Returning home with Julian Marley: Singer talks Bob Marley, brotherly love and Grammy-nominated album

Julian Marley says he loves spending time at the Bob Marley Museum.

It’s the day after Julian’s dad, reggae legend Bob Marley, would have turned 75, and he’s chilling at 56 Hope Road, where his pop’s former home is now a venerated museum.

“Where’s my lighter?” Julian, accentuated by a camouflaged jacket and black boots, asks a friend. Returning home is not a feeling he can justly explain, instead, Julian said it is something to be experienced.

“Whenever I return here I remember the early days of my childhood, coming in and seeing all the famous legends and artistes going into Bob Marley’s original record plant,” Julian told BUZZ. “The whole energy of that time I can still feel it in this time. It’s not much to explain, it’s more of a feeling I can still feel.”

Overwhelming vibe

Julian Marley (right) performing with his brothers, Damian (centre) and Ky-mani on Thursday.

This feeling climatised on February 6 when he performed alongside his brothers, Damian and Ky-mani, at the annual birthday concert held for their father at the museum. Though it was the first in sometime that Jamaicans saw the Marley-brother magic on stage, Julian said they link up “anytime”.

“Most of us live in Florida anyway, so it’s easy to just drive right over to your brother’s house and play some ball and make some music. It’s always a tight-knit,” he said.

“Whenever I return here I remember the early days of my childhood.”

— Julian Marley

This fun-loving kind of relationship is the personification of his father’s lucid wish for mankind. This year will mark 39 years since Bob Marley died from cancer, and Julian is pleased with the treatment of his legacy. 

“The people celebrate it great, it’s all about the people cause when you check our father music, it’s dealing with the normal person, him nuh really a talk bout any kind of high society, him just a deal with people as a whole and him waan see him brother uplifted,” he said. “When you see a celebration like yesterday’s (Thursday) 75th birthday concert, that was such an overwhelming vibe… It was a surprise show, I didn’t know Ky-mani was coming either but it worked. That’s the beauty of celebrating our father’s birthday in righteousness.”

Celebration

Julian is pleased with the treatment of Bob Marley’s legacy.

Celebrations are also still abound for Julian whose 2019 album, As I Am, earned a Grammy nod for Best Reggae Album. The 17-track genre-bending project was 10 years in the making and has a little bit of something for everyone; from ska vibes on Baby Lotion, funky joints like Chalice Load, roots reggae songs like Are You The One, to songs about relationships and the hardships of life.

Julian said the creative process unfolded with his appreciation for different genres, including jazz and blues, waltz, afrobeat, modern and reggae music.

“Being a musician, sometimes you tend to take on a lot of different inspirations and vibes from the music. If you love it as a musician, it’s going to come out at some point and that’s how we learn. We can’t learn without knowledge from someone or somewhere, and that’s how we get As I Am,” he said. “The title came about because every song was so different, I couldn’t name one song to fully explain the whole album except for As I Am. Today I feel like blue, tomorrow is brown, the next day is green and that’s what the album is, the inspiration and feelings from music that I love and music that comes out of me and is just as I am. It’s obviously upliftment music too.”

A good man

Julian Marley performing at the Bob Marley birthday celebration on Thursday.

Choosing a favourite from the record would be like singling out a child as his favourite, so Julian said each song carries its own special sentiment. He is, however, satisfied with the reception the album is receiving and intends to go on tour this summer and pen new songs.

When his time comes to pass in the flesh, and the world rewatches his interviews and listens to his music, Julian wants one thing to be said.

“That ‘he was a good man’…” he said. “By that time we hope seh judgement come and all the oppressed have been fed and all those who have been oppressing the oppressors have been cramped. I am humbled within that point. We are here just to deliver a God message, so I just want the people to say, ‘he was a good man’.”