Chattanooga Times Free Press entertainment reporter Casey Phillips spoke with The Wailers co-lead singer Danglin about spreading positive vibes around the world, what surprised him about touring in Taiwan last year and what it was like stepping into Bob Marley’s shoes.
CP: How has 2011 been for The Wailers? Any highlights?
D: It's been busy. One of the highlights is everywhere that we've toured, from South America to Europe, the U.S. and Canada. It's been a busy year for us. Any time you can continue touring and people come out and see you, that's a great time.
CP: What are your plans for 2012?
D: Pretty much, we're going to keep bringing that same positive energy around the world. We'll start out with a few dates in the states and then venture over to Europe. It's going to be a lot of touring because people need that positive message, that positive energy, that reggae vibe in 2012 just like they needed it in 2011. We'll be touring and spreading the message just the same.
CP: You're known for being on the road all the time. Does all the touring ever get old? Do you ever wish you could just get off the road and go home or do you thrive on moving around?
D: You wish to get off the road until you get off the road. Then, once you're off the road, you want to get back on. People are born to do different things. We were born to spread music, so that's what we do. As long as people want to see us, we'll be there to be seen.
CP: What keeps your energy up?
D: The crowds keep you energized. Now matter how tired you are, when you step on that stage and see the crowd's enthusiasm and them coming out in such numbers in rain, sleet or snow, you have to appreciate that. It lifts your spirits. It's very encouraging.
CP: This current tour will end Dec. 11. What are the bands plans for the rest of this winter?
D: We will probably go home on Dec. 12 and be home for about three days. Then, we'll be doing a few dates in Brazil during the third week of December. Right after Christmas, we go back out and will be back out for two months. It's pretty much just work, basically.
CP: How long are your tour blocks, typically? How many days do you get to be home every year?
D: We tour seven or nine months a year. It's pretty much home for a week or week and a half at a time or two weeks. We don't stay home for more than two weeks. We haven't been home for more than two weeks this year. When you're born to do something, it's different from when you're just trying to do something. If you come into music and try to do music and it doesn't work, you'll get frustrated. We were born to do it, and this is why we're doing it. I'm grateful for every chance we get.
CP: What are your musical origins? How did you end up with The Wailers?
D: I've loved music since I was a little kid, but I really started to pursue it in 2002 while I was in Japan while I was in the Navy. I started to explore my musical talents, and it moved from there. In 2009, I released a single in Jamaica called “Excuse Me Miss,” and it took off. It got a lot of attention in the Caribbean and the U.S. That's how the Wailers got wind of me, through an acquaintance of their manger in England at the time. They liked my energy and my vibe and my voice, so they called me up, and I've been with the band ever since.
CP: Did you feel a lot of expectation joining a group with as long a history together, albeit in many incarnations, as The Wailers?
D: I really didn't know what to expect, to be honest with you. I was just really, really honored to be called upon to join The Wailers. When I got here, I was more concerned about trying to fit into the group, as far as trying to get the songs I would do well and stuff like that. You think you know the songs until you have to actually sing them on stage. That was definitely something I had to do.
I'm a pretty goal-oriented person, so that was my No. 1 thing, to get the songs, learn the song and perform the songs well. It took a little time, but you try and try and keep at it and work hard.
We're at the point now where we pretty much know what to expect when we get on stage, but it's still new every time you go on because every audience is new and it's a wide ranging set list we have, a great collection of songs to perform. No matter how many songs we perform every night, there's always someone who comes up and says, “Why didn't you play this song?” It's a great experience and a privilege to be the lead of such a legendary band. .
CP: What is it like singing songs written and sung by Bob Marley? Did you have any trepidation about how audiences would react to someone else singing them?
D: Bob Marley has been my musical idol since I was a child. I've always known the impact that his music has had on me, and now I get to see what other people think. I was more enthused than nervous or anxious. I just wanted to see how far this music has reached. It has reached the four corners of the Earth.
He [Marley] was a legend beyond legends, beyond legendary. It's an honor to carry on his message. There's no replacing Bob Marley. We just try and keep his legacy alive by spreading his message. That's the mission, and I'm very honored to do that.
CP: What was it like the first time you sang this music in places like South America and Asia and saw audiences reacting to the songs the way you did?
D: I think the most amazing thing is the language barrier you encounter. People can't talk to you, but they sing every word of the song you're singing. That was the thing that amazed me.
We went to Taiwan on the last tour for a few dates, and people were singing every song word for word. I was like, “Taiwan? Really? They can't tell you how much they enjoyed the show, but they can sing every song. That in itself is truly amazing. I'm humbled and honored to be in this group.
CP: You and Koolant both grew up listening to old-school reggae artists. What was it about the approach those artists took that appealed to you?
D: We all grew up on the Wailers music, so in some way or fashion, you were affiliated with it, or you were aware of what was going on. Naturally, that music lures everyone to it because the energy is so positive and so different. Even to this day, I listen to a lot of rocksteady and a lot of roots reggae like Dennis Brown. I still listen to stuff like that.
I also appreciate what's going on now with artists who are touring now. They're also bringing stuff you want to listen to.
You can't really consider yourself a reggae artist if you don't know the history and the tradition and have respect for what they did and everything. I listen to a wide range of reggae music and also a lot of other genres as well. Bob Marley and The Wailers, Burning Spear - you have to show respect to those people who brought the music to where it's at.
CP: Do you feel an obligation to pay homage to The Wailers music of old or is there a sense of freedom to continue to change it?
D: On my personal projects, I have this feeling that whatever changes and how the music has evolved has to be a part of how I approach music, but I understand why it's important to maintain the integrity of the music as it was intended to be. Everything has to change, and it's not necessarily changing for the worse, but music evolves into something that is modern and current.
That's typically what I do on a personal level with my music, but with The Wailers' music, the hits are there, so we perform them every night. That's what the audience wants to hear. When people come to see us, you want to make sure they go home satisfied.
CP: Do you have a favorite Wailers song?
D: It changes on a nightly basis. Every night, we sing different songs. You yourself learn to appreciate the songs while you perform them. One of my favorite songs to perform is “Rebel Music,” because every time I sing the song, I feel like I'm asking the same question that Bob and The Wailers were asking at the time: “Why can't we roam in open country? Why can't I be what I want to be? I want to be free.” That's one of the songs.
I love most of the songs. I can't pick a song I don't like, but when I perform the music, I really identify with that one because it just seems so relevant. Most of the music is, but for some reason, that speaks to me. I love that song.
CP: Which songs tend to elicit the strongest reactions from the audience?
D: The hits, the popular songs, the “Legend” album and the “Exodus” album. All those songs are songs people know, that are upbeat and people can sing along to. Then you have people who like more roots songs like “Natural Mystic” and “Rat Race.” You never know what you've got going on in the crowd. You never know what they want to hear exactly, so you give them a mixture of everything and hope that everyone goes home happy.
CP: What's the key to grabbing an audience and keeping them interested in your shows?
D: Pay attention. You've got to pay attention to the audience. Another thing is that you can't expect positive vibrations from the audience if you don't exude that same kind of energy. You have to go on with an open mind and a free spirit. The audience will be uptight if you're uptight. That's where it is.
The energy transfers back and forth, so once you go on stage with positive energy and positive attitude and aren't conflicted in your mind and in your soul, the audience will react to you. The songs are already there. People already love the songs. You just have to bring your energy into the mix, and everything will be good.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...