After taking on children's music on 2009's "Family Time," Ziggy Marley returns to his regular musical path with "Wild and Free," due out June 14 on his family's Tuff Gong Worldwide label.
"I really enjoyed 'Family Time'," Marley tells Billboard.com. "But it was such a specific album for a specific reason, I just consider it in a different league than (2006's Grammy Award-winning) 'Love is My Religion.' So it's been awhile since I've done an album where I can go back to some issues and sing about some things I couldn't address on 'Family Time.' But ('Family Time') was a really good project for me, and necessary at the time."
Marley recorded "Wild and Free" in Los Angeles with producer Don Was and a group of musicians that includes Rolling Stones bassist Darryl Johnson; "He played with Miles Davis, and I wanted to hear Miles stories," Marley says with a laugh. Guests on the album include actor Woody Harrelson on the title track, which was used for California's Proposition 19 campaign to legalize recreational marijuana, Heavy D on "It" and Marley's oldest son, Daniel, on "Changes." Key to the album, however, were the extensive demos that Marley made in his home studio, which he says made it easier to achieve the sound he was looking for on "Wild and Free's" 12 tracks.
"The problem with using live musicians before was it was hard for them to come in and capture what I needed," he explains. "So the whole process of doing the pre-production on my own -- putting on bass parts, putting on drum parts -- was to avoid putting that amount of pressure on a musician coming into the studio to try to figure out what Ziggy wants, or what Ziggy's sound is or what Ziggy likes. So I'd give them the sound. I'd give them a lot of the parts and they could interpret it or play it properly. I wanted it to be very organic and not over-thought or over-processed."
A variety of themes run through the album, including "changes and revolution" both globally and personally. "Social revolutions and group revolutions are good and we need that," Marley says, "but we also need personal revolution, revolution within ourselves that change who we are as people." To that end is the album's first single, "Forward to Love," which was inspired by his wife, Orly. The use of cannabis and hemp are also promoted on the album, but not just for recreational purposes, Marley says.
"I wanted a movement attached to the record, and the movement is the whole idea of using the cannabis plant for more than what it's used for now," Marley explains. "It can be used for environmental reasons and industrial reasons and nutritional reasons, to benefit the planet, not just for getting high." He's also created a new super-hero, Marijuanaman, for his first graphic novel, which will be published on April 20.
"It's entertainment," Marley says, "but I don't want this to be a novelty. This is a very deep character with issues to solve in this world. The story's not about getting high and the munchies and all of that; the story's about utilizing the plant in all its properties. I don't think people understand how much good it can do."
Marley has several concert dates booked already this year, but he says that the real push for "Wild and Free" will likely come later this year and in 2012. "I don't think I'm going to get enough time this year to really explore this album live," Marley notes, "so I'm looking for next year for it to be really about this album. I'll probably play this album more extensively live next year than this year, so it's looking like it's gonna be a two-year plan of touring with this one."
Here is the track list for Ziggy Marley's "Wild and Free":
"Wild and Free" (featuring Woody Harrelson)
"Forward to Love"
"It" (featuring Heavy D)
"Changes" (featuring Daniel Marley)
"Get out of Town"
"Roads Less Travelled"
"Welcome to the World"
"Reggae in My Head"