Interview: Damian Marley
He is an artist whose musical talent transcends genre; he has worked with the industry's top names in rap, pop and dubstep – including Nas, Bruno Mars and Skrillex. Damian Marley is a three time Grammy Award winner, as well as being the only reggae star to win two Grammys in the same night for the 2006 masterpiece 'Welcome to JamRock'. This summer sees Jr. Gong arrive in London for the Jamaica 50 Festival to celebrate 50 years of his country's independence. The Wrap Up's James Walsh caught up with him to talk about the forthcoming show, what it means to him and his love for the UK…
The Wrap Up: Your last singles 'Set Up Shop' and 'Affairs of the Heart' have both been UK reggae no.1's. How important has the UK's support of your music been over the years?
Damian Marley: It's very important. The UK is one of the places that has always been an advocate of my music and I spend a lot of time touring here. I've got family and friends over here, but more than that, there's a large Jamaican community and the Jamaican culture is very widespread in the UK which I love.
TWU: You're back here on July 26 to perform at the Indig02. How do you find the crowds here in the UK and what can the audience expect from the show?
Damian Marley: The UK crowds always have a lot of energy and I've done some milestone shows there that I'm very proud of. I headlined Brixton Academy and I've also performed at Wembley Arena with Nas. This time I'm coming to perform for Jamaica in a string of reggae concerts at the Jamaica 50 Festival. It is to celebrate 50 years of the country's independence and I'm proud to be a part of that. I'm bringing a few of the crew to showcase their talent for the first time too.
TWU: Can you tell us a bit about what Jamaica’s freedom means to you on a personal level?
Damian Marley: I've read about the freedom and independence in a lot in books to see what it would have been like to be around during that time. From what I've been reading, it was hugely influential and important in everybody's lives. I hope the 50 year celebration brings the country together and gives the people of Jamaica a sense of unity again that they can be proud of. I'm honoured to be an ambassador for the country.
TWU: You mentioned you were bringing some of the crew with you to perform. Can you tell us a bit about the Ghetto Youth's International Crew?
Damian Marley: It's the label name that myself and my brothers Julian and Stephen operate under. Under that umbrella we have more artists that we're working with. There's Christopher Ellis who is from the UK, Wayne Marshall, a Jamaican pop artist and Jo Mersa who is Stephen's son - my nephew. We also have Black Am I. Every time we come together it's like a family gathering; I'm looking forward to the UK hearing their music.
TWU: And are there any UK artists you're feeling at the minute?
Damian Marley: I'm very aware of the UK reggae artists, but I've been locked away in the studio for the last few months, so I couldn't really say I'm listening to one on a regular basis. There's a young guy who seemed very old-school I recently heard though, reminded me of Bill Withers...
TWU: Michael Kiwanuka?
Damian Marley: Yeah, I think that was him! I found him to be great and very interesting. I want to check out more of his music when I have time.
TWU: Finally, what else do you have lined up for the rest of 2012?
Damian Marley: There'll be a few more singles from myself. One will be released in the next few weeks and I'm heavily involved in other artists' projects. I'm producing Wayne Marshall's album and looking to get the momentum going for all the others in the Ghetto Youth movement. We are especially gearing towards the younger artists so get ready for them!
TWU: Great stuff! Good luck with the show here in the UK and thanks for taking the time to speak with us today.
Damian Marley: Respect!
Stay up to date with Damian Marley on Twitter.
Words: James Walsh (@JW_DittoMusic)