Q&A: Julian Marley carries on the family tradition

Sun Jun 7, 2009 9:17pm EDT
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By Monica Herrera

NEW YORK (Billboard) - After a six-year hiatus, Julian "JuJu" Marley is back with his third album, "Awake."

The Ghetto Youths/Universal release, which he co-produced with his brothers Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley and Stephen Marley, drew inspiration from the spirit of Cedella Marley Booker, their grandmother (and Bob Marley's mother), who died in 2008.

Marley spoke to Billboard about maturing as an artist, youth-on-youth crime and the family legacy that inspires his music.

Billboard: "Awake" is your first album since 2003. Have you been working on it this whole time?

Julian Marley: Overall it took me two years to really start and complete it. Before that I was helping out with different Marley family projects, like the Roots Rock Reggae Fest and Africa Unite, and working on Stephen's and Damian's albums. I wrote and recorded "Awake" during the months in between and had input on everything, from the riddims on down. On my first two albums, I was still growing and still unsure about music. I ran into problems where I'd even written songs in a key that wasn't right for me. This time I found my own comfort zone, and the songs are tailor-made.

Billboard: What is the concept behind the album?

Marley: What's going on in the world right now is a sign of the times -- in Jamaica we say "judgment time." Jobs are gone, there's violence in the streets, and everything that we want exceeds the money that there is. On the title track I sing, "For many years we have been lost in our tears/For many years the prophets have spoke/And still we can't find no peace of mind/When will we wake?" We need to awaken the mentality of mankind.

Billboard: Stephen sings on "Too Little Too Late," and Damian is featured on "Violence in the Streets." What's it like working so closely with your brothers?   Continued...

<p>Julian Marley (L) and his band perform at a bar to celebrate Usain Bolt of Jamaica winning the men's Olympic 100 metres final, at a bar in downtown Beijing, August 16, 2008. REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen</p>