In the early days of the pandemic, Ziggy Marley found himself stuck at home in California, wondering how to address the pain of the current moment with his music. Since he was also occupied with family, that desire to write led to More Family Time, the new follow-up to his 2009 kids album Family Time.
“I just kept being pulled back into a kids’ record,” Marley tells Rolling Stone. “With everything that’s going on, it just felt right, doing something for the children.”
With contagious enthusiasm, Marley and friends (including Alanis Morisette, Busta Rhymes, and Sheryl Crow) sing about manners, music, nature, and life’s small joys. “Pots and pans they make good sound,” he sings on “Music Is in Everything,” a duet with Lisa Loeb. “Families now gather ’round/There’s a concert Saturday afternoon/Join us in the kitchen/As we make our rhythm.”
“A lot of these songs are just so much fun to write,” says Marley, 51. “There’s no pressure. There’s no stress.”
Marley worked on the songs at his home studio then reached out to his friends to put their spin on the tracks. “My space is pretty small, so we’d send them the songs and they had their own vision,” he says. “But to tell you the truth, even though we had to do it so remotely, it was the most I ever reached out. It’s weird: We want to reach out more now.”
Marley and his wife Orly have four kids (he has seven total), and just before the pandemic, they adopted a new dog, Romeo. Getting a pet had been a subject of debate between Marley and his wife, but Romeo “was a good addition to the family,” Marley says. “He gave us an appreciation for life and nature and everything else.” He was also inspiration for “My Dog Romeo,” which features the barking dog. “Yo, Yo, Romeo, why you chewing on the mic stand?” Marley sings. “Come on man!”
“For me, [this album] was the rebellious thing to do,” Marley adds. “Instead of writing about what’s going on, it’s something comforting. Plus, the children need as much help as anybody else in what we’re going through. So giving a family something to uplift their spirits and feel happy and enjoy together, I think, is just as important as addressing what is going on.”
Marley hopes that kids can learn something from the music. The feel-good anthem “Please Excuse Me Thank You,” a duet with Alanis Morissette, has Marley repeating the title like a mantra. “These are the words we use every day,” Marley sings. “Please, I would like some pizza?/Please, may I have some ice cream.”
“’Please, excuse me, thank you,’ that’s just typical manners,” Marley says. “For me, making music for family and children, there’s still a message to what we’re doing, there’s still a consciousness to what we’re doing. There are still lessons in it.” He brings up the song “Goo Goo Ga Ga,” which isn’t just gibberish. Another dance song, “Move Your Body,” features letters from the Ethiopian alphabet. “So there’s a lot of teaching going on; there are a lot of lessons in the songs,” Marley says.
Sheryl Crow joins Marley on “Everywhere You Go,” a laid-back singalong about unconditional love; Ben Harper sings on “Play With Sky,” about having fun in nature; Tom Morello plays on the wild, time-shifting “Move Your Body.” “Tom’s kids go to my kids’ school,” says Marley. “They play soccer together and everything.”
Marley has also been busy with another project: Bob Marley: Portrait of the Legend, out October 13th, compiles intimate photographs of the late singer to mark his 75th birthday. (Ziggy Marley will talk extensively about his late father’s photographs in an upcoming piece.) “Celebrating birthdays wasn’t a big deal for Bob when he was around,” Marley says. “But I think it’s a significant enough number that we do something special for him. Since he’s not here, we’re going to celebrate anyway and share it with the people.”
Going through those old photographs of his father may have even influenced Marley’s decision to make a children’s album. “My father loved children — he has that childlike energy to him also,” he says. “We went through a bunch of these photos, and you can see his childlike innocence. You can see how relatable he is to the children who are there. There is just a purity of innocence.”