Gramps Morgan ADD

Interview: Gramps Morgan - Reggae Music Lives

04/25/2012 by Justine Amadori Ketola

Interview: Gramps Morgan - Reggae Music Lives

Reggaeville reached Gramps Morgan to explore the energy behind his second solo release Reggae Music Lives and the touring schedule of Morgan Heritage, prepping for their first European tour in four years this summer.  His hopeful and upbeat disposition translates to develop some of reggae's most well-produced and thoughtful sounds.  Reggae Music Lives,  the title track thunders in a one drop style, an ode to the issues around leadership and role models and the need to preserve the music, as Gramps reminds in the lyric, "Don't get distracted by the lies in the market, look who is plentiful on the day of harvest."  When asked whether the artist felt his role or mission may be to fix things and whether perhaps he felt compelled to preserve and protect the music, he opened the interview with an enthusiastic response. 

Do you feel that the mission is to fix things?
The mission is a statement, letting the world know that reggae music lives because it is getting stronger than ever. Because, the King of Reggae who is Bob Marley said ,'Reggae music is going to continue to grow and grow until it reaches its rightful people,'  and such is happening right now. You find that reggae artists are rising up from all over the world like wild fire, in the United States, in the Caribbean, other than Jamaica you have Trinidadian reggae artists, you have Virgin Island reggae artists. In Europe you have German reggae artists, you have Italian, French, Canadian, Japanese reggae artists.  So it is a statement to the world that reggae music lives. It's not going anywhere, its not a declaration or a mission so to speak, it is a declaration to the world to know that it is here to stay and we want you to enjoy and be prepared for the best, because we are just getting started as an industry."

How did this project come about? Is this self-produced, who is performing on this album?
Musicians from the Marley camp, from Shaggy camp and from the Morgan Heritage band so it is a blend of these, because those are like some of our closest friends and family. Stephen Marley, a very close friend of mine, Damian Marley, Ky-Mani Marley. Then you have the Morgan Heritage Family, which is the same band that tours with us, and then Shaggy's band, a guy named Michael Fletcher, a wonderful bass player. And on drums someone who tours with Morgan Heritage sometimes he substitutes for our drummer his name is Shawn Dawson, we call him "Natty".  A blend of different musicians, a newcomer, first time I am getting a chance to work with him, I wanted to work with him way back in the days with Morgan Heritage when we just came to Jamaica, was Mr. Clive Hunt. He is a very talented musician and producer, a lot of people are producers but they are not musicians, and that is one of the differences with a man like Clive Hunt, he's a musician as well as a producer.

Also present is the song Darling It's You produced by Kemar "Flava" McGregor on the Classic riddim. And as Gramps reminds, "Flava also worked on my album Two Sides of My Heart, Volume 1, the song he produced on that one was called, One In A Million. I was showing some alliance and loyalty to those who started with me on the first album which was Flava who gave me a really big record."

Were you the producer on the tracks on this album?
I was co-producer on the tracks, I would take the tracks and then I would see the potential on the track and then put my polishing touches on it, put on some more keyboards, more additional production.  Many different producers worked on it, like Clive Hunt, he gave me a lot of raw tracks and then I took it to the next level. So we co-produced some of the tracks together. If I didn't produce it, I was co-producer on it. Another musician, he's a musical director, keyboard player for Ky-Mani Marley, his name is Jason "J-Vibe" he worked on I Really Appreciate You.

You have released an album with great energy in songs that focus on Africa where you and the band have performed in numerous countries, what is it like there as compared to other territories?
Africa is very close to mi heart and you know Morgan Heritage, we haven't been touring in Europe in the Caribbean and in the United States, but we've been consistently doing shows in Africa and have got a chance to connect with Africa for the past two years.  Through the history of touring with Morgan Heritage we've always toured Europe, even sometimes three times a year.  We toured America twice a year and we toured the Caribbean always, but we never have a chance to tour Africa. So during these solo projects we said that was something we would always focus on.  So people are always wondering, says in a funny voice 'Are they together, are they broken up?' We're just not putting out any albums.

What about the return of the Morgan Heritage band to recording and touring?
We are in the studio working on the new album, we released the new single just dropped a couple days ago, called The Return.  And we will be coming to Europe this summer as Morgan Heritage.  So we're back in the business and just and just introducing ourselves back into each individual market.

What does it feel like touching ground and moving through the music industry in Africa?
In Africa, it is wonderful, we have had a chance to work with a lot of African artists, like Daraa J, we had a chance to work with those guys.  Youssou N' Dour from out of Senegal. As well as in Kenya, an artist named Y Ray. We have collaborated with artists from the Caribbean as well; Luciano, Beres Hammond, Busy Signal, Duane Stephenson, so we work with many different artists, Bounty Killer, Buju Banton, just to name a few. And we wanted to start working with different artists, we worked with Gentleman, and we produced songs for his first album that did really well in Europe, I think it went gold.  Now we are at the point where we are just expanding the family.

What can you tell us about the next generation of Morgan Heritage,  as in the career of  your son Jemere, are you producing him? Does he tour with you?
Yes, I am working with my son now, he's sixteen years old and he's doing well. I think the reggae parents now have the artists for their children which I think is a wonderful thing.  And I think Jemere is going to fill that void that has been missing for many years.  He has been touring with me and his uncle Peter, last year we came to Europe and performed on different festivals right through.  And he tours with me throughout the Caribbean.  As far as the production goes, I wont be doing all the tracks myself. I don't believe in that. I believe that when you do an album, it needs to be a flavor, a different energy, out of how everyone interprets music.   So I would never do an album like that where it is just one producer, it kind of limits you and limits the color of the pictures, you know?  With Jemere, he's already working with one of my producers that I work with, he's the musical director for Stephen Marley, his name is "Riffraff", Lamar Brown. He produced Life Too Short and he has produced Jemere's single called Sunshine Glow. We just shot the video for that.  As well as having him working with another one of my producers, Delly Ranx who is an artist himself and a producer, and they did a song called Paradise. I would also like to get him doing some work with Buju Banton's son, Markus Myrie, I think it would be good to get those two in the studio together.

How old is Markus? He is 17 years old.  

You are a very close ally and friend of Buju Banton, do you keep up with him during his imprisonment? Any messages we can receive from him through you, any information that you would like to share on his behalf?
Buju just wants the fans to continue to pray for him, support him in any way that you can. There's ways to support the Buju Banton trust fund, there's ways to find it on line, on Facebook. He's doing well, he's living with his choices and the decisions that have come into his life. it is what it is and he's just trying to survive right now and be strong so to the world, just hold for Buju, continue to pray for him.

Your content is so inspiring and uplifting, what compels you to work with songs like Dream?
God bless you, I am happy you felt that song. Because….a lot of things people don't understand about Gramps, you don't get a chance to meet me one on one, I am about the healing, the restoring, healing power of reggae music.  I am trying to bring that essence back to the music, because it has become very sexual, very aggressive in the past ten to fifteen years, that is what has become of the popular music. I think that this is the original formula, the original recipe that is missing. That is what I am trying to do, that is what I am trying to bring back in the music, through my solo music. With these two albums, I think I have nailed it on the head, with songs like Wash the Tears, Dream and Life Too Short. With Dream, it was a wonderful song, when I heard it, somebody wrote it for me, they said, 'you've got to hear this song.' Irish and Chin were responsible for introducing me to this guy named Rellee Hayden, as part of the A Team. A young producer out of New York city, amazing songwriting team, and I heard the song and 'I said that's my song, I need to sing this message to inspire people to dream big, live your life, enjoy it.' You know life is short, and Reggae Music Lives has almost a theme to it, out of anything in my solo music, I want to give people is the healing.  Have a sense of hope, and let them know that everything's gonna be all right and offer comfort.  I wish I could give the world, every single person a big warm hug (says with a smile in his voice). 

Who wrote "Wash The Tears" from the first solo album?
I wrote that on one piece of paper!

You are considered a very well-connected reggae artist outside of the reggae world, in the entertainment industry in general. What is your secret to success and networking?
Just love, it's all about love. And if you approach anyone with love, it wins all. Love conquers all. Like I have this thing that says 'LAW' and you know what 'LAW' means? It means, "love always wins" and that is Gramps in a nutshell. And when it comes to LAW you can approach anybody with it, and I am not really afraid to approach any one with it, it's just at the right time, with the right  energy. That's how I met a lot of people, that's how I met India Arie, that's how I met Musiq Soulchild. That's how I got started working with John Legend, that whole network, has been a great experience.  I met a lot of these people on the road. 

What can people expect on the European tour, are people going to hear individual artist songs from band members?
We may, you know Peetah has had a lot of success with his solo projects, Mojo did as well, my song Wash The Tears is a really big hit, so we will make sure we have some of those songs prepared, so that if somebody shouts out we can do some karaoke. Cause if someone shouts out a song, it is all Morgan Heritage. We have been putting out so many albums that  a lot of the fans haven't heard a lot of the songs. We haven't performed a lot of our songs from our albums live.  So it is ten albums, I am sure most of the Morgan Heritage fans them, they don't have all ten albums. That's one of the reasons we wanted to give it a break, so people can digest what we have put out for the past twenty-odd years.  Its a lot you know, but I mean we are still young, but we still want our fans to kind of enjoy the music and you can't stuff a baby's belly or its going to burst. 

When will rehearsals start for the tour and what will they consist of?
We start rehearsal in early may.  With Morgan Heritage, the band is always in tune, even when we play shows in Africa, we never rehearse, we haven't rehearsed in four years.  We just get together and just play, with the new single now called The Return, we are going to have to rehearse, so we will be putting that together over the next ten days. And the tour starts on July 19th. 

What would you say are your long range plans for the Reggae Music Lives album?
I plan to do some touring, at minimum to support it in a few different markets, as in the Midwest of the United States, in the Caribbean and in the Fall I will probably try to come back to Europe or back to the U.S.  I am just thankful for this journey, and had a wonderful time expressing myself, and now getting back to my day job which is Morgan Heritage, and focusing on this now for the Morgan Heritage fans.  We are playing at the Rototom Sunsplash, the Italian festival now in Spain.  We'll be playing in Amsterdam, which is one of our favorite places to play, we'll be at Paradiso as Morgan Heritage in Concert.  And I think a couple new territories, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary.