Jamaican songwriter and musician Skip Marley talks about his new reggae-tinged, feel-good single ‘Jane’, the importance of spreading love with his music when the world needs it most and carrying on the Marley legacy.
Skip Marley may have the long, lush dreadlocks, rich vocal tone and musical skillset of his legendary grandfather Bob Marley, but that’s not where the resemblance ends. Jamaican-born, Miami-bred Skip Marley has cultivated a sound that speaks to his Jamaican heritage, pays homage to his family’s legacy, and uplifts and unites his listeners through love and consciousness.
While his own music journey didn’t kick in until his early teen years, it didn’t take Skip long to flex the knowledge his ancestors passed down and clock accolades of his own. He inked a deal with Island Records in 2017 and, by 2020, earned his first gold
single for the #1 global smash ‘Slow Down’ with GRAMMY Award-winning artist H.E.R.. Slow Down’ racked up over 200 million global streams and became the quickest and biggest streaming song in Marley family history. More than that, ‘Slow Down’ marked the first time a Jamaican-born artist reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Adult R&B chart in nearly a decade and a half.
A lengthy list of collabs followed, as well as his critically lauded debut album ‘Higher Place’. Skip was nominated for two Grammy Awards (Best R&B song and Best Reggae Album), two Soul Train Music Awards, an NAACP Image award, and Best New Artist at the iHeart Music Awards.
However, a quick chat with the musician and songwriter will confirm he’s not interested in fame as much as he is in elevating his fans and spreading positivity. Proof of this can be found in his single ‘Change’, released in early 2022 via Tuff Gong/Island Records and the reggae-tinged, feel-good summer jam ‘Jane’, featuring Nigerian-based Afro-pop sensation Ayra Starr.
MARVIN caught up with Skip as the summer winds down, and he gears up to kick off his headline tour ‘Change’ to talk about the new single, his forthcoming album and the importance of carrying on the Marley legacy.
Do you feel music was your destiny?
I always felt it was within me, it’s in my blood. Music was a part of me and it had to come out one way or the other.
When did you first get into music?
I started playing piano at six years old. I tried to play guitar when I was younger, but the strings used to hurt my fingers.
What sparked the change in your mindset?
My uncle Stephen Marley brought me on stage to sing “One Love” with him when I was 14 years old. I remember after that night, it was like the music was calling me. It chose me, you could say. I picked the guitar back up again, and this time I was serious.
Did you immediately put pen to paper and start writing songs?
I started producing first, I would make my own beats and stuff. I could already play the instruments so I had a feel for it. On all my tracks now, I’m still on the production. My first attempt at writing was when I was like 17 years old, and everything took off from there. The first song I wrote was called ‘Life’, which was the second song I released.
One of your first major collaborations was co-writing and featuring on Katy Perry’s chart-topping track ‘Chain to the Rhythm.’ How did that come together?
That was 2017, after I got signed to Island Records. I was over there in California working with Max Martin and Snoop and the whole crew. He was playing my song ‘Lions’ and Katy Perry walked into the studio and said, “who’s that?” Snoop said, “that’s Skip Marley.” And Katy replied “I need him on my next tune.” They called me to relay the news and I said “of course!”
Were you surprised by the invitation?
Yeah, at first I was like, “Why did Katy Perry come to me and not one of my uncles?” that’s crazy still. From there we did The Grammy’s, The Brits, the iHeart Awards. When you link up with someone who has such a reach like that, Katy Perry has millions and millions of people following her so it was a huge thing and I’m grateful for that today.
That opened the door for a long list of collaborators. Who was next?
The next big collaboration was ‘Slow Down’ with H.E.R. I collaborated with Major Lazer, my uncle Damian Jr. Marley, Davido, Popcaan, D Smoke, Ari Lennox, Rick Ross… there’s been a lot on the journey.
Speaking of ‘Slow Down’, that song and your debut album ‘Higher Place’ landed you two Grammy nominations and a long list of awards. How did it feel?
For me, I never make music for the Grammys. I mean I’m proud of it but it’s not something that I would go out of my way to do. I don’t make music for the fame, I do it for the love
Is there any collaboration that stands out above the others?
Working with my uncle Damian for sure. You know, growing up it was like I was always in school watching my uncles and mom do what they do. So when my time came around and I got the opportunity to be out there working with my uncle, that was really like “Wow!”
What does it mean to you to be carrying the torch and continuing the Marley legacy?
Wearing my family name on my back, that’s been my proudest achievement so far. For me it’s the most important part. I take it very seriously and I know I have a duty to do that. Almost like a soldier I have a responsibility to lead the next generation and keep reaching people with the music and spreading our message through other avenues too.
You appear in a new documentary titled ‘Let’s Take It Higher’ by Boomshots. Would you ever be up for playing your grandfather in a biopic?
Well that is yet to be seen but I know it’s in the air, so we’ll have to wait and see. Trust me, I think it’s in the works.
Where did the inspiration come for your new single, ‘Jane’ with stunning Nigerian Afropop sensation Ayra Starr?
It’s about lifting your spirits, and using the gift of life and the elements to open up your heart. Imagine someone or something that’s always there for you, taking care of you and not judging you at all but helping you out. Big shout out to Aya Starr for lending her gifts and beauty.
What message do you want to send with your new album?
It’s up to the people to take what they want to take from it but we’re definitely speaking about things that are going on in the world that need speaking about. I want the people who listen to it to free their minds, and free themselves. When my grandfather Bob Marley made music, it was a different time, but we’re in the same fight now. There’s a lot of things going on out there where we have to really rise to the occasion and lead with love, positivity and consciousness. That mentality was instilled in me my whole upbringing watching my uncles, aunties, grandfather, grandmother.
‘Change’, which you released earlier this year is also a very uplifting track. What are your thoughts on creating music that unifies people?
There’s just this beauty in the music to me, how it can connect everybody. From all walks of life, people can vibe to a song. Music is a tool that we need to use for a positive impact vs a negative impact. Words cast spells so you have to be careful what you say.
Have you had a lot of people reach out to tell you what your music has meant to them?
Yeah man. I remember when I released my first song and one guy was like, “your music really helped me. I was going through a dark part in my life and your music really shed a light and helped me out of the funk and the rut I was in.” If the music only effects one person like that, for me, it’s doing its job. Another beautiful thing about music is that everybody has their own interpretation. A song can mean something to me as the writer and you can hear it and it mean something totally different for you.
Where is your favourite place to write music?
There’s a room in my house and when the sun is setting through the window I like sitting right there and writing with my guitar or at the piano. Otherwise I’ll go outside or somewhere that my mind is clear, and my heart is clear and open.
Whats the next instrument you’re going to learn to play?
Matter of fact I was just thinking about it. I would love to get into the brass sections you know the horns, the saxophone, the wind instruments, the flute. I would love to pick it up one of these days. I’m grateful I still have a lot of time to learn more.
What advice would you pass down to the next generation of Marley’s and new gen reggae artists coming up currently?
I would only give them the positive. I wouldn’t make them feel in a way that would put down their dreams. I’d say follow your heart and work hard. Believe in yourself. Without confidence, you’ll be twice defeated. And then know what you’re doing it for, and that should be the benefit of mankind. Trust me.
Watch the official music video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
08/27 – Beacon Park – Detroit, MI
09/17 – Sea.Hear.Now Festival – Asbury Park, NJ**
09/21 – Toybox – Toronto, ON
09/23 – Higher Ground – Showcase Lounge – Burlington, VT
09/24 – Freshgrass Festival – MASS MoCA – North Adams, MA
09/26 – Central Park SummerStage – New York, NY
09/27 – Union Stage – Washington, DC
09/28 – Elevation 27 – Virginia Beach, VA
09/30 – Oceans Calling Festival – Ocean City, MD**
10/02 – Harlows Night Club – Sacramento, CA
10/04 – SoHo Restaurant & Music Club – Santa Barbara, CA
10/05 – The Roxy – Los Angeles, CA
10/06 – AURA – Tempe, AZ
10/08 – Reggae Rise Up Vegas Festival – Las Vegas, NV**
10/09 – Hangar House – Salt Lake City, UT
10/10 – Cervantes’ Other Side – Denver, CO
10/12 – 3Ten – Austin, TX
10/14 – House Of Blues – Cambridge Room – Dallas, TX
10/15 – House Of Blues – Bronze Peacock – Houston, TX
10/16 – Parish at House Of Blues – New Orleans, LA
10/18 – Underbelly – Jacksonville, FL
10/19 – Crowbar – Tampa, FL
11/20 – Wonderfront Music Arts Festival – San Diego, CA**
** Festival Appearance