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On Track with Ziggy Marley



    It’s that time of year for David Nesta “Ziggy” Marley to make his seemingly annual return to the Del Mar Summer Concert Series at the racetrack.

    The eldest son of Rita and reggae legend Bob Marley headlines Reggae Fest on Saturday. Soulful crooner Nikka Costa will join Marley, alongside locals Stranger and DJ Carlos Culture, to play after the last race of the day has concluded.
    Marley, who released his fourth solo album, Wild and Free, last year, just executive-produced a bio-pic on his father and stays busy by delving into everything from children’s charities to comic books.
    I spoke with the seemingly tireless artist during a recent tour stop in Boise, Idaho, about his latest album, his father’s film and his crazy schedule.
    Scott McDonald: How are you?
    Ziggy Marley: Good, man.
    SM: Last time we spoke, you were in South Africa.
    ZM: Oh, yeah. Right. That was a while ago.
    SM: You were talking about Wild and Free coming out, but you had so many other things like the comic and the charity stuff going on, that you didn’t know when you were going to be able to play it.
    ZM: Yeah, man. We did all of that, and did some tours, and went to Europe, went to South America, and then came back and did more tours. So we ended up doing a whole lot of touring for this record.
    SM: And you teamed up again with producer Don Was.
    ZM: Yeah, we been working with Don on and off for years now, so we know Don. I’m a musician and Don is a musician, so we work really well together, you know?
    SM: Unfortunate to lose [album contributor] Heavy D.
    ZM: Yeah. We accept what is happening, and every day is still filled with love and Jah’s spirit. We love him just as much now as when he was here physically. I didn’t see as much of him after we did the album, but I still think of Heavy D. just the same way I thought of him before. It’s not really changed for me, you know? This is life, man. 
    SM: Sure. You worked with your son on this album as well. Cool to carry on the tradition?
    ZM: Yeah. It was cool. I mean, I’ll look back on it in 20 years, and we can sit back and talk about it. It was cool. But it was pretty normal. It wasn’t really a big deal for us. We did what we had to do.
    SM: You also executive-produced your dad’s recent documentary, Marley. How was that process?
    ZM: Well, it was interesting. We found out a lot of things that we didn’t know that we know now. It was great just being a part of it. And I think it gave a better perspective of our father, or at least we hope it gives a better perspective of our father to people, through the film. For everyone involved – me, my family and everyone I know who watched it – it gave an intimate look into my father’s life. You’re on the inside this time, not the outside. And it will be there for generations. And my generations after me can learn about their history, their heritage and their descendants. As much it is for our family, it’s for future families as well, you know?
    SM: Why do you think it took this long to do something official?
    ZM: Everything has its time, you know? There is no reason why it took as long as it did. It was going to happen when it happened. And whatever came together to make it happen this time, happened. And that’s just the way it is, you know?   
    SM: Well, I think [director)] Kevin [Macdonald] did a nice job.
    ZM: Me, too. I like what he did.
    SM: Are you still doing the radio show on SiriusXM?
    ZM: Yeah, man. We do it the first Saturday of every month. It’s called “Ziggy Marley’s Legends of Reggae,” and it’s going good. I’m happy about it. We’re doing what we said we wanted to do with it, which is, shine some light on the history of the music, you know?
    SM: You like being a radio host?
    ZM: I’m getting there. [Laughs] I’m not very comfortable at it yet, but I’m trying, you know? [laughs]
    SM: Is the Marijuanaman comic still in play?
    ZM: Yeah, I’m working on the next story right now. And I’m also exploring other mediums to get the story out there. We’re thinking about doing a little 12-minute segment with audio that I’d just put out on YouTube or my Facebook page, kinda like what they did in the '40s with Superman: “AND NOW, FROM ANOTHER PLANET COMES…” with that big voice, you know? We’ve got all kinds of ideas for that. I’m going to continue to do that. It’s not a one-time thing at all.
    SM: And the Basic School and the charity work still going strong?
    ZM: Oh, yeah, man. That’s an ongoing thing. We’ll be doing that for years and years, man. It’s all really about trying to set an example that it can be done, and if we do it right, it will give the whole country, and generations to come, a better chance. And that’s a very important thing.
    SM: What’s next?
    ZM: Well, I’m writing some songs and working on a new record. We’ll have a new Marijuanaman comic coming out, and I’m interested in doing some other things outside of music as well. I’m exploring my creativity and seeing what else is out there that I could use as a vehicle to put across what I need to put across. Right now, I’m in exploration mode. I know music is there, and I’ll do that, but I want to do other stuff, too.
    SM: You have so much going on in your career. You host a radio show, you write music, you tour worldwide, you have a comic, you do a ton of charity work, you executive-produced a movie, and you’re saying you want to do more. I mean, it seems like a full plate.
    ZM: Yeah, but it’s not really a huge plate. This is what we get to do, and we’re doing it very happily. We are so happy to do what we do. If it is was something that wasn’t a part of who we are, it would be a huge issue. But this is who we are and we do it joyfully.
    Blogger Scott McDonald covers music in San Diego for a few different publications and is the editor of Eight24.com