For Ky-Mani Marley, the youngest of Bob Marley’s children, the last name carries weight that he welcomes. And besides, he did not choose music. Melodies overtook him and left the singer-songwriter no choice but to follow in his father’s iconic footsteps.
“For me, a musical career just kind of took over my life,” Marley said from his hotel, while on the road with Van Halen.
His latest CD, “Radio” is an eclectic mix of music emblematic of an era when soul, pop and reggae were found on the same frequencies as rock n’ roll. From its first track “I’m Back,” Marley has announced to the world the sonic son of a legend is blazing his own trail.
Creating quite a stir opening for the reenergized Van Halen, Marley performs in front of 25,000 across the continent each week. In between concerts with the rock icons, Marley performs in small clubs across the country. Audiences treated by the intimate performance are witnessing an artist whose music will hardly be shared intimately for much longer when “Radio” is done with the music charts.
SheKnows: You could have called this latest album anything. I love the title, “Radio,” it goes right to the point, where did it come from?
Ky-Mani Marley: For me, radio is where you find all genres of music. That album depicts that, in that it has many different vibes throughout the album.
SK: After listening to it, it reminds of back in the day when radio wasn’t so individualized in a station to station sense. Is that how you grew up, listening to a varied group of music?
KM: Yes, definitely. I’m a fan of music, overall. I listen to Bon Jovi to Guns n’ Roses, Michael Jackson to Eric Clapton to every rapper on the planet.
SK: Given your background and your father, there were dozens of avenues down which you could have ventured, was music just impossible to ignore?
KM: No, I wouldn’t say that. It was just my destiny. For quite some time I didn’t pay it any attention. It wasn’t something I sat down and decided music was something I want to do. It was something that happened to me until I reached a point where I thought this is it. Then I became focused on what I want to portray to people as far as how I want to express myself and what I want to express.
SK: Having that luxury as an artist to express yourself how you want, because in a sense it sounds like music chose you, as you matured, was it artistically freeing to know that you could sit down and create a project how ever you wanted?
KM: Definitely, I made music in almost every genre. I’m a fan and a student of music. So when I got in the position to have the opportunity to have creative control over all my projects, it was actually mostly that I have been given the opportunity to express myself fully—which I still haven’t done. I’m working on an album right now which is a more Top 40 feel, more acoustic guitar and drum driven versus production off of drum machines.
SK: It sounds like you are really prolific. I can’t help but notice your touring schedule. In between opening for Van Halen, you are doing solo gigs along the way. Is all that playing feed that creative fire?
KM: It does put me in that creative place. Opening for Van Halen and having the opportunity to work them is really great. It really puts me on a different mindset as far as music is concerned. It’s taken me to that next level that I used to dream about getting to.
SK: How is that for you, to be able to share your music that you have such passion for, with the crowds that a Van Halen tour is bringing you?
KM: Oh, man, I love it. I love it. I love it.
(We both laugh.)
KM: I really love it. The audience comes in expecting one thing and I think they’re surprised by what I have to offer.
SK: And after listening to your music and thinking about all the people that have to be pleased to open the show for Van Halen reuniting with David Lee Roth, when I heard your name, I thought, my God, that’s perfect. Were there any nerves or apprehension on your part heading on the road with something like this?
KM: Not at all. I was excited because I had that part of me, that other part of me musically. This is music that allows me to speak from the soul that I feel when I’m singing. So this is the perfect platform for me to go out there and present that and to see whether I had the goods or not. I think I got it good.
SK: Yeah, I’d say so.
SK: I’d say so. I see there are numerous artists you got to work with on “Radio” and I’m particularly a huge fan of Mya’s. Her voice is angelic. What was it like for you to work with her?
KM: Oh, man. It was an absolutely beautiful moment. She’s very humble, very easy to work with, very open to ideas and creative. She’s a professional at what she does. Being given the opportunity to work with her—I can’t thank her enough really and truly.
SK: SheKnows spoke to Sean Lennon six months ago and I wanted to ask you the same question I asked him.
KM: Oh, that sounds good.
SK: Given our current world situation, what kind of artistry do you think your father would be reflecting today?
KM: The same way he’s doing it right now. You know what I mean? Nothing changes except he hasn’t been here for how long and yet still his message is one of the driving forces behind world peace, humanitarian rights and justice. Nothing changes.
SK: Ky-Mani, last question, as a musician—not even personally—but as a musician, what does it mean to you to have that last name, Marley?
KM: To have the last name period, first you have to sit back and recognize him not as a son, but as a man. How much impact he has on the world is amazing. Now to be a part of that is overwhelming. For me, to carry on his legacy and his message, for me the only thing, is I have to do it my way. I don’t think people would appreciate me if came as a spin-off of what my Dad already did. There can only be one Bob Marley and it’s going to take all of his sons, all his children to carry on his legacy, we all to do it in our own way for it to be respected and appreciated. That’s what I’m doing.
SK: Thank you so much, Ky-Mani, this was truly and honor.
KM: Take care, one love.