Julian Marley Talks Winning His First Grammy and Why His Father's Message Still Resonates

The son of the legendary Bob Marley reflects on his diverse musical journey, winning a Grammy for ‘Colors of Royal,’ and the profound message behind ‘Bob Marley: One Love.’

All over the globe, the musical legacy of Bob Marley is undeniable, and one of his children, Julian Marley, is proud to walk in the footsteps of his iconic father.

Marley was a multi-instrumentalist who learned keyboards, drums, bass, and guitar early.  Along with his brothers Ziggy Marley and Stephen Marley, they founded Ghetto Youth International, a production company that serves underprivileged youths.

As a solo artist, he’s released several albums, including “Lion in the Morning” (1996),” A Time & Place” (2003), “Awake” (2009), and “As I Am” (2019).

On his latest project, Colors of Royal, Marley expanded on his roots-reggae sound and incorporated R&B, pop, and hip-hop motifs, showcasing his dexterity as a musician. He collaborated with acclaimed producer Antaeus for the album, who’s worked with Earth, Wind & Fire, Rolling Stones, and Yaksta.

Garnering critical acclaim at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards, he won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album. caught up with Marley and Antaeus, and we spoke about the feeling of winning his first Grammy, the importance of authentic musicianship, and what he hopes moviegoers will leave with after watching “Bob Marley: One Love.”

BET: You were born and raised in the U.K. How did growing up there shape you as an artist?

Julian Marley: Being born in the UK exposed me to many different cultures. We used to have a big Jamaican community we used to call “The Frontline” that was right beside the studio called Basing Street Studio where my father recorded his “Exodus” and “Kaya” albums. On Saints Road, there were Rastas, reggae music, food culture. On the next road over, it was like being in England. From hanging out with my granny when she watched hymns and on a TV program called “Songs of Praise.” In the early 80s, hip hop just came to England. So I was picking up on RUN-DMC, LL Cool J, and Public Enemy, which were my favorites. So there were so many cultures. With all those influences, how would you describe your reggae version?

Julian Marley: It’s natural and organic. It’s like being outside with the roots and limbs of the trees because reggae music is life. So when you hear it, you don't just want to feed, you know, you know, Sometimes I hear music and it keeps me inside my head. That’s the type of music that I like to try to create because that's the type of music that I love to listen to. I don't want to hear any music that limits my thoughts. my meditation, It's organic humanitarian music. I do get inspired by different sounds, different genres of music, but it all contains the roots which is in the message and the words. When did you two meet?

Antaeus: I used to have a restaurant and bar in Kingston. I also had a studio in my restaurant. So Julian just came by to say hello and enjoy himself and relax one day. I invited him to the studio. I played him some rhythms and he liked some of them. We started doing one song, which was a remake of “The Tide Is High” by John Holt who Julian calls “Uncle John.” The Paragons were his group. That song was very important to me because most people who know that song think it’s a Blondie song because they made it a number-one hit in 1980. So I just felt the need to bring that song back to let the world know that this is its Jamaican song. And who better to sing it but Julia who has a wonderful voice, and he's an extremely talented artist. I guess fate brought us together. We started with one song, which eventually led to the album. Colors of Royal is a great project, especially “Inna World” and “Made For Your Love.” What was the vision behind collaborating on the album?

Julian Marley: Alex is the one who put everything together musically. We also worked with two other bredrens who gave some great effort towards a project with the production. Notnice, Mr. Sonic, Sean Alaric, and Prince Productions. It’s really what music speaks to me, you know? Every instrument comes from nature. Even though it might be in a drum machine, it still came from something. You can’t make something out of nothing.

Antaeus: Julian taught me a lot. And what he taught me was that music is music. And there are no boundaries, just because people like to place people in certain areas and say your roots reggae. Julian told me music is music, whether you like it, and we'll do it or we don't like it. And we don't do it as simple as that. So that gave me the comfort to explore things. What does the title of the project mean?

Julian Marley: I named the album Colors of Royal because it's another color of me that nobody knows about. They know that I love this type of music. They may have thought that I could only do this. No, we are musicians. How did it feel to have your name called a Grammy winner?

Antaeus: I was just saying that Julian was asleep while he was winning the Grammy because it was the middle of the night in Australia when he was on tour. It was a great feeling to go up there and collect. But it was also a very disappointing feeling that Julian wasn’t there. In my heart, that's his Grammy, and I would have wanted him there to collect his award. It's his face, his voice, and his album. We were just there to help him. I told the other guys that since Julian isn't here, you guys can come and have some glory. But it's his project, not ours.

Julian Marley: Winning the Grammy does not mean that the mission is finished but that it's just the beginning. So it's a really good feeling. I'm just humbled and we give thanks that the music is being accepted. It just gives you more fire to continue putting out good music. The timing is impeccable with you winning a Grammy in the same month that “Bob Marley: One Love” premieres in theaters. 

Julian Marley: It’s been a lot of joy and blues. It’s a mystical time because my father's bass player Aston “Family Man” Barrett, recently passed away. Donald Kinsey, another guitarist from the Wailers, passed away. So, within that, there is sorrow. The movie is coming out, he's in the movie this is happening, that is happening, and we won a Grammy and are so honored. Let's continue doing this work that our forefathers started doing and now, we need to bridge the gap by spreading that message again. There's something very powerful about our father and his work, making me even more thankful and humble. To those who may only know your father’s life, work, and music, what do you want them to take from the film?

Julian Marley: I want them to get his message. It’s the music and message; behind it, you see the light. The important thing is the work. So to observe his purpose, not just watch the story. Listen to the message of the whole movie. That's why it’s called “One Love.” When you have “One Love,” it means no oppression. You have to pray and push down that oppression so that we can make that one love real. You have to forget the diversions or to your mind, get your heart right, and let that “One Love” be. I want them to understand what “One Love” means. “One Love” means there are no barriers.

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