Interview: Tarrus Riley & Shane Brown

February 12, 2014


Tarrus Riley is about to release his fifth album, the rocksteady inspired Love Situation, on February 4th.

It’s a tribute to the sweet sounds of the mid to late 60s at Treasure Isle – featuring rhythms sampling and updating the Melodians, the Conquerors and Alton Ellis, with guest spots from U Roy and Big Youth.

Angus Taylor spoke to Tarrus and his manager Shane Brownabout recording, rocksteady and the reggae revival. Tarrus’ musical director Dean Fraser even put his head into the room to answer one question at the end.

Shane – your great uncle is the great Duke Reid and your father was engineer at Treasure Isle. Tarrus – your father Jimmy was in the Uniques. Would it be fair to say you both have rocksteady music in your blood?
Tarrus: The story started long before we were on earth when our parents were doing what they were doing in this reggae music treasure. We just inherited and carried it on.

Shane: So it was as God would have it. It’s like two people working together before they were born. It’s more spiritual than anything else. Right now it is very important to pay tribute to our roots. As I always say, a tree cannot survive without roots. If you cut off a branch it will grow back if the root is alive. We don’t see our generation paying enough respect to the roots so we have to lead and set an example. What we are doing – we won’t even call it piracy for someone to follow us.

Tarrus: It is the right thing.

Shane: Because this genre of music cannot and will never die. Everything that has stemmed from it is branches and as I said, you can cut off a branch and the tree will still push out a different branch.

Tarrus: And the rocksteady branches are reggae, hip hop and all derivatives from those. So if you love hip hop music you have to love reggae and if you love reggae music you have to love rocksteady.

Shane: But even if you love hip hop music a lot of people don’t have the knowledge to know where it’s coming from. That’s why I would say Tarrus Riley is not a reggae singer or a rocksteady singer or a dancehall singer – he is an artist. So who better to do this than someone that has embraced all the musical genres? Because Tarrus has the youths’ ears. It’s not like they will say “Oh, Tarrus is an old time artist” or whatever. One of the biggest songs in our careers is My Day which is a dancehall song and you have Good Girl Gone Bad which is a next dancehall song. So we have the ears of the youths tuned in. This project can give knowledge. Because without your past you don’t know where you’re going.

What was the genesis of the idea to make a rocksteady inspired album?
Tarrus: The genesis of the idea was when I recorded a song called Young Heart on my second album released on VP Records, Contagious. That was my favourite Tarrus Riley song up until To The Limit which we just released. I really loved the song. I really loved the music. And then travelling, everywhere we would go, especially England we got a lot of love and support for this kind of music. Also, I’m no stranger to rocksteady music because people like Delroy Wilson and Alton Ellis used to come to my house and I used to see them. I used to go to Heineken Star Time with my father and I experienced the rocksteady experience in my little time.

So after we finished Mecoustic, me and Mr Fraser were talking about what kind of concept for the next album. Because I believe albums should have concepts. I don’t think you should just put a collection of singles on an album. To me that’s not an album. Anybody can do that. An artist can have a concept and say “OK, this is a rocksteady tribute album with the music all original songs, all lovers vibes, let’s try to be creative and make it exciting”. So it really started by travelling and then me and Mr Fraser bouncing ideas and me remembering some of the things I listened to growing up.

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