The Voice of the Wailers

The Wailers' lead singer talks about the band's message and his role in the iconic reggae group

Pretty much everyone knows who the Wailers are -- particularly in reggae-loving San Diego -- even if they don’t know who exactly plays in the band today, more than 40 years since its inception. Known as Bob Marley & the Wailers until the purveyor of “one love” died in 1981, the group has an insane tour schedule, continent hopping for the better part of the year, which brings the band back to San Diego to perform at Harrah’s Resort Southern California on Friday, April 3.

The current iteration of the band features players old and new, with original member Aston “Family Man” Barrett on bass playing alongside the current lead singer, the young Dwayne Anglin, who introduces himself as “Danglin” when we connect to discuss his place in the Wailers. Danglin’s role in the band is unique -- not to the band itself but in terms of how we typically see musicians as influencing their groups. He’s not there to alter its path or add his own flourishes. Danglin, in this role, is the voice of the Wailers, a living mouthpiece in a way, recreating Marley’s work: spreading what he calls “the message,” the feeling and the music.

Hannah Lott-Schwartz: For those who aren’t familiar with the Wailers’ more recent history, can you explain how you came to be on the mic for the band?
Dwayne “Danglin” Anglin: I started touring with the band around February 2010. My first single, “Excuse Me Miss,” it was very popular on the island and in Florida and New York. They were looking for a new lead singer, and I was recommended to the Wailers. So they called me and asked if I wanted to come and be a part of it and audition. I did it, and they invited me back on tour a few weeks later.

HLS: Did you know that they were interested in you, or was the initial call a total surprise?
DA: I mean, it was completely out of the blue. I was on my path to my solo career, so it was a decision I had to make, because the Wailers’ schedule is very, very busy. But having the opportunity to work with Family Man -- one of my idols as far as musicians are concerned -- I decided it was the best decision for me. I grew up as a huge Wailers fan, so it’s an honor for me.

HLS: What sort of responsibility do you see yourself having as the voice of the Wailers?
DA: The message in the music is one of the most import factors of the music. Positive vibrations, providing inspiration for those who need it. The touring Wailers provide a means by which fans across the globe can come together and celebrate the Wailers’ music and be a part of positive vibrations, so that’s our responsibility as a band now. And my responsibility is to perform the songs as close to the likeness of Bob Marley and that passion and conviction he showed onstage. We try to bring that same performance to people so that hopefully they see it in the way [Bob Marley & the Wailers originally] intended it, to celebrate the music and keep the legacy alive through strangers coming together who love a common thing.

HLS: Is the message of the Wailers different today than it was 40 years ago?
DA: No, it’s the message. It’s still one love. It’s still freedom and poverty and stand up for your rights. Not much has changed in 40 years, to be honest. There’s still a lot on inequality and injustice, so our message is against that, against jealousy and hatred. It’s just a lot of love. It’s just a message that keeps coming up because people need it.

HLS: When you’re on stage, spreading that message through the music, what do you give to the songs?
DA: Well, I mean, it’s just positive energy and professionalism and high energy at the same time. Because I think the most important thing of the performance -- after the technical stuff -- is just the believability and the conviction, and the audience has to believe that you believe what you’re singing. I’m inspired by the songs, so I use that inspiration to convey that same message I’m feeling. As a fan of the music myself, I’m very honored and privileged to perform the songs, and that’s translated into the performance. This is not something that’s made up. Once that sincerity is present, the people are being done justice.

HLS: In the past, the Wailers have used music to contribute to political and social conversations. How does that tradition continue today?
DA: Everything that you see going on around us, just the reality of everyday life, the music and the message remains relevant. All the things that were spoken about in that time period are still present now. We still have the same problems in the same ways. The music reaches wherever it’s needed, so we’ve found ourselves in Africa; we’ve found ourselves in the Middle East; we’ve found ourselves in Europe, and then we’re approached by people with these problems. The message in the music is always relevant. So political and social commentary in the music is always a topic of discussion because it’s in the reality -- it’s not fabricated. It’s actual life, so once you listen to the songs you get inspired to speak against certain injustices, which is why the music has remained relevant for so long.

The Wailers play Harrah’s Resort Southern California on Friday, April 3, at 9 p.m., $27-$57, 21+. Tickets are available here.

Hannah Lott-Schwartz, a San Diego native, moved back to the area after working the magazine-publishing scene in Boston. Now she’s straight trolling SD for all the music she missed while away. Want to help? Hit her up with just about anything at all over on Twitter, where -- though not always work-appropriate -- she means well.

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