Stephen Marley performs at The Beacham, Saturday, July 23.
Stephen Marley, in conversation
On May 24th, 2011 Stephen Marley released his latest album, Revelation Part I: The Roots of Life. This is the first of a two part series with Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life slated for a Fall 2011 release. Amidst his busy tour schedule, filled with dates across the United States, Stephen Marley found some time to sit down, open up and share a glimpse into himself and his music. He will be spinning his webs of life and music to those in attendance at the House of Blues Cleveland on Sunday, July 3rd.
Your music is well known for it’s eclectic nature – spreading across many genres. On your latest album you return back to the more roots reggae style. What inspired you to return to those roots?
What inspired me to return to my roots? (Laughs) Well, to tell you the truth it was from an article I was reading. Someone wrote an article on the state of reggae music… and it wasn’t a very positive article. So that’s what inspired the concept of doing an album with me and the foundation-type of reggae… roots reggae.
Is the fact that you come from a reggae tradition – reggae is kind of the root of you with your music – is that why you named the album The Roots of Life?
Yes… yes, that is how the name came about.
What is The Roots of Life to you? For you, is that music? What do you define as the roots of life?
Well, I mean, everyone has their roots. I am a musician, ya know, music is my world. So coming off that perspective of music being my tool… my weapon of choice… that’s how the root of life really comes in – pertaining to music and the root of reggae music, where it all began, and paying homage to that. So that how the name kind of affiliates with the music and the whole concept of it being a roots album.
You grew up in a very musical environment… your entire family has very strong musical traditions. It makes me wonder… what does music mean to you?
Music is my world. Music is a talent given to me by God. A medium and a platform and a way to spread a message of righteousness… a message of love a message of unity. Ya know, so that is what music is to me. Music bears a great responsibility because it is so influential. Everybody listens to music. It is a very influential tool. To me, it is very important to the world… music is… to being… to life.
The message you would be giving from your album to listeners. Is there a particular message that you are trying to convey to people? What do you hope people will take from your new album?
Music is the medium… how you use the music is different. Everyone use music to a positive light and effect. So it really depends on the individual and ones outlook. My music depicts life in general and the things that I see and the things that influence me, and such forth.
What I want to point out also is when reggae music was introduced to the world, and made popular, I should say, by the great Bob, the great Peter Tosh, the great Burning Spear, the great Toots and the Maytalls and all these great artists that paved the way… the music had a lot more integrity. The music… it was a movement it was the voice of the poor, of the underprivileged, of the oppressed. It was that voice – the voice of truth and rights and justice. And along the way a lot of that has been lost. It is still there… people are still making good music. There are reggae musicians, of course, that are still making good music. But at the same time, what is at the forefront of reggae music – I don’t know if that is really what we would describe as “This IS reggae music.” So now I am just defending that part of it and watering the roots as I myself extend branches also.
So you are currently on tour – it can be difficult to be away from your family and traveling from town to town. What makes it worth it to you? Is it the performing, or what about the performing is you favorite thing?
Well… it’s not just about performing, ya know. I jump about; I do a circus act, really, when I am performing. It’s what it’s all about that motivates us. It is the message. It is enlightening people and seeing people really being enlightened. That’s what motivates us. That’s what gives you that juice to go on to the next place – because these people need it.
You’ve done a lot of work with your family. How do you feel being the son of Bob Marley has affected you, your career and your legacy as a musician? Do you feel that his identity ever overshadows yours? Or… do you feel that people compare you to him and is that a positive or negative experience for you?Well… my father is a great man… the person that he is. And a great musician also. To be born into that is an honor. It’s a great thing for a youth to be born with such a role model… such strong role models. My mother also is a singer and a good person, also. So… I am the son of Bob. I am what I am. I do not go about thinking how people look at me. I am me. I am this being… this is Stephen. There’s no pressure… or energy like that, no shadow. I am my father’s son. I am an apple from the tree.
Are you currently working on any projects with any of your siblings? I know you’ve done a lot of work with Damian and he appears on your new album… are you guys currently collaborating or working on anything new?
Yes… yes… always… always working on stuff. Right now I still have Part II – Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life. Which is now a more open record like you said I’ve been known to do. The second record is going to be more what you have known me for… more eclectic… incorporating hip hop or anything… anything goes.
The only other thing I found myself wondering about with you was that I know your brothers and you founded the Ghetto Youth Foundation. And I know on this tour that $1 of every ticket sale going towards that foundation. It is such an important thing to support our youth… is there anything new going on with the organization? What are their current efforts? And are there ways people can get involved and offer support beyond just monetary donations?
First of all, the foundation is really an extension of our lives. From when I can remember myself, from a young age, I have always been assisting the underprivileged people. Anyway and everyway… it’s a been part of our lives. It’s just that by the simple means of charity you mustn’t really speak of the charity that you do. That’s why I’m trying to make an organization where people can speak of the charity that the Organization does. But me, I’m Steve… it’s my life it’s not something separate then me. It’s really us. I can’t speak of it… me personally won’t speak on account of the charity. It’s life… if what I give is publicized or not, I do it anyway.
But what I would love for you to do are to tell ones to check out the ghetto youth foundation website. That will lead you into directions if you have questions or if you want to be a part of… any which way you can support the cause. Yeah… check out the website.
Stephen Marley has a deep dedication to the art and meaning of reggae. In this project, Revelation Part I & II, and on this tour he aims to share it with all who will listen. His message will undoubtedly be felt by all who come to share with him in the enlightenment of the reggae sound on Sunday, July 3rd at the House of Blues Cleveland.
The Ghetto Youths Foundation is a non-profit organization established by Stephen, Damian and Julian Marley. It’s mission is “to improve the lives of disadvantaged and minority youths both here and abroad by educating and assisting this population with the ultimate goal to reduce poverty, social, family disorder and alienation that this group feels on a daily basis.” To find out more about how you can get involved and support their efforts, visit their website by clicking here.