By: Maliika Walker
When a new recording artist is launched to the public, audiences usually do not know what to expect from them. That artist has to work hard to show the audience that they should pay them some attention. Somehow they have to find a way to get their voice to stand out to the audience. However, if you are a third generation artist from a great legacy, expectations are usually set upon you. Whether you like it or not people will feel your music and lyrics need to sound a particular way. Jo Mersa Marley is an artist looking to establish his own identity, on his own terms. Yes he is the grandson of Bob and Rita Marley. Yes he is the son of eight time Grammy award winner Stephen Marley, but Jo Mersa sets the stage for what the public can expect from him on his new EP, Comfortable, positive music with a rebellious spirit.
Jo Mersa’s first single, My Girl, featured his cousin Daniel Bambaata (son of Ziggy Marley) in 2010. His first solo offering was the dancehall themed hit single, Bad So. His next solo song was the hit Comfortable, which was featured on the Ghetto Youths complilation, Set Up Shop Volume 1. This June, Ghetto Youth’s International released Jo Mersa’s EP, Comfortable. The lyrical content on this EP was largely influenced by women and relationships. Catchy songs like Bogus, emotional songs like Sunshine, rebel vibesongs like Rock and Swing. The EP also features another third generation artist, Jemere Morgan (son of Gramps Morgan), on the song Perfect 10. The Comfortable EP is a release that cannot be categorized in just one genre. Dancehall, hip-hop, and pop music are explored on this release. Take a moment to listen to the lyrics of today’s music, you will notice a lot of the music is not filled with meaning. On his debut long-form release, Jo Mersa sets the expectation that he is not one of those artists. He is following the tradition of his lineage, presenting the people with positive music with meaning, but on his own terms.
Jo Mersa recently spoke with Maliika Walker about his new EP. Here is their conversation..
Maliika: I love the maturation of your live show. I watched you perform over the past few years and and I noticed your growth as a performer. Do you remember the first time you performed on stage as an artist versus now having your own set?
The first time I stepped on stage as a performer was with my cousin Daniel, at Marley Fest (Miami, FL) about six years ago. I can tell you that I built up a lot confidence since then. Everyone can not deal with performing on stage in front of thousands of people. To be honest with you the most nerve racking part is being onstage with my father and my uncles. They are my teachers. It’s kind of like you’re in class and you are supposed to be an honor roll student and your teacher is giving you the test verbally. Your teacher is sitting right in front of you asking you the questions.
My first time on stage ,(as a performer) all of those things I didn’t want to happen ended up happening anyway. So I just had to keep practicing and performing so I could build up that confidence, and that included performing in front of my teachers.
Maliika: You are not only the grandson of the great Bob Marley, but you are also the son of eight time Grammy award winner, Stephen Marley. Do you feel the pressure of being the son of a man who has won a Grammy for every album he has released as a solo artist?
I am proud and very grateful to be a part of the legacy. It has pros and cons with it. You have people who have been waiting for the third generation to show themselves, show that the family business can carry on. I will not just say music because that is not all my family does.
You have people who try to compare me to my father and grandfather but I am not them, I am my own person. My feet are way smaller than my father (meaning he still has a lot of work to do to catch up to him). The best thing I can do is walk the path beside him and follow that same path that has been set for him to follow. He followed his path his own may as I will follow my own path.
Maliika: I understand you created the riddims for each song on your EP except Bogus (which was produced by Damian Marley). You started making beats at 11 years old. How do you see yourself as a Producer as your career continues to grow?
I actually composed some of them, not just building the riddim. I am influenced by my father and uncles and I learned from them so doing certain things is going to be like them but in my own way. Wherever the music brings me.
Maliika: I loved Comfortable from the first listen. I love the lyrics, the production, the video, everything about the song. What was your creative process in writing the lyrics?
I can’t explain it to be honest with you. I was just in a comforting zone at that moment. I can tell you that it wasn’t written in one day. It probably took a couple of weeks to write it. It wasn’t a song where I could just sit and write it in a day. That’s not even how I felt about it. It was just a soothing hook and I wanted lyrics that were energetic yet kept the vibe of the hook.
Let’s talk about your tender song, Sunshine. When I hear the song I think about love. What are you thoughts on love?
I was grown to love, love. Loving people and loving someone. Not just women but loving people in all aspects. Love is the key to happiness. Without it you’re locked down in some dark room and you’re confused about life. You wouldn’t know how to treat people or how you should be treated because you’ve never been loved. That’s how important love is to me.
I love each track from start to finish. Rock & Swing is one of my favorites. What message would you like the audience to receive from this track?
The song has personal meaning because I’m paying homage to my father’s (nick) name Raggamuffin and where that name came from before we turned Ragga into a cool slang. I am also speaking of my love of the Lord.
I am paying homage to my foundation, all those who came before me. I am giving you a little bit of that rebellious side of me. People have been asking for the more rebellious side. I gave them a little through my collaboration with Etana, Thy Will Be Done. I brought you Comfortable, now it’s time for the more rebellious side through Rock and Swing. With this song I confirm that I am rebellious with a cause. Rock and Swing is a sneak peek of the vibe the public can expect from my full album.
What comes to mind when you hear the following country name, Jamaica?
The place I was born. That is my home. I think about building on to that foundation of home.
How would you describe your EP Comfortable? What would you like the audience to know about your first EP long-form release?
I would say it’s an EP that you can sit and listen to yet you can still have fun to. You can chill and vibe to it. It’s music for the mind and for the body. I tell you my stories about life and love. You get a personal perspective about how I see things. I would just tell people that the EP is just good music to listen to. It’s good conscious music with a message. It may be done differently now but it’s still music with meaning while keeping that root factor there. A lot of songs today do not have meaning, no message behind it. Some songs of today do not have a positive message that people can relate to.
Cover photo © B+