By Josh Hart
Earlier this week, Ziggy Marley released his latest live document, Ziggy Marley in Concert. His third live record in five years, Ziggy Marley in Concert sees the reggae legend put new spins on on classic songs as well as newer cuts from 2011's Wild and Free.
With a new studio album in the works for 2013, we recently caught up with Marley to get the scoop behind his latest live offering.
GUITAR AFICIONADO: How do your songs tend to evolve between the studio versions and the live versions? A song like "Personal Revolution" [from 2011's Wild and Free], for example?
It's extended. Live is a different thing. Some things work in the studio that don't work live, you know? There's parts that are added to that song on the rhythm section to make it a little bit thicker. On the album it wasn't that thick and it worked, but live, something was missing. Once we hit rehearsals for live shows, we start feeling out the music. We're not trying to recreate what's on the record. We're trying to create something that will work live.
How much improvisation happens during your live shows?
A lot. I surprise the band a lot. They have to keep their eyes on me. That's one thing with my band, they've learned to watch me, because there is a signal that I give with my hands, and the way I move, which means different things. And they can read certain signs, like, "He's going into a verse" or "He's going to extend the song so we're not going to finish." There's all these things they've learned to figure out by looking at me throughout the years.
It's almost like signals in baseball.
You play a couple of tracks by your father on the album. How do you approach putting your spin on songs like "War"?
I try to put a little spin on it depending on how I feel, and I usually try and connect them with one of my songs. For example, "Justice," which is one of my songs, goes into "War" and then "Get Up Stand Up." I always try to find a connection between my father's songs so that it makes sense for me to do them live.
In the world of guitar, reggae guitarists often get overlooked. Who are some guys our readers should pay attention to?
Earl "Chinna" Smith. He used to play with me back in the day. Very great guitarist. Winston Bowen. "Bopeep" That's the name we know him by, "Bopeep."
Your father always played with great guitarists — Peter Tosh, Junior Marvin — but he always had something special about his playing as well.
The thing with my father was his rhythm — we we call a "chop" — was very thick and deep. Not everybody could chop like him when it comes to playing rhythm in reggae. He had a special chop that was his own.
You're playing a pretty unusual instrument these days, one of the aluminum-body guitars from Trussaurt.
I was rehearsing and James [Trussaurt] came by and brought a couple for me to check out. I liked them and he gave me one, the one I play now. I use it a lot, but I also use other things when I feel like it. Every venue has a different sound, and depending on the venue, I use a different guitar to match the vibe of the venue. Sometimes I used my Fenders, and I use a Gibson once in a while.
How many guitars do you usually take on the road with you?
Four or five, usually.
And what's your main amp?
Fender Twin Reverb, really basic stuff.
When we started talking, you mentioned you were in the studio. Are you working on a new studio album?
Yeah, I'm starting to put some ideas together for this new record.
What's your songwriting process like?
I write songs through the years, just jotting ideas down, a few words here and there. There's a cycle that I have; like the birds flying to the south, there's a compass that points to a song, and I start thinking about it and decide to complete it. I'm in that time now where there is something urging me to complete the songs. I start picking up my guitar every day and singing and singing and singing until words and melodies and progressions come. But for me, there's always a season for it.
You've been involved with the End Polio Now campaign for a while. How did you get involved with that?
Well, they just asked. As usual, people come to me with different things they want us to get involved with. The End Polio Now campaign was easy for me to say yes to. It effects a lot of people in Africa, especially; it's mostly wiped out in the rest of the world, but it's still affecting a lot of children there. It's just doing part of what I'm here to do, you know?
Ziggy Marley's new live album, Ziggy Marley in Concert, is available now on iTunes. The album will see physical release January 15 through Marley's Tuff Gong Worldwide.