Damian Marley continues to honor the Marley legacy in his own way as an artist carving his own path. The Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and producer remains at the forefront of the reggae genre for his music, collaborations, producing of other artists, and his very own reggae cruise.
The Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise set sail last month for its seventh installment, the first annual voyage since the cruise was put on hiatus due to the worldwide COVID pandemic.
In advance of the ship’s departure, we were able to catch up with Marley via Zoom and learn more about his music creation process, his relationship with cannabis—cannabis consumption, cannabis activism, and cannabis reform—and the inspiration behind creating a reggae festival on water.
High Times: You’ve been performing music for most of your life. Do you remember the starting point?
Damian Marley: We started off doing performances in my aunt’s living room until my aunt decided to take us on the road. We then started doing things like Mother’s Day shows and Valentine’s Day shows, little girls’ birthday parties—things like that in Jamaica.
High Times: Did you ever imagine you’d one day go from that to headlining your own festival cruise?
Damian Marley: We weren’t the first people to come up with a musical cruise but there had never really been a successful reggae cruise. It’s something my manager, Dan [Dalton], brought to my attention—that there’ve been other genres doing cruises. The whole culture of a cruise—going to an island, being out in the sun, out on the sea and all that stuff—lends itself very well to the culture of reggae music. However, there was hesitation if our fanbase was financially able to go on a cruise, and of course we ended up proving that we do have the market to be able to do that.
The idea of the Caribbean sea, sun, and weather, going to Jamaica, the music, and all these things—it goes hand in hand [with reggae] and it’s kind of surprising that it actually hadn’t been done before. But here we are, the ones who actually executed the idea.
High Times: In terms of ideas, what role does cannabis play in your creative process?
Damian Marley: Cannabis plays a really big role in my life in general. I’m burning a spliff as I’m speaking to you now, so what role does it not play? It’s kind of hard to say. It’s a part of my day-to-day regimen. Most of the things I’m doing are under the influence of cannabis [laughs].
High Times: Is there a specific method of consumption or specific strain you prefer?
Damian Marley: Ocean Grown OG Kush tends to be one of my favorites, but we still enjoy other strains, too. Variety is the spice of life in that way.
I also usually smoke, I don’t really do many edibles or that kind of stuff. It’s mostly smoking, although I would encourage people not to smoke and instead consume edibles because smoking in itself is not a healthy habit—but that’s just what I do.
High Times: Do you feel that the act of consumption opens you up to other ways of thinking or other spiritual activity?
Damian Marley: It puts you in a space where you have time for your own thoughts, where you can hear your thoughts a bit more clearly. It helps you focus less on the busyness around you and you get more exclusive to your own thoughts.
High Times: As in putting your own thoughts under your own sort of microscope?
Damian Marley: More so that you get to hear your own voice more clearly by silencing some of the other voices around you.
High Times: So it’s more that it helps you block out distractions and other external factors and tune you in to you.
Damian Marley: Especially when I was younger. Now, of course, [smoking] is part of my life so I don’t have the kind of jolt and effect from when you just start smoking. But after high school when I was smoking and reading the bible and learning about my faith as a Rastafari, you really get to meditate and zone in on your own voice and certain topics in a different way.
High Times: From a music standpoint, what can we be on the lookout for from you in the coming months?
Damian Marley: I’m about to start making some music for myself right now, so it’s a bit difficult to say specifically what to look for, but you can look for some music from me this year. I would think we’ll probably start with a few singles leading up into an album. We also recently released an album I produced for an artist by the name of Kabaka Pyramid, where myself and the team produced the entire album, and we’re really proud of that.
High Times: Is it the same creative input that you provide when producing a record for someone else that you provide for yourself?
Damian Marley: We give one-hundred percent when making music, regardless of what we’re doing, you know what I mean?
High Times: Whether you’re creating music for yourself or someone else, is there something you hope the audience takes from it?
Damian Marley: Yeah, something that they need. So it’s not for me to say what they must take, but we want them to take something that they need, something that will benefit their life in some kind of way.
Something I always find very interesting and such a joy is in how people interpret songs and what they take from them. Sometimes with certain songs and certain lyrics, someone might find a completely different meaning from what I was trying to say in the conversation of the lyrics. They interpreted it completely differently, and that’s always very interesting to see. So, it’s not for me to say what people take away from it, but we want them to take something that brings substance to their life and somehow impacts their life in a positive way.
High Times: So you’re creating the substance from which other people can have an experience, but you’re not here to dictate what that experience is.
Damian Marley: We’re not telling you how to take the dosage, we’re just making the medicine.
High Times: In terms of the medicine, what types of cannabis endeavors are you currently involved in?
Damian Marley: Right now, the brand that we’re working on and supporting is called Evidence, but the overall brand that I and Dan are a part of is called Ocean Grown. The product that Ocean Grown is now presenting is called Evidence, which is obviously herb that you buy and smoke. But the great thing about Evidence is the work that we’re doing to help people who have been locked up for herb become free.
With Evidence, we’re also partnered with the organization Last Prisoner Project (LPP), and the whole aim of this organization is to help people who are locked up for marijuana and help them gain their freedom now that the cannabis laws have changed. So we have a greater purpose other than trying to just sell herb and make money. We want to do that—don’t get me wrong—but we’re doing some great work within the community through this Evidence brand and through LPP and through what the whole movement stands for. We’re encouraging people to check out that part to fully understand what the movement is all about, while also enjoying the cannabis.
High Times: So the brand has that social impact element, which is really important.
Damian Marley: Yeah, really important. Cannabis users tend to be good people who want to do good, so it goes hand in hand.
Follow @damianmarley and check out https://damianmarley.com for tickets, tour dates, and the latest on the Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise.