPQ: If you could change one thing, anything, about the music business, what would it be and why?
JM: What would I change or what would I add? I think I would add what I’d really love, and what we really need, is I would open a school inna Jamaica, or anywhere in the world, and where we going to be learning Jackie Mittoo, because everyone needs to learn this stuff. Even if I play Jackie Mittoo to someone, it blows their brains. They can’t believe the chords and the phrases, and I say whoa, cuz I know this stuff when I was like high as my knee. So that’s like something, like, OK, you need that? I’d re-channel it, re-teach these young musicians, [teach them] about Eric Rickenbacker Frater, an original Studio One guitarist in Jamaica. He played with our father on a couple of albums.
MPQ: Music has an impact on fans young and old, what advice do you have for the youths of today? For young aspiring musicians and performers?
JM: Inspiration. The message we have really is unity and love. Yuh know every time I say that word “love” people say: ‘Love? What you mean, love?’ What I mean is if you love, if you have love, pure natural love for earth, for any living substance that is here on earth, and you get that same response from another person, and the other person, and the other person, and it spreads, then there would be a thing called eternal peace. There’d be no more suffering. Yuh see, suffering comes from division. Because, if I am living in a house, and I’m hungry, and the shop is closed, I’m so divided that I’m not going to knock on my neighbor’s door to see if I could get a slice of bread because of pride. So this false pride, this whole thing, so we say love. It’s a simple thing. You can figure it out in your own way.
The message we have really is unity and love. Yuh know every time I say that word “love” people say: ‘Love? What you mean, love?’
MPQ: If you could collaborate with any artist of any genre, who would it be?
JM: Hmnn-nn-nn, who am I gonna say now? I never really thought about it. [after a long thought process he says] John Legend and the Roots. I love their CD; the work that John Legend did with the Roots. And I like the Marvin Gaye-kinda feel, like What’s Going On. Yeah, John Legend and the Roots.
MPQ: What do you do for recreation or relaxation when you’re not working?
JM: Well, we just live good, yuh know. Meditate, which consists of just relaxing. Sometimes we listen to music, sometimes the birds, sometimes the breeze, sometimes a stream. This helps build creativity and channel with nature. I love to play ball, yuh know football, aka soccer. (laughter) Music, because music is a part of relaxing. (laughter) Yeah, it’s nice because you can just sit back, there’s no rush. Maybe, bram! I write a line or two lines or three lines, then bram, there’s no lines? OK, I’ll come back inna hour or two. It’s always music still, I wanna tell yuh, and ball.
MPQ: Tell us something fans do not know about you, or a side of you the public never sees?
JM: What fans don’t know about me is [that] I’m a normal person. In the sense of how we grew on this earth, the foundation, I’m normal. I grew up to take the bus to school and maybe walk home sometimes. Clean up the whole house sometimes for mummy, do the shopping. So we learn what’s real. It’s still part of your consciousness. So were still conscious and acknowledge who you are and what you are. It’s not just what your name is but what you are – a human being. So live and love.
Julian Marley – Fly – released April 2020