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An Interview with Jesse Royal at Reggae on the Rocks

By September 3, 2018Articles
Jesse Royal-Island Stage Magazine

Interview and photos by Rock NRobins


If you have never been backstage at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado then you don’t know what massive is. If you aren’t awed by the physical setting, then you might be impressed by the sheer numbers of iconic talent that have performed there over the decades. From The Beatles and Hendrix to Daft Punk and Atmosphere, the place oozes charisma, beauty, and power.

It was from this setting, to a sold-out crowd of 9,525 that Jesse Royal took the stage during the two-day Reggae on the Rocks this year. Headliners Rebelution and Stephen Marley sold out the venue; a special highlight of night one was the Jamaican recording artist and philosopher, Jesse David Grey, aka Jesse Royal, a Rastaman with an urgent message. His debut album, Lily of da Valley, (2017) was produced by none other than Grammy award winning Llamar Brown of Nebilus Records.

Before the show, and after wending through the maze like backstage area, filled with photos of the known and famous, I climbed the tower stairs to find Mr. Royal for a short ten minute interview just before his set. Was that ganja I smelled? Whatever the case, Jesse Royal made it clear he is a leader with a message for all who will listen.


Jesse Royal-Island Stage Magazine

Robin: I read that you are from the Cockpit country. Are you a Maroon? 

Jesse: yea mon.
Robin: Can I touch you? (touching his knee)
Jesse: yah mon
Robin:  Because I just did!
You know, I started going to Jamaica 30 years ago and I was told I can’t go there, you know? I can’t go in the Cockpit country. Just one time a year, January sixth, the new year, would they let in other people. And then movie cameras and televisions stations and a whole heap a people. Is it still as closed as it used to be? Because that was  30 years ago.

Jesse: It’s not as closed. And I mean, there are different Maroon villages. So, my Maroon village that I am from is in St. James. not St. Elizabeth. Now there is a track that you can walk from St. James to St. Elizabeth. But in St. Elizabeth is where they fought; St. James is where dem used to rest –  is way up in the bushes, way up in the hills, and as me a say is a long way from St. Elizabeth. Way up deh. That is where my origin comes from, a place called Born Steele, in a Maroon town now. 

Robin: That’s so cool. Okay. So, um, I was confused because I knew that I was going to talk to you so I wanted to read as much as I could because I didn’t want to ask the same questions that you’ve already had, but I want to make sure that I’m right. You moved to Kingston as a youth and you met Bambaata?

Jesse: Yeah, well energy brought us together no lie. I moved to Kingston in a 1997 from St. James with I N I Mother, may her soul rest in peace. And um, yeah, me and Bambaata ended up in the same class at the same school. You know and, we ended up just clicking nah mean? We ended up clicking from the first day of school. It was my first time in Kingston. He had been going to that school all along, but this was my first time and you know?  So we met up there, connected there. It was me, him and a couple of other individuals were a tight knit unit, you know? And that’s kind of where it all stem from. I mean me and Danny literally  hung out together every single day, until, you know I mean, until probably grade 8.

Robin : Cool. Well, when I looked on with a Wiki, you know, Wikipedia? It said you had three albums, but everything I’ve seen that new says Lily of Da Valley was your debut album.

Jesse : yeah, Lilly of da Valley is my debut album.
Island Stage Magazine
Robin:  So what are these other things?
pointing to the wikipedia page  (two other albums are listed on wikipedia: Misheni, and Major Lazer’s Royally Speaking)
 Jesse: These are mixed tapes.

Robin : Aah! mix tapes!  So it should have been up here instead of down here on Wiki. Okay.

So, it seems like the world has two movements going on right now, this universal sort of governmental shift to the right. Everybody seems to be electing people like in Germany and the US that are way to the right, which is to me politically wrong.

Jesse: No, you see the universe is never wrong either.

 Robin: Okay.

Jesse: And what  you must understand that sometimes things have to get really bad for us to understand how good it was or how good it needs to be. So there’ll be things that happen that we may question from a personal standpoint, but when we can take a step back and look at it as nothing else but, um, links in a bigger chain, you know what I mean? You have a little clearer vision of why there’s  also joy and pain you know?

Robin:  Yes, I! So there also seems to be sort of an underground kind of rebel movement about teaching the children. About  teaching the children what’s right and to have a different intention as you move forward. So I think you’re a teacher. Tell me about your role as a teacher.

Jesse: Well I, I myself was taught, you know? And I admire the powers and the energies that come from education, you know what I mean? It brings forth a different level of liberation. So for me it isn’t teaching per say more than sharing this lovely knowledge that I found that is able to help to bring the island to some different realms and different dimensions of peace and joy.  So more than a teacher, I feel like I am more of a sharer, you know? We learn and what we realize is real and what is truth and try spread it foward to the youth because we can help them fi side step some snares and some troubles along the way. And is job was done, you know?

Jesse Royal-Island Stage Magazine

Robin : I noticed that you have a lot of references to Bob, “Small Axe”

Jesse: yeah
Robin: and (lyrics) ‘some say me a part
some say narrow views
but I can’t forget what Adolf did to the Jews
And what his friends did to Tuff Gong too’
So – do you believe that they poisoned Bob in Germany?

Jesse : I mean, this is my belief. You know, who know? Dem definitely set up the King. Dem definitely set up the King.  Some way, shape or form, and there was probably many other things done along the way to either speed up or ensure that their mission complete. You know? But I have absolutely no doubt that something sinister happened, because this is the same age where they took Malcom, you know, they took Martin. They took many great black leaders. So for me to doubt the wickedness that is capable of people like those, you know I would be a fool cause they’ve showed us time and time again, you know wha I mean? Of who they can be.

 Robin: For real. So, how long have you been a rasta?

Jesse: From the day mi born. You know? From the day mi born. Now, how long before we kind of know ourself? For most purpose we know ourselves by the age of 17, but as me always say, everything what happen inna life is a part a life. You don’t read a book an then open it to page 55 you know and just randomly pick a page so every word, every chapter, every sentence, every paragraph is a part of the story that leads up to what and who we are.  So, as mi say, even before the soursop tree start bearing fruit , it is already a soursop tree. Now, the older it gets, is the more it will realize its purpose in life. So likewise I N I the older we get, the more we see and the more we learn , is the more you realize what speaks to you, what makes you get out of bed and what puts you to bed, you know what I mean? And the things that are important to you, know what I mean? Because paper is blank you know I mean? So is the mentality  determine what the song is, you know what I mean? And what is written by the writer, you know?

Robin: How did you get so old in such a young body?

Jesse :(laughs) listening a lot, you know?  Listening and looking a lot, I mean observing. Always being brave enough to adjust  I just, I try not to be too rigid and try to be fluid like water. So know how fi move in an out, you know what I mean? Without having to worry about breaking. You know?

 Robin: Will you send me the pillow that you dream on?
Jesse: (big smile) Yeah man, wha you mean man? Wha you mean if I will send you the pillow?
Jesse breaks in to the song, Pillow, which he has just released with Kumar Bent of Raging Fyah and Notis Music
lyrics: “Girl send me, send me a pillow, nuh want fi hear yuh cry and weep like a willow. Girl send me, send me a pillow, don’t want fi hear yuh cry and weep, like nah”
Robin: laughs with delight at being serenaded
Jesse snaps his fingers and smiles. Clearly the music makes him happy.

Robin: What do you see next for Jesse Royal?

Jesse: Um, music!  The tour just started so we on the road we hittin’ hard, you know what I mean? We’ll be definitely spreading the love and the music and the energy. Is a lovely time to be alive. It’s lovely to be a part of this generation that keeps moving forward and, and seeking to uplift the nation you know? So as mi a say it’s a great time to be alive and we’re happy to be a part of Jah Army, you know?

Jesse Royal-Island Stage Magazine

Robin: So if you had to say like one most important message for your fans from you as a human being, what would you say that is?

Jesse:  I believe in you. You  know what I mean I really believe in you. More than they may ever know, you know, but there’s definitely something special about this generation and we have to be courageous enough to own, to own our responsibilities, own our blessings, own our gifts own our talents and utilize them for the benefit of mankind. You know what I mean? Because this is the time. This is really the time, you know?

Robin: So when you’re talking about this generation, are you talking about the youth or are you talking about everyone?

Jesse: Mi a talk bout everyone, mon. Mi a talk bout everyone but mi especially talk to the youth. Because wha happen is you can’t really bend a old tree, you know? You can’t teach a old dog new tricks. So I’m not knocking certain things but me a  deal with a different road because Sometimes people try to teach people who have already learned what they are going to stick with, but for me, once we deal with the youth dem , you know what I mean? We feel like we really have a chance. You know?

Robin: Well, I love your new album! Your show was amazing.

Jesse: Thank you! thank you!

Robin :It was on fire, I loved every minute! I didn’t mean to shoot so long. It was incredible. I really appreciate it and thank you for taking the time.

Jesse: Thank you for taking the time mon.  LOVE

Robin : Bless

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