Much like folk, jazz and blues, reggae is a kind of music that’s associated with numerous legends. There’s obviously Bob Marley along with Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Buju Banton, Yellowman and many others. Another one who deserves to be put in that group is Freddie McGregor. He’s been making music since he was a kid in the 1960’s and he has become widely respected by fans all over the world. On Saturday night, he’ll be making his presence felt at Paddy’s Beach Club in Westerly.
We had a talk ahead of the show about gaining knowledge of the music industry, starting his own label, Jamaica being a special place and reflections on a career that has lasted over 50 years.
Rob Duguay: You started performing music at 7 years old as part of The Clarendonians during the ‘60s. What was it like growing up in the industry during that time?
Freddie McGregor: When I was part of The Clarendonians, they brought me to Kingston. We started recording there and during those years I got to know about the industry, how things got done in the studio and everything else.
RD: That’s cool how you got to learn that at such a young age. In 1983, you got to start your own label called Big Ship. How was the process like for you starting the endeavor while using the knowledge you already had?
FM: For me, when it came to being in the studio I learned so much and I took the opportunity to run a label from it. It continued to be a learning process when it came to knowing about distribution and how the records got into the stores. It was a process that came in stages and that’s what I did.
RD: Has anything changed with how the label operates with the internet and the emergence of Spotify?
FM: It has changed a lot coming from where it started. As time goes by, adaptation is key to how the music is put out and that’s important. It’s all about being able to work together and working for a goal that we’re able to maximize to its full potential. There is no stopping when it comes to putting in the work.
RD: I definitely get that. Reggae has always had a dedicated following and has been one of the most popular styles of music in the world for decades. What in your opinion makes reggae such a special art form?
FM: If you look at Jamaica versus Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago and all of the other islands, each are unique in their own way. Jamaica just happens to be even more unique. From Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley to now Usain Bolt who is the fastest man in the world, it makes you wonder what is so special about the island? Some of the greatest artists, musicians and athletes come from here and I think Reggae is special because it’s the product of where it comes from.
RD: With a career that has lasted over 50 years, what drives you to keep on making music and performing?
FM: I don’t want to die (laughs). Music is life for me and I feel that I need to put in the work to make it happen. My goal is to make music and perform as long as I can.