Grammy Award-winning musician David Nesta “Ziggy” Marley has been making music for nearly four decades, collaborating and performing with some of the music industry’s biggest names along the way, including his late father, reggae legend Bob Marley. A natural food advocate, Marley, 46, is also the founder of Ziggy Marley Organics, a line of organic, non-GMO coconut oils and hemp seeds. In this exclusive interview, Marley shares his tips for living a healthy lifestyle, finding your own path, and building a better breakfast bowl.
You’ve had a successful music career for a while now, and then two years ago you launched Ziggy Marley Organics. What got you into the organic food business?
I’d been thinking about getting into that industry for a while, but I never had the chance. So when someone came to me with the idea of doing a coconut product, I said, “Cool, let’s do it. But let’s do it right, let’s do it organic, let’s do it non GMO.” And now we also do hemp seeds. I’m a big proponent of utilizing that plant as much as we can.
I follow. Are you a vegetarian?
Some days. But I’m not a full vegetarian, no. I eat fish. A lot of days I do vegetarian, though.
What is the goal or philosophy behind Ziggy Marley Organics?
I’m not in a rush to just do products, products, products. Our goal is to do food organically, to promote the idea of organic eating and that if something is genetically modified it shouldn’t be eaten. People should know what’s in their food. So it gives me another voice in another arena to express myself. And it’s all a part of it, it’s all a part of promoting ideas and philosophy and good eating and good food.
You manage to stay in great shape year round. What do you do?
I work on it every day. I like to mix it up. I go running, I do some boxing. I love being fit. Being fit is a part of my medicine. Food and fitness, they go together. If I don’t exercise I feel like shit.
Do you feel that fitness affects your creativity at all?
Yeah, man. A lot of the time, especially when I’m running. Thinking about a new song actually helps me, because it makes the run easier. I like to run the hills by my house. It’s hard, and it’s a mental thing. When I have my mind on something, it takes my mind off how hard I’m running. So it’s good to have my mind on something.
You’ve been playing soccer since you were a kid. Your dad played a lot, too. Did you guys ever play together?
Yeah, we played a lot with him.
Any valuable lessons out on the soccer field with your dad?
It was all about commitment. There’s a discipline you need to be successful on the soccer field, in music, and in life. Discipline and commitment to what you’re doing. It’s important. It’s not easy to get up every day and do something—you have to have the discipline to do it. That’s one of the things that I learned from him: You need discipline in all aspects. Making music, eating the right food, being healthy—you need discipline. Discipline, discipline, discipline.
Speaking of eating healthy, now that you have your own organic food line, I have to ask. What do you eat for breakfast?
I do oatmeal in the morning. I put a teaspoon or a tablespoon of coconut oil inside, along with some fruits and nuts, like blueberries, golden berries, walnuts, and flaxseed. And I add Spirulina. That’s my quick breakfast in the morning. And I’ll sprinkle some hemp seeds on top.
What inspired your healthy lifestyle?
I got into sports and fitness from watching my father and his friends. They used to be sports fanatics. They’d do everything. And they used to drink a lot of juice and a lot of what they called “Irish muscle.” I don’t know if you know what that is.
I have absolutely no idea. What’s in it?
Like, you have protein shakes today. This was with peanuts and it wasn’t like a powder. It was a natural thing—boiled seaweed with peanuts and a lot of other stuff in it.
Boiled seaweed and peanuts?
It’s just, like, this manly concoction. For virility and strength. They might have also used a touch of Guinness.
There it is.
I didn’t like it when I tried it; I thought it was nasty. But now, as a grown-up, I’m drinking the same thing.
Kind of crazy how we slowly become our parents. And, of course, you’ve followed in his steps as a musician as well. Did he teach you anything about music?
During my father’s time, his music was unique to him. His music was his. It didn’t sound like anybody else’s. So I think I learned that, to move the music, you have to have an adventurous mind. You have to have imagination. You have to not be afraid. That’s what I learned. For my music, I cannot be afraid to push the limits, to take it places where it hasn’t been lyrically or instrumentally. It’s just an adventure.
You’ve managed to find your own style and be successful, but there must be an enormous amount of pressure being Bob Marley’s son. How have you handled that so well?
It’s probably because I’m humbled by my father’s legacy, and by the love that people give him. I’ve never thought about trying to outdo him or even try to get away from him. That’s not my intention. I do my music for the real reason, the art. I make my music without any other motive than to just make my art. And so I think that mentality has helped me to persevere through the critics and the fans who expect things of me or compare my music with my father’s. It’s funny, because it’s a part of him, too. Even if I’m not being exactly like him in a musical way, the ideas and philosophies that I’m putting into the music and my personal life—that make me unique and make me something different—are actually part of him. But people don’t see it that way. They only look at the music part of it. It’s interesting.
A lot of guys with successful parents feel pressure to be successful themselves, and it can prevent them from discovering their own unique strengths. What advice would you give them?
Don’t try to live up to anyone’s legacy. I mean it. Don’t try. You will be successful if you just be true, whether it’s in art or sports or whatever you’re doing. If you have discipline and you are focused on what you want to do, then your own legacy will happen by itself, and you will achieve what you want to achieve without thinking about trying to compete with what your father or whoever has done. Just do your thing and you will be what you are supposed to be. If you try to do it, it’s going to take up too much of your mentality. It takes too much to try to be. Just be.