Ziggy Marley was 12 years old when his father, reggae legend Bob Marley, died of cancer in 1981. By then, Ziggy (born David Nesta Marley) was already making records as part of the Melody Makers, who included siblings Sharon, Stephen and Cedella.
Ziggy Marley has released more than a dozen albums as a solo artist and with the Melody Makers, including his sixth solo album, “Ziggy Marley,” which came out in May.
Like many of its predecessors, “Ziggy Marley” is brimming with sunny, horn-fueled reggae ballads and anthems with transcendent messages. It also includes songs about the state of the world and the need for hope and change.
Marley will perform Sunday night at Crossroads KC. Monday, he talked to The Star about the new album, running his own record label and meeting Muhammad Ali.
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Q: What were your intentions going into the studio to record “Ziggy Marley”?
A: Musically, I had a good idea what I wanted to do in terms of not sounding like the record before. So I wanted to take a new approach to the musical vibe.
Lyrically, I wanted to reflect how I felt about what was happening in the world. That’s what inspired me. Both of those approaches are different from my last record.
Q: Were most of these new songs or did you have a few that had been written a while ago, waiting to make it on a recording?
A: Some songs, like “Marijuanaman,” were just ideas I had for a few years and I waited to develop them. But most of the songs were written at the time, during the periods when I wrote for the album.
Q: “Marijuanaman” is more than just a song; you’ve made him a comic-book character.
A: That song, the idea of the song, was written before the character. When I came up with the idea for the comic book, it was based on the song. But I finished the song based on the idea that I would develop the comic book.
The song on the record is not about a particular hero. It’s about what is happening in America and the progress being made in the freedom of marijuana. ... The entrepreneurs and the businesses going into the marijuana industry should not just look at this industry as another corporate profiteering structure but use the benefits of this plant as a way to give back to the communities.
There should be a larger moral objective behind the commercialization of this plant other than just 100 percent profit.
Q: When you’re in the studio, is the recording process collaborative or are you in control?
A: I’m open-minded. If somebody comes up with an idea that sounds better, I ask for a consensus: “What do you think? What do you think?” And sometimes that will help reach a final decision. It’s a group effort, but the final decision is mine.
Q: You are a big David Bowie fan. Did you ever meet him? And what did he mean to you?
A: I met David Bowie once. People like David Bowie and Prince, they are creative and innovative, and they made their own music their own way. They were both great inspirations to me, the idea that you can create music that is your own music and nobody else’s music.
Q: Did you ever meet Muhammad Ali?
A: He came to Jamaica when I was a teenager. I met him in his hotel room, and he did magic tricks with cards.
My father was a sports fan, and I’m a sports fan. It was through my father that I got into boxing and learned about Muhammad Ali. My father was a big fan of Muhammad Ali, and I became a big fan of him, also.
Q: Which do you prefer, working in the studio or performing live?
A: Live is where I can express myself physically. The album is only a snapshot in time.
Doing it live, it’s a living experience, a living thing at that moment in time. I like being in front of people and experiencing music as a living thing instead of a static thing, like listening to music on your computer.
Q: You run your own label, Tuff Gong Worldwide. What are the trials and benefits?
A: Running the label is a team effort. For us, the expectations of what we can do as an independent label is based upon the reality of the industry we are in now. I’m very happy with where we are now and with what I can achieve as an independent person, especially with music like mine, which is not always a commercial endeavor.
For us, it is better. It might not be for others, but I like the freedom and the ability to make the music that I want to make. There are difficulties that come with it. When you’re not a big company with a big corporate structure, there are certain connections that you won’t have, certain places you cannot go because you’re not in that world. But I’m happy with that. I’m happy with the world we travel in.
Ziggy Marley performs at Crossroads KC, 417 E. 18th St. New Riddim opens at 8 p.m. Tickets are $28-$76.50 through crossroadskc.com.