Interview and photos by: Maliika Walker
“We got a love situation, you say you love me, but do you really love me? Or how I make you feel?”
It is June 5, 2014 and Tarrus was set to hit the stage at BB Kings in NYC at any minute. A young lady standing next to me confessed that she needed Tarrus Riley’s music to comfort her. She was experiencing some troubling times in her life and she needed Tarrus’s soothing voice to help her escape. Once he hit the stage, a feeling of euphoria overcame the audience as we were ready to witness a live Tarrus Riley experience. His music has helped many fans escape in the beacon that is his voice.
Tarrus Riley, the son of rocksteady pioneer Jimmy Riley, has established himself as an iconic artist; thus putting him in the class of other phenomenal second generation reggae stars such as the Marley’s and Morgan Heritage, just to name a few. Tarrus Riley released his debut album, Challenges, in 2004. His second album was the smash, Parables (released 2006), which featured the instant classic She’s Royal. Tarrus’s third album, Contagious (released 2009), featured Good Girl Gone Bad (with Konshens) and the remake of Michael Jackson’s classic Human Nature. His fourth album was his acoustic offering, Mecoustic, which featured some of Tarrus’s most beloved songs stripped down to their most organic level. Some artists show wear and tear by their fifth album, but not Tarrus. His fifth album, Love Situation, was released earlier this year. The album is a joint independent project by Cannon, Jukeboxx Productions, BMSG, and Zojak Worldwide. The release is a beautiful tribute to the rocksteady era of reggae music. Some of the albums standouts includes a smooth remake of The Gaylads classic 1 2 3 I Love You and remixes to his own songs Too The Limit and One Drop. Thank You, along with Cry No More featuring Dean Fraser, have the distinction of being my favorite tracks from the album. The hit single, Dem a Watch, is also featured on this release.
Do you yourself a favor and purchase Love Situation today! There is not one skippable track on this album. I dare you to find one.
Maliika Walker recently spoke with Tarrus about his new album. Here is their conversation.
I love the rock steady sound and you present it well to today’s audience. I love listening to artists like Ken Boothe and Alton Ellis for example. What influenced you to release a rock steady type album?
It’s about love. It’s a love situation. I’m trying to do different things. Even though I’m a dancehall baby, I still do all different kinds of music. Whether it be rock steady, ska, dancehall, roots, hip-hop, r&b; I love to experiment with all of it. I just want to make music. Just like Kanye West, Bob Marley, or anyone else who loves to experiment with music. This album is a representation of me experimenting.
Your albums have a general theme/vibe to them. When Tarrus Riley releases an album, I know I am going to be treated to a unique twist to the music. Challenges, Parables, MeCoustic, now Love Situation. None of your albums sound the same.
Yeah and that’s on purpose. Artists have different types of albums during their career. We all have different types of moods.
I totally understand. There are a few things I know before I listen to an album from you. The music will be quality and the album will contain more than 5 songs.
Not only that, the fans know it will be brand new music, not a collection of singles you heard already. That type of release is more like a compilation. An album from me represents new music.
That is what the public has learned to expect from you. New quality music with every album release. If there is previously released music on your albums then it is served up with a new treatment, like you include Too The Limit and One Drop on Love Situation. How do you decide which songs to remix for your audience?
I wish I could re-release all of my songs in a different type of style but of course I can’t, so some of my songs get ‘born again’. Whenever I finish recording a new song, I hear a new way to do it. Sometimes I say to myself that we could have recorded in a different style. I do not believe a song is ever really finished. When we sing the music live, we usually perform the songs a little different because we have new ideas forming.
I enjoy the versatility of the collaborations on the album. You feature Konshens, Mr. Cheeks, and the great U-Roy. How did you choose your guest artists for the album?
U-Roy is a legend. He is also a friend and I am honored to call him my brethren. He is a veteran in the business and he like a father. His voice is the perfect fit for the song. All of the artists who collaborated on the songs are a perfect fit for that particular song. For example U-Roy is the perfect fit for Sail Away (Stepping Out). Look at the song Five Days featuring Mr. Cheeks. The song is about a man who meets a woman when she is about to die, she doesn’t have a lot of time left. That song is very similar to a song Mr. Cheeks did with The Lost Boys called Renee. I wanted to do my version of that type of song. I love that song and this was my opportunity. Big Youth also fits on the track nicely.
I want to thank you for the song, ‘Thank You’.
That is also Dean Fraser’s favorite song.
‘Mecoustic‘ is a beautiful acoustic album. I do not feel the album received the accolades it deserved.
That album was really just meant to be a European project. It really didn’t get the opportunity to come on this side of the world. It was released on a European label to a European audience and is definitely a collector’s item. The album is even hard to find in the marketplace.
That explains why people had such a hard time finding that album.
Well, I do not even have a copy of that one. I gave away my copy. (laughter)
What inspired you to release such a beautiful acoustic treatment of your music?
Dean Fraser and I wanted to expose the lyrics because sometimes the rhythm is so heavy the audience does not truly get to hear the lyrics. We wanted to expose the sentiment in the lyrics and we were able to break down each song and get really simple. Not in terms of production necessarily because there are a number interesting instruments, but the voice, melody, and lyrics in it’s organic form.
Dean Fraser is one of the most incredible producers/musicians in reggae music. What would you like to share with our readers about how you feel about his impact on reggae music?
Dean Fraser is one of the hardest working men in reggae music. I don’t think anyone works as hard as Dean Fraser. I know that Dean has played on almost every reggae Grammy winning album. He is a mentor to me, brethren, father figure. Dean Fraser is an incredible person, I learned countless things about life from him, not just music. He is a very humble and down to earth person. His legacy in the reggae music business is one to remember. Dean Fraser is a living legend and his contribution speaks for itself. He is responsible for so many artists careers. He played with such greats as Dennis Brown and Bob Marley and he also discovered Sizzla Kalonji and brought Luciano to the top. Dean has worked behind the scenes for Penthouse Records and he is always contributing to the music. I mean he’s probably in the studio right now. He taught me to work hard.
Why is it important to you to express the Rastafari way of the life to your audience?
My passion and my personality is also in my music. I also have songs on domestic violence (Start A New). These songs that you hear from me are songs that I am passionate about. I express my personal opinion about things I believe in through my songs. For instance Rastafari, well of course I am a Rasta youth. I believe and love every House of Rastafari; Bobo Shanti, Twelve Tribes of Israel, Nyabinghi. I’m giving you myself and Rastafari as part of who I am.As artists, we sing about the things we know about and believe in; it defines who we are. That’s what makes our music different. Every man has a different story, a different belief. I give you my beliefs and my opinions through my music.
Well that is the key reason why I love reggae music because it speaks to your soul. Reggae speaks to you inside out.
Yes, and it’s very opinionated too. There is a lot of criticism for that. Let’s take Peter Tosh for instance and his song on legalizing marijuana (Legalize It). At one time that song was looked down upon. He received a lot of criticism and backlash for that song. So reggae music is a music where you can speak your mind. You can say what you want to.
Some people say reggae music is not for the weak but for the strong.
Or the music is for the weak to get strong.
One of my favorite songs from you is Shaka Zulu Pickney. How did you decide on the video treatment for that song? The video for the song carries a powerful vibration.
Thank you.That is one of my favorites also. Well, I have to big up Storm Saulter who also directs films. He has a film out now called Betta Mus’ Come. The public must check it out. One of the major things from the video treatment was to make legends like Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and Queen Nanny young because I wanted to appeal to the youth. I knew if I had a depiction of a young Marcus Garvey it would capture the youths attention. That is a major part of the whole video.
What is the vision for BLAKSOIL – Bredren Living According King Selassie-I Overstanding & Iritical Livity?
The vision for BLACKSOIL is to awaken the minds of the people with music. It’s about the people, it’s about farming, it’s about loving yourself. BLACKSOIL is about bringing people together. BLACKSOIL is about positive thought. If you have a positive thought, that’s BLACKSOIL. It’s about love of culture, love of self. Loving the earth and eating right.
Check out Tarrus Riley on tour with the The Black Soil Band.
Tarrus Riley Music
You can purchase Love Situation and Tarrus Riley’s music catalog from here.
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