By Mary Ought Six
On October 21, Ziggy Marley brought his good vibe having, Grammy Award-winning, reggae ensemble to the Best Buy theater in NYC. I came for the early door and the mood was already set to relaxation and positivity. Fans chilled on couches, stairs, at the bars tucked into each of the venue’s nooks and crannies, and gathered around the stage for good positioning.
The “Forward To Love” tour rides the heels of Ziggy’s latest musical release, Wild And Free, an album that speaks to the cannabis cause. The title track, featuring Woody Harrelson on vocals, doesn’t leave much mystery to the message: “I see fields forever, growing wild and free. I see marijuana trees blowing in our breeze...”         

But this album isn’t a package of message songs. The tunes vary and flow as pleasantly as you’d expect from Bob Marley’s eldest. It’s definitely one of my favorite releases of the year and I predict another Grammy nomination riding in on that fragrant breeze.

Opening for Ziggy was drum master Leon Mobley, whose infectious smile and African drumming had the crowd singing and sparking joints from jump street – though the gorgeously energetic accompanying dancer may have had quite a bit to do with that as well...

The fans had come for Ziggy though, and it was happy screaming and lots of feet stomping when the star took the stage, guiding us through a blend of songs from Wild And Free, Love Is My Religion, and a slew of his father’s hits.

He did save that stony title track for the encore, but I expected nothing less. It was a great show and Ziggy was kind enough to sit down with HIGH TIMES for a few minutes before joining the VIP meet and greet.

How did you first come up with the title track for your new album, Wild And Free?
I was in New Zealand. We were on tour and I brought some books with me about hemp, because I know about marijuana. I was researching hemp and working on the MARIJUANAMAN comic book at the same time, so I wanted more knowledge. They grow hemp where I was in New Zealand and there was a hemp store down the street from me. So I went there and then that night after the concert I sat down and started writing “Wild And Free” backstage.

The cause of cannabis became the important thing to me. Not so much because of marijuana, but because of hemp. The amount of things it can do. You know, marijuana is a part of the cannabis plant, but when I realized that there’s this medicine and the plant can do multiple things, I was like, “Why is the benefit that this plant has not being used for the planet?” And so hemp and herb and the whole plant became one thing for me.

I don’t like to separate the plant. My thing is the whole plant, not one side of it, and I encourage people to expand beyond that. To tell people everything about the plant, everything. This is the key, to give people the whole picture, not just the smoking part of it. And the hemp ones, don’t just give the hemp side of it. Everybody should be in unity for the unification of the idea of what is this plant.

Was “Wild And Free” the first idea you had for the album?
Yeah, that was the first. That was what came to me and that was what I thought the album should be about, really. The album’s original idea was to have it themed around cannabis, “Wild And Free” was the first song. I was going to try to do every song about cannabis, [laughing] but I couldn’t do it. But there is mention to it in some songs.

Like in “Forward To Love...”
Yes, yes, yes, there are connections there.
You chose to call the tour “Forward To Love” instead of “Wild And Free,” was there any reason behind that?
Yes, because I’m going to do a “Wild And Free” tour next year. The “Wild and Free” Tour I want it to be a summer tour, you know, really wild and free. So, I decided to call this fall tour “Forward To Love.”
How did Woody Harrelson end up singing on the album?
It was coincidence, really. He came by my house after he was done working or something, just sort of popped by, and we didn’t have things to do so we started jamming together. That was the first time really, while I was still writing it. And then he came by the studio, and I said, “Woody, come on, I want you to sing on this song.” A couple takes later I said, “I’m putting you on this album,” and he said, “All right, cool.”
Are you working on the next MARIJUANAMAN?
We’re talking to Jim Mahfood about it right now with some ideas, so yeah we’re working on it.
Have you had inspiration for new songs or an album concept?
I don’t want to take too long to do the next album, really. So I’ve been going through my head, like I usually do, thinking about some sounds and some songs that I’ve started writing. And I’m trying to see what the whole picture will look like. I’m in that process right now.
Any sneak previews on themes?
Hmm, I think maybe celebration. I don’t know why, but I think there is going to be something to celebrate in the near future... A celebratory record. I don’t know if that’s what it is, but that’s where I’m kinda headed, you know?
How often do you smoke?
I smoked a lot when I was younger, now I don’t need it. If I feel like it I smoke. If I feel like it after the show I chill out, whatever, but I’m not a big smoker. Once in a while I do. I think we have to be very careful, even with nature, that we don’t over use it or abuse it, everything in moderation.
You’ve mentioned before that while you were growing up, it was completely normal to use cannabis medicinally...
In Jamaica we use herbs as a natural part of our life... It’s just a plant! It’s just one of the herbs in our garden. But you can use it to smoke it if you want, or to make rugs, medicines, so I don’t know why the Western culture is so against the whole use of it. Pharmaceutical companies want to synthesize it and make it into what they want and control it. Why would I buy from you if I can grow it? If I could grow all my food I wouldn’t go to the supermarket, so if I could grow my medicine I wouldn’t need drugs, I would use my medicine in my garden.