Ziggy Marley laughs at the first mention of Denver, Colorado.
Yep, he was watching that election very closely—and to his surprise and sheer happiness, recreational use of marijuana passed. The 44-year-old, Grammy-winning reggae royalty (born David Nesta Marley) has a new live album out next month, Ziggy Marley in Concert, available exclusively through iTunes on December 18; the physical CD release is set for January 15. And because of this most recent election, he’s already thinking that a live show somewhere in Denver may soon be happening.
EBONY: What made you want to record another live concert album?
Ziggy Marley: Well, I’ve actually been liking the things I’ve been doing and the vibe, so I wanted to share that and give people opportunity to experience the vibe that we have live.
EBONY: Your live shows are incredible. I’ve seen you and the Melody Makers perform before, and the crowd went bananas. What all goes into them?
ZM: Well, what we put in our live shows is spirits, you know. Yeah, we try to effect people on a spiritual level. It’s very improvised a lot and it’s very real. Emotions are real; it’s not choreographed. And so every time you see us, we come with something unique. But we try to just connect on a spiritual level with people. That’s the main idea.
EBONY: Is it difficult to live up to the Marley name?
ZM: I mean… this is a challenge. But it’s not something that we think about as a challenge. It’s a challenge because of people’s perception, but for us, we’re just trying to be true to what we’re doing and be real and respect our father’s legacy.
EBONY: That said, you and your siblings have all individually—and even as a group—certainly been able to make your own path. Was that relatively easy or did you kind of meet some bumps along the way?
ZM: There’s always some bumps along the way, you know? There are always critics out there, but I think because of the longevity of what we’ve been doing, it’s proved itself over time. That it’s not a farce; it’s not something that we’re doing to just copy our father’s thing or whatever. You know, is a test of things. [If] something can last over time, it has some value, you know?
EBONY: Who inspires you and why?
ZM: Well, my greatest inspiration is… I guess people call it God. We say Jah. We know some people might say “the universe” or other things, but there is a spirituality that guides us and gives us our purpose. In my life—and I’m not speaking generally, I don’t know what about other people—but in my life this is what inspires me: this idea of purpose and service to your brothers and sisters. Music-wise, my father, Miles Davis, all of the great musicians. Marvin Gaye, too. I’ve even been checking out some classic, some Bach and some Beethoven, and studying, reading up about their music and about them. Because our music really plays a very important part in the psyche of society, and some music can do things to you that you never know.
EBONY: Does it ever blow you away how big reggae music still is here in the United States, and how culturally we’re so fascinated by it?
ZM: It is a big part of everything. But no, I’m not surprised. The music lives with the people. The music brings out the people. And because reggae doesn’t really get a lot of commercial airplay and commotion, it’s used certain times in certain stereotypical ways, but people go to concerts and to live shows. Reggae has a philosophy, you know? It’s not just entertainment. There’s an idea behind it, a way of life behind the music, which is a positive way of life, which is a progressive way of life for better people. The music lives with the people and it’s very strong with the people.
EBONY: So recreational marijuana is now legal in Denver. Are you thinking about doing a concert immediately in Colorado now?
ZM: (Laughs) I was just thinking about that right now. I should be there right now doing a show, right?!
EBONY: Does that encourage you? Whether you love it or hate it, it’s part of Jamaican culture—or people associate it as such. Did that kind of excite you, to see that that change was happening here in the States?
ZM: It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing for freedom. But smoking is one part of it. I don’t know why we’re reluctant to grow the plant hemp. Hemp is a part of the cannabis plant and it is very useful. You can make fabric, can make oil, can make fuel, so I’m very happy we’re moving in the right direction. We’re hoping to make the whole plant legalized, not just focusing on the smoking alone, but also the industrial use of the hemp plant. So we’re looking for that to be a part of this movement that’s happening.
EBONY: This new album is out in three weeks. What’s the big takeaway?
ZM: To make a record is one thing and it’s nice, but the live show is one of the most true expressions of the music that you can get. In a studio, you can do things and manufacture things. But when you do it live, this is where you prove what the music is. If you can’t do it live, then it’s not real. People just can’t take away that energy of what it’s like to hear the music in a live environment.