Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stephen Marley: Reggae, Guitars and His Father’s Legacy (interview 2/25/2009)

“There’s a simple explanation,” says Stephen Marley, with a laugh. “It’s called DNA.”

Just about everyone agrees: of all the children of Bob Marley, Stephen received the lion’s share of his father’s musical genes. As the family’s “go-to” producer, the 36-year-old has earned a slew of Grammys for his work through the years. More than that, however, Marley simply sounds like his father. As evidenced on Mind Control, his 2007 debut album, his voice bears an uncanny resemblance to that of reggae’s greatest practitioner.

All that said, however, Marley has proved adept at pushing the boundaries of traditional reggae. On the pioneering 1999 reggae/hip-hop fusion album Chant Down Babylon, and on his brother Damian’s Grammy-winning Welcome to Jamrock, the producer-songwriter wove a mix of contemporary styles into reggae’s solid foundation. And even on Mind Control, on trip-hop flavored tracks like “Hey Baby” and “Traffic Jam,” he sometimes sounds like a modern-day equivalent of madman reggae pioneer Lee Perry.

Just as important, Marley seems to have inherited his father’s formidable work ethic. In the midst of a mini-tour, and with several projects in progress, he spoke with us about his music, his guitars, and why he likes country-western songs.

How did you become the go-to guy for most of the family's projects? Does it have more to do with your personality, or with your musical versatility?

It's more about my personality. I'm the member of the family who was born in April. In the Bible, April is from the tribe of Reubin. Reubin was the first son of Jacob. That type of personality — being a leader, a big brother — is part of me.
read on @ gibson.com

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