■ The Jamaican reggae star, 40, on pretending to be his father and scoring a goal in front of Mike Tyson
What are you up to right now?
I’m about to take my son to football trials. He’s just starting out so we’ll find out if he’s any good — but he’s in love with sports.
When you come to the UK for The Ends Festival, Nas is on the same bill as you. Will you be doing something together?
Possibly — usually if we’re in town together, we’ll do something together.
What was the reaction from the reggae crowd to that collaboration between you?
It went down very well, especially in Jamaica, where people had great respect for the project. It’s not like I did an album with a hip-hop artist and it was about material stuff. The project is very spiritual, very deep-rooted in Africa and the foundation of reggae music, so people really appreciated the lyrical content. An idea came up to do an EP with Nas based on Africa but once we started working on it we started enjoying ourselves so much that we wanted to do a full-length album.
Have you visited Africa much?
I’ve been a few times. I’ve been to Ethiopia twice, South Africa, Kenya, Mauritius. The first time was to Ethiopia and, of course, as a Rasta that’s a big part of my life. I was very within myself, absorbing the moment, a very spiritual moment, very satisfied to see something we’d been dreaming about and reading about and seeing on TV, suddenly to find, OK, this is real.
Where are you based now?
Jamaica I still consider to be my home but I spend most of my time in Miami.
How hard is it as an artist to step out of the shadow of your dad, who died when you were two?
I embrace my father’s legacy and I always say it’s not a shadow, it’s a light. I know what you’re saying but it’s not something that’s really on my mind. It only ever comes up in interviews.
Was there any question that you’d become a musician or could you have been a doctor?
Absolutely! I have brothers and sisters who are not musicians, both on my mother’s and father’s side. I’m very much in love with music so I’m very happy doing what I’m doing. The first time I remember going on stage in front of the public I would have been about 11 but it was something I’d always wanted to do. It was a ritual of mine since I was four years old that I would put on my father’s LP and pretend to be him before bedtime. I would always do a small show and that evolved into me and my best friend doing shows in his living room for friends and then Mother’s Day events… it was always there.
How was it growing up in Jamaica as the son of Bob Marley? Were you treated like a little prince?
No, but when you start becoming a man and people know who you are… When you’re a kid no one realises and you don’t understand how the world works, you’re a kid worrying about getting into trouble with your mum, so you’re not thinking about that. But when you start getting up in your teenage years, you start realising. And when I started doing music, people would know who I was so I definitely felt the difference at that point.
Was your mum strict?
Well, she had her priorities right when it came to me — she wanted me to have an education and not be carried away being Bob Marley’s son. I had a very grounded upbringing.
Every time you have an album, it’s like the Grammy is automatically yours. You’re still the only reggae artist to win two in a year…
That’s not up to me. It feels great to have that recognition from the mainstream. It’s part of history. You can’t have the first twice, there’s only one first, so no one can ever take that away from me and, aside from that, I’ve made a step for the genre, done something for all of us.
What else do you listen to?
I love hip hop, I grew up listening to a lot of that, but reggae is my first music. I listen to a wide variety of stuff. I like the old stuff, Nat King Cole and Ray Charles, I listen to older music much more than new music. I love Sade. And a few Guns N’ Roses tracks I really like.
You appeared with Mick Jagger in Superheavy, the supergroup. How was that?
He’s very charismatic, very energetic. He’d met my father a few times too but didn’t tell me any stories or anything like that.
Do you get star-struck?
I’ve met a lot of my heroes. I was a huge fan of Mike Tyson growing up and I’ve met him a few times. The first time was in Jamaica. I was playing soccer and as soon as he walked up to the field I scored the most amazing goal and I pointed at him and said, ‘That was for you, Champ!’
■ Damian Marley is at The Ends Festival, Croydon, on June 2 and on a short tour from May 30. metropolismusic.com