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Q&A: Lead singer of The Wailers

STILL WAILIN' ON: Far right, standing - Josh Barrett, lead singer of The Wailers with fellow band members

SINCE 1974, The Wailers have recorded, toured and performed in front of millions across the world. From then until 1981, they did so alongside the legendary Bob Marley until his untimely death.

The band subsequently relaunched as simply The Wailers with Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett and Junior Marvin at their helm. In and around various member changes, the collective have been going ever since. One of the changes was that American-Jamaican musician, Josh Barrett was invited to join the collective in 2014 as lead singer.

He’s previously recorded with a plethora of music greats, including Quincy Jones, gospel greats Tramaine Hawkins and Kim Burrell; Q-Tip, Common, Mary J Blige and Kanye West, and Jamaica’s own Chronixx. The multi-talented musician also plays guitar, bass, drums and piano.

Q: How did you and music meet?

A: In my mother’s womb! My family is very musically inclined and they grew me around music – that’s where it all started. My mother used to sing songs to me. Her favourite song on earth is My Boy Lollipop by Millie Small.

She would sing those songs to me. My father is also a singer and guitarist – anything I do, my father has done, in some way.

Q: Before you joined The Wailers, what were some of the musical projects you undertook?

A: I went to William Paterson University and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Jazz Performance. Through that, I met artists from many different styles and genres, from hip-hop to gospel and jazz. Those kinds of experiences helped me to be the musician I am today. I was privileged to record on a Quincy Jones album.

Q: How did you become lead singer of this iconic band?

A: It’s an honour and a privilege. I feel blessed. There are other factors that played a part. Through a Jamaican lineage, Family Man and I, and Famz Jnr are distant cousins. I’ve known Family Man for more than 12 years now. In 2014, after Junior and I kept the link, we spoke of doing some work and started working on some projects.

In 2015 the opportunity came along to join the Wailers. As of January 28, this is my second year.

Q: The Wailers is such a world-renowned band – is there any pressure which comes with being up front and centre in this collective?

A: Outside of Rasta struggle, I don’t really deal with those kinds of pressure. It’s a duty to uphold the banner – the Lion of Judah.

Personally, as an artist, I have a great deal of respect for brother Robert Nesta Marley and the work that he’s done. I know that he was chosen to play his part. The pressure that I feel is upon myself to do my best to bring honour to such a great legacy. The work that he was willing to do in obedience to his creator. I hope to do that and more. I hope to make him proud.

Q: What can the UK audience expect from you during your UK tour?

A: Classics! There’s nothing new under the sun, so we just come to add our colours to the spectrum and through our experience, we’ll be singing those same songs of freedom from our heart. We’re also bringing some new music.

Just as the Gong, his generations and the Wailers of the time were speaking on their struggles, it’s important to speak on where we are today and where we’re going. We also need to make sure that this history is not forgotten.

Q: Are you guys in the studio, is there any material we can look out for in the near future?

A: Our upcoming single is called Stand Firm Inna Babylon. When you hear it, you’ll understand that the natural mystic is still blowing through the air.

The Wailers return to the UK this month with a headline tour and new legendary line-up. Steered by founder Aston Family Man Barrett, and joined in solidarity with original Wailers’ band members Junior Marvin and Donald Kinsey, The Wailers will perform across some of the country’s major cities, performing 'Legend' in its entirety.

For tickets and more information, click here.

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