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Interview: Gramps Morgan

Interview: Gramps Morgan

Interview: Gramps Morgan

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"There is a certain amount of melody Tosh tapped into. We don’t do the fancy stuff, we just go straight to the heart"

Gramps Morgan’s deep, distinctive voice lends gravitas to the hugely successful harmony outfit, Morgan Heritage. The Morgan family are currently on a hiatus, working on upcoming solo projects, which has prompted speculation about the group’s future. Angus Taylor caught up with Gramps to discuss his new album, his many collaborations and the new president of the United States…

First question, the one on everybody’s lips - has Morgan Heritage split up?

(LAUGHS) No! No! Everybody’s so worried! If we say we’re doing some solo projects that’s the first thing we hear because it’s news, it’s spicy you know? But it’s nothing about split up. We’re just working on some solo albums, collaborating with a lot of different people. We always wanted to have some fun with the music abundantly so we’re just having some fun. After these projects are done we’re going to be doing some touring behind them. Currently I’m working with India Arie which is going to be a great exposure for me AND Morgan Heritage, being in that kind of spotlight and that kind of profile in the music business. So God is working in mysterious ways but the group is not broken up. We’re just doing some solo albums. All five members will be doing it. Even Luke the guitar player will be doing an instrumental album as well.

Is there any competitiveness between you and your siblings about your solo records?

Gramps Morgan - 2 Sides Of My Heart Vol.1The thing is, they’re all totally different genres of music. Peter’s taking on more of an R&B hip hop reggae dancehall kind of flavour, I’m taking an adult contemporary and dance thing. My album’s going to be a double album, showing the two sides of my heart on a double cd. Some of the features are going to be Ziggy Marley, Buju Banton – that song is out right now – India Arie, Musiq Soulchild, James Ingram and Kenny Rogers. One side is going to be a lovers rock roots side, and the other is going to be all different kinds of music, just fun, just letting out the music that’s inside of me. Everyone’s going to have their own side. Una’s going for more R&B pop contemporary kind of side. Mojo’s doing reggae with a little bit of dancehall and more predominantly rock. So everybody’s in a different thing.

And do you feel any pressure now you’re centre-stage with the focus on you?

I always felt centre stage. Morgan Heritage, that’s my life, that’s my group, that’s my brothers and sisters, my family. I always felt like when we did an interview they was talking to us as one, not as individuals. So when they talking to me know when I do press do music and when people listen to the music I still feel like that. I feel the same way.

Your first single Wash The Tears has a very spiritual sound. What is the message of the song?

The message is one of comfort. The world is going into a financial crisis right now and trying to come out of it. And it’s not just one country in the world being affected by it, it’s the world being affected. So I made this song that was written about my mother after a discussion that my father and my sister were having. My mother passed away in 1988 and my sister was talking about how much she missed her. I just started singing that line, it just came to me instantly. And now here we are - from 1988 to 2008 - it was twenty years since my mother passed away. It just came to me as a time of comfort and when I was in the studio recording I said, “I want to release this song as my first single” because it matched what people are going through. People are losing their homes, their cars and all kind of tragedies.

Tell me about your latest song with Buju Banton.

Gramps MorganWell this song came about because I went to Buju and I said, “You know I’m working on my album and I want you on it” and he said “let’s go – right away!” (LAUGHS) And we went out the side of his house and sat on a bench. Now Me and Buju have a fierce chemistry - something that he brings out of me and there’s certain things that I bring out of him musically – where you find that there is a certain height of spirituality. Any time me and him link up we tap into that divine energy. And that’s how we came up with this tune. It’s a traditional song in Jamaica , it’s called The Power Of Prayer, and we gave our rendition of it and it was just magic. When we finished I said Buju, “We did it again man! That song is really touching!”

And you mentioned you’ve done a song with India Arie…

The song is entitled Therapy, it’s out already. And it’s going to be on her album, coming up, in the next two weeks, entitled Love & Politics Volume II. It’s a song that came about when I was in a venue and met India. It was my first time going to meet her and I bump into her and someone said, “You know India, there’s this guy named Gramps who wants to meet you” and she just shout out my name and said, “GRAAAAMPS!” I said “WHAAAT?” And she said, “I love your voice, I love your voice and I love that song you did with Buju Banton 23rd Psalm – I wake up to it every morning!” So I said, “Are you serious?” and she said, “yes, now take my number, we need to talk, I need you on my new album I’m recording”.

Your voice has been compared in the past to Peter Tosh. Do you hear that?

(LAUGHS) I hear it all the time man! I hear Peter Tosh, Mikey Spice, and Lucky Dube. But the thing is, there is a certain amount of melody Tosh tapped into – and even Mikey Spice – a certain mournful and wailing kind of sound. It’s melodic and goes straight for the heart you know what I mean? We don’t do the fancy stuff, we just go straight to the heart.

Now you’re currently in the US. What are you doing there?

I’m visiting some family and doing some promotion with India Arie for the song we recorded together for her album, her second single. So we’re doing some promotion on local and international television. We’re doing stuff for VH1, for Walmart’s Instore Network Television – which shows on every store they have in the country – as well as David Letterman and Jay Leno which we’ll be doing later on in February.

Last time we spoke you had some strong words about George Bush. A lot’s changed since then.

Yes. George Bush has done his term and now we have Barack Obama. It’s a great day in America. Of course, it’s going to take a long time to turn things around in terms of the economy, and we’ll just have to wait and see what is going to come of it but we give thanks that such a great accomplishment has been done.

What’s your take on Obama?

I see him as a family man with his two little daughters and his wife that stand up with him strong. Behind every good man there is a strong woman and she has proven that. So I think they are a great example to humanity and, predominantly, for the black community around the world at large. In the UK, America, Africa, the Caribbean and the whole world. It’s a great light and a great example as a family – and as a black family – it’s a great light to the world. My heart goes out to the Obama family.

Another thing you did recently was taking part in Shaggy & Friends’ Save A Life. Tell us a bit about the Save A Life concept.

Gramps MorganWell the concert was trying to raise two million US dollars for a hospital in Jamaica called the Bustamante Children’s Hospital. It’s the only one of its kind in Jamaica. A children’s hospital where – when a child gets sick – this is where they bring them for special services and focus on healing children. And Shaggy went into the hospital, with a friend who is a producer, to visit his friend’s child. And the hospital was in such a bad condition he said, “If something ever happens for me and my music I’m going to come back and do something big for the hospital”. And he made good on his promise. Since then he always used to come and make a donation – they need x ray machines and respiratory machines and sheets and beds. But, most important is the machines they don’t have. Without the machines children are dying. Thirty thousand US dollars could save many lives. So he decided to take it on a bigger level and that’s when he did the Save A Life concert, where he said, “I dare you”. Instead of a thousand or two thousand Jamaican dollars to come and watch a show, he was charging two hundred and fifty US dollars for a ticket. So the whole thing was, “I dare you to come and buy one of those tickets to watch a concert, enjoy yourself and save a life. Because one ticket equals a life” and he did a great job.

How did you get involved?

I was in Jamaica and working in my studio and Shaggy said, “I need you ‘pon my tune”. I said, “Which tune you talking about?” and he said, “The theme song for the concert”. And he did a video, he did the whole works and I’m very proud of him as a man and as a humanitarian. And I said, “I’m in man, just let me know” and then we started recording the song and I went to the studio and put down my part. Then he played the song for me and I was the first voice on the song and I was like, “WOOOOAAAH!” So I was just blessed with the whole project. God was working you know? It was a great opportunity to be a part of that project. I think it’s going to be a great historical monument in Jamaica for a long time.

What was the atmosphere like in the studio?

It was a good vibe man. It was very humbling. Everybody was juts humbled by the whole concept. Everybody was just simple and easy.

Finally, which tracks are you most excited about from your album?

The one with me and Kenny Rogers. We’re still in the middle of finishing the second verse but I think it’s going to be a great great song. And there’s the one with India Arie. The one I mentioned before has already been recorded for her album, but there’s going to be another one for my album, which I’m really excited about. And of course, the one with Buju Banton. It’s out right now and it’s called Power Of Prayer. I think we’ve got some good good songs. Then there’s the other side of the album, which is going to show a whole different side of Gramps which will fun for the fans of Morgan Heritage. They’re going to learn that I’m a real real man. I’m a loving and caring person. I love to deal with healing and a oneness amongst all mankind.

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Read comments (3)


Posted by Milly on 07.09.2010
1 in a million its wao. Wonderfull

Posted by kennedy njogu on 03.17.2012
Hi Gramps ma name is Ken and I love the way u sing. I come from Kenya I would love a collabo with you and to be signed in your label. Please I sing reggae and rnb music that talks to heart. I saw you once in Bosco boys but u wa in a hurry. Please dont let ma talent die inside me.

Posted by omam on 09.01.2012
Hi Gramps, my name is Norman Omam Joseph i am from Vanuatu in south west Pacific, i listen to all your songs, all powerfull mesages and song that heal hearts that are broken and unit familys that are divided. I LOVE Reggae music and all your songs......Tell me if your coming to my country one day?
Please tell me
Please say

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