It's pretty easy to spot Ziggy Marley. Long, wild dreads like his reggae legend dad Bob? Check. Classic reggae sounds coming from his trailer or dressing room? Yep. And, of course, the wafting smell of marijuana smoke? No shame in his game. I just phoned up the multi-Grammy winner, 42, to chat about his fourth solo album, Wild and Free (featuring his family friend Woody Harrelson!), the recent birth of his third son, Abraham (with wife Orly), and, of course, the source of much of his inspiration, marijuana.
US: What were you going for this time on your fourth album, 'Wild and Free?'
ZM: This album is grounded in the reggae foundation. I wanted to record music that would translate life well. I wanted to keep it simple so it comes across feeling good. To be able to translate these songs live without having to do a lot of thinking or trying different things is incredible.
US: How did you come to collaborate with Woody Harrelson on the opening track?
ZM: We have been friends for years and he was over the house when I was writing the song. We were hanging out and I was writing and I was like 'Come sing with me.' Woody has a soulful voice and so I said, 'you know, you got to be on the record.' He was like 'Ah, cool lets go.' So we just did it like that. It wasn't anything pre planned. It was spontaneous.
US: So, how did you first become friends?
ZM: Woody used to hang out with my grandmother. He knows most of my family.
US: Marijuana is also a topic on the album and your new comic book, Marijuana Man. Why do you think it should be legalized in America?
ZM: Alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical drugs are legal but they can hurt a lot of people. People get high from cough syrup that they can easily purchase at the pharmacy. Marijuana has a lot of benefits that we should utilize. People shouldn't go to jail for smoking marijuana in the privacy of their homes or be criminalized or demonized by that. I don't think it is as detrimental as alcohol in terms of the effects it has on society and people’s lives. Anything can be abused and overdosed so you have to be responsible. Plus, the industrial aspect of marijuana has had a bigger impact on society than even the recreation or medicinal uses. If people can utilize a natural resource properly, the impact it would have on the environment and the economy would be great. The argument against marijuana is confusing and hypocritical and stupid. It is a natural resource that we should use.
US: What do you think is the most personal song on the album?
ZM: There are a couple of them but I would say "Road Less Travelled." That song is a compilation of pieces of my life. It also speaks about my mother and father. In life I have chosen to do things differently, to step outside of my family environment and to be on my own.
US: Speaking of your dad, do you feel pressure to live up to his legend?
ZM: Not really. Back in the day I was naïve to this idea of pressure. We grew up in Jamaica, where the idea of a so-called superstar or celebrity didn't mean much. My father was well known in Jamaica and in the world before, but this started to pick up years after his death. He passed away and that legend grew, so now it is even bigger than when he was alive. The more people that asked me this question, the more pressure there was. I'm oblivious. I am making music and having fun that is all that really matters. At this stage in my life, that question is even more irrelevant now. I made my own name and I have grown into the man that I am now. I know who I am and I know the idea of my music and what I want it to be. My father and I had a really good relationship. We’re cool. I am not trying to outdo him or anything like that.
US: So now that this is the thirtieth anniversary of his death, what are you doing to preserve that legacy?
ZM: We are working on his documentary, which should be out in the fall. I am producing the documentary and Kevin McDonald will direct it. People are going to have not only the connection that you have now with the Bob Marley legend but it will also show the emotional side of our father. The emotion of Bob throughout his life experiences is a pretty pertinent thing. It is not just about his music.
US: How is your newborn baby, Abraham? Do you think any of your children will follow in your footsteps and be great musicians as well?
ZM: The new baby is good. He is very aware and inquisitive, always trying to see what is going on. We just leave them up to their own destiny. We give them all the tools we can as parents and then its up to them. Music will be a big part of their life.
US: Your brother Rohan is also expecting another baby with Lauryn Hill. Do your kids play together?
ZM: Nah. She lives out east and we're on the west side of the country now. I haven't seen her in a long time.
US: Why did you launch the comic book?
ZM: It was a creative outlet for me since I had a lot of ideas my head. I grew up in the comic book world and I used to read comics all the time. It was just a way for me to express the ideas I have about hemp. I have also always wanted to have a superhero. The superhero in my book is just like a kin to Superman and the Green Lantern guys, a superhero for the next generation.
US: Have you thought about getting together with the Melody Makers again and doing another record?
ZM: We have been talking about it a lot. Maybe!