Ziggy Marley



Stepping onstage, Marley transforms into something more than a musician or songwriter. He becomes music, channeling it and allowing it to flow through him. “I feel that playing music is what you might call a religious experience for me. Music, for me, is a connection to the whole universe,” as he explains. “Music … is a spiritual thing and, I mean, transforms me. It expands me. You know, it expands my [consciousness]. It expands my mind. It expands the whole universe, it expands.”

Born into a legendary musical family, Marley decided to make it his life’s work after he began to create his own original work. “The particular moment of wanting to be a musician, I think, comes … from writing songs and being inspired to write songs. I think that’s why I’m a musician, because I write songs and songs I write is food, is nourishment for people. You know, for myself, and other people. Songwriting is nourishment. That’s the only reason why I do it. If the music I make or the songs I wrote was of no positive or no benefit to others in terms of awakening the consciousness, then I wouldn’t be doing it,” he says, going on to tell of his first experiences performing live. “I think, for me, it was surreal, I would say, probably. That would be the word.”

While Marley has stayed true to his original vision, his perception of live performance has evolved. “I think it’s a different experience now … when I perform there is a change. There is, you know, physically there is something that happens to me and maybe others … like in every field of work, whether they’re a surgeon or an athlete. I guess when they’re getting ready to do what they do, some things have to happen. It’s not just like—you can’t just do it. ‘Oh, I feel the same way as if I’m not doing anything.’ When you’re getting ready to do what you do, there is certain physiological things that happen to you. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know [how to] explain it scientifically, but something is happening and it manifests itself in your performance, whether it be on the field or in the operating room, whatever. It manifests itself there, that change that is happening.”

Marley has crafted a career with longevity, going beyond being merely an entertainer. “Inspiring me to keep playing music is that adventure that music is. For me, making music is an adventure. I love creating. I love making up stuff and trying stuff and it’s fun. I mean, that would be the main reason why I continue, because I still have an enthusiasm about making it. I still feel like there’s so much more. There’s always something new for me to try and do and hear and experience … I’m trying to make music from an idea that I don’t even know if it’s real, because I want to make music that goes beyond the physical. So that idea keeps me engaged in the adventure of trying to make it into what I imagine it could be.” Part of his prolific and enduring output lies in his talent as a lyricist and composer. “As a songwriter, my most valuable skill is having an open mind. I don’t know if that’s a skill. Think that’s just how I am, but I think that is the most valuable thing because if you have an open mind, then there is so much more that can come to you, rather than if you have a closed mind or an egotistical way of thinking.”

Guitar is Marley’s primary instrument and, not surprisingly, his influences as a player run toward the spiritual. “Well, I was a fan of David … King David, from the Bible … Still a fan of his. He was a great writer. He write a lot of things, what him call Psalms of David. He used to play the harp, it is said. So I’m a big fan of his, his writing and—I never hear him play, but I guess it was some good harp playing. So I think that’s why I choose the guitar, because I’m a fan of David.” He continues, “And you know, I … him can carry it. Like, in the garden. I carry it in the garden. I can just walk my acoustic guitar anywhere. You can’t take a piano anywhere, know what I say? The guitar easily fit us. I can go anywhere with it. I can carry it anywhere—on the beach, in the woods, you know? In the bedroom it lives beside me. I think why. It’s very portable, accessible.”

Playing acoustic and electric guitars live, Marley has a collection that includes Fender, Gibson, Ovation and Martin instruments. “In a guitar, I look for, ‘how does it feel to me?’ What kind of—everything is vibrating. Is this guitar vibrating at a frequency that I like? How it sound is one thing, the technical thing, but there’s a frequency of its vibration, how I feel. Does it feel like me? Does it feel like it belongs in my hand? That is my first thing about instrument, is how it feel to me. And even how it sound, because we can change how it sounds in some ways, but how it feels, they can’t change that.”

True to his convictions, Marley encourages anyone who wishes to join in music making to do so. “What I would say to someone who wants to get into music is, ‘Get into music.’ Go, get into it. Try it and if it work, it work. For me there’s a reason why I’m doing this, so it’s even better if you have a purpose with your music, if your music is more than just a business, more than just money. It’s even more valuable then if you do it with that in mind. It becomes more. But get into music if you want to get into music, man. It’s all right.”

Feeling all people, particularly children, should have music in their lives, Marley is personally involved with the organization Little Kids Rock. “Because I think that music is important for development of the child, of children. I think it opens their minds and makes them do everything else better.” He says, “I think they [have] more of a better education, better understanding of the world and all of the other skills that they learn in school if music is a part of that development of the brain. I think it’s very important for children to do music because it will help them to be better at other things that they do.”

Continuing his musical journey is a never-ending process for Marley. His latest collection of songs on Fly Rasta offer a glimpse into how far he has evolved as an artist. As he describes it, “We make music according to where we are at the time and so the albums before, I was in a certain place—a state of mind—where I was physically, mentally, going. Fly Rasta is an advancement of where I was. It’s a growth. Musically it shows even more open-mindedness because I am more open-minded than I was five years ago. I keep going. I keep opening my mind to more and more and more as I go and so it is expressed in the music. The songwriting, I learn. I’ve learned a lot and I keep learning as I go, so the songwriting also represents my growth and my learning and also my willingness to express myself based upon my personal life. I think Fly Rasta, I’ve got a lot of personal things in it, but [things that one] can relate to … The difference is growth, is that I keep growing I keep growing … The music grows as I grow and it will continue to grow as I grow. Because I won’t stop growing.”

Written by Troy Richardson / Photography by Ryan Hunter

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