By Stella Gardiner
British Reggae vocalist and Lover’s Rock legend Maxi Priest is heading down under to play the Raggamuffin Festival in Auckland this Saturday. I had the absolute pleasure of talking to him about travel, musical influences and plans for another new album.
Hi Maxi, thank you very much for joining me today.
Oh thank you for having me.
So you're heading over to New Zealand for the Raggamuffin festival this weekend?
I cannot wait.
Is this your first trip to New Zealand?
No way. No way. I've been coming there for a while now, if I'm right and saying I think late eighties/early nineties and every time that we've come to New Zealand it's just got better and better and better. The people have got such a great vibe and a great love for Reggae music and that's something but I've admired and appreciated from then till now.
Can you tell us who are you looking forward see play most at Raggamuffin?
Me! (laughs) I am looking forward to jumping on that stage and just having a ball with the folks because I believe that's what it's about I mean yes I'm excited I get to see some of the other guys; Sly & Robbie, Wu Tang and various people that are on the line up that I'd like to see. But my energy right now is geared to bringing a good vibe for the folks because you know at the end of the day it's about that.
You're coming from the Australian leg of the Easy To Love tour. How has that been?
It's been fantastic. We're now in Melbourne we played last night, we had a ball and I want to thank everybody who came out for that. We head to Sydney tomorrow and obviously after that show it's all about Raggamuffin all the way to New Zealand, but the Australian tour and the Japan leg of the tour that we did before that has been off the chain. I'm on a high.
So can we expect to hear some old tracks as well as tracks from Easy To Love at the Raggamuffin Festival?
We're going to go from way back when to today. Honestly we just want to take everybody on a nice journey for the time that's going to be allocated to us for the show, you know, just high energy for those who are coming to the Raggamuffin show just be prepared to have a good time.
Well Kiwis definitely know how to have a good time!
You've collaborated with many artists over the years; UB40, Sly & Robbie and Shaggy, can you tell us what it was like working with them?
Oh man every one of them has been an individual experience, but you know all of them individually have been a fantastic experience. You know I'm a very open minded person, I allow people to bring their vibe in and I try to learn from anybody and everybody, and I think I did so from each and every one. We had such a joyous time in each of the situations individually and there are moments I will never ever forget, because we shared something from a blank piece of paper.
Your musical influences growing up included Country & Western, Pop, Reggae and Gospel. How did you eventually find your musical path?
I grew up in London in such a massive melting pot of music and my appreciation for the art first and foremost allows me to have an appreciation for all different genres of music. I think by having that appreciation I have been able to learn from all of them and bring them together to create the kind of style that I have.
That's how you grow as an artist isn't it, to take these different influences and make them your own...
Yeah I think that's how we grow period, in life. Having an appreciation for the smaller things allows you to learn and grow and develop.
Who would you say are your top musical influences?
Definitely Dennis Brown, definitely Marvin Gaye, definitely Jackson 5, definitely The Beatles, um, definitely Frank Sinatra, definitely my mum and my brothers and sisters you know I could go on and on and on. I truly appreciate their support and everything that I've learned from people around me.
How would you describe your musical style?
I would describe my music as Maxi Priest music! I've given up trying to catergorise or anything like that. It's just me. Me and and what comes from my heart and my soul to ultimately create something that people appreciate. That's really where it's at.
Easy To Love is your first album in 7 years. Do you have any plans to go back to the studio after this?
I definitely am in the process of creating a new album and you know, it's my life, as days go by, tomorrow I might write a song, today I might write a song and all these songs become a situation that I put into different parts to create a new album. I don't rule anything out, I just appreciate what comes in.
The single Close To You made you the first Reggae artist to have an international no.1 hit, and also topped the U.S. Billboard Charts. How did it feel to make history?
As a person I like to feel that I haven't changed, I'm still that little boy from South East London who just has appreciation for any support that comes my way. Every step of the way and every progression along the way I have 100% and more appreciation for it and achieving a number 1 in the United States is no different, I appreciate that just as much as my first hit in the Reggae charts, or my first song in the Pop charts in England. I doesn't stop at any point, it continues to grow and move on as much as I work towards it and people support it.
Following Raggamuffin, what are your plans for the rest of 2016?
After New Zealand we go off to Hawaii, you know this is what we do, we tour and create music. And sometimes you need to be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. We're blessed to be doing this and we're blessed to be doing what we love, and may it continue. For 2016 I'm hoping to publish a new album and look forward to putting that out. I will probably do it in the last quarter of this year, or the first quarter of 2017.
Sounds like you travel quite a lot...
I can't just sit in one place to long in order to make something happen in the rest of the world. There's a big beautiful world out there and you got to get up on your feet and make it happen. I may not get as much time as I want to in many places but I'm cool with that. I know that I gotta keep moving.
Saturday February 20th: Trusts Arena, Auckland
Tickets for Raggamuffin IX are on sale now and include VIP tickets, Grandstand tickets, GA tickets, Family passes and Youth tickets. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster 0800 111 999 www.ticketmaster.co.nz and Red Rat clothing stores.
For more details visit www.raggamuffin.co.nz
featuring Xzibit, Wu-Tang Clan, UB40, The Game, Xzibit, Macy Gray, Sly & Robbie with Bitty McLean, Diana King, Inner Circle, Maxi Priest, Junior Marvin's Wailers, Spawnbreezie, House of Pain featuring Everlast, Savage, Boo Yaa T.R.I.B.E, L.A.B, Aotearoa Reggae Collective (Majic, L-40 and Israel Starr), Cool Meditation and ReZist.