Roots of Creation Interview
Reggae-rock fusion band Roots of Creation is every adventurous music lover’s dream. Combining their love of Northeast reggae and jam/dub influences, the band has masterfully crafted their own stand-out style in the music scene. Their most recent album Grateful Dub released March 9, 2018, debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard Reggae chart. Featuring artists like Fortunate Youth and Stephen Marley, Grateful Dub is an impressive tribute to The Grateful Dead with a reggae-dub flavor. To learn more about the album and the band, The Tartan sat down with lead singer and guitarist Brett Wilson.
Note: Natalie Schmidt is “N,” and Brett Wilson is “B”.
N: Are you guys excited to perform in Pittsburgh?
B: Yeah, we’re super excited to come back! It’s actually one of our favorite places to play! We have a really awesome pocket of fans in Pittsburgh and street team guys. We call our fans “RoC Family,” and we’ve got a nice crew down there that we have a lot of fun with.
N: I read that Roots of Creation got its start in college?
B: Yeah, we were just jamming at college parties and having a good time. Our first couple of club shows sold out too. Everybody’s thats been seeing us at parties came and supported us! After college, we recorded an album, moved into a house together, and just started doing 100-150 shows a year, touring the country, and building the fan base up organically, grass-roots style.
N: What originally drew you to reggae in particular?
B: There’s a nice reggae scene in New Hampshire, what people are calling reggae rock or surf reggae. It’s a fusion made popular by bands like Sublime, Slightly Stoopid, The Clash. One of the first times I ever heard reggae music in a live setting was at the Vermont Roots Reggae Festival when I was really young. Outdoors, people are hanging out, eating brownies, smoking. My mom was like, “Uh, I don’t know if I should’ve brought you here…” (laughs) She used to make me mixtapes of reggae music. We traded tastes back and forth, and that’s how I got into it. I just really identified with the positive message and with a lot of the bands that were mixing it into their sound.
N: What drew you all in particular to The Grateful Dead?
B: For me, there’s always been a direct line to our music and The Dead. I learned how to play guitar by listening to Grateful Dead bootlegs, the electric guitar solos and acoustic guitar that Jerry Garcia did and trying to figure out what he was doing. We always teased the idea, it was just always in the back of our minds. After Livin Free did really well, we were really stoked on it and we were like, “Okay, how do we take it to the next level? What if we tried this Grateful Dub concept?” We were brainstorming and I got introduced to Errol Brown, who had done the last three Bob Marley albums. I was talking to him and I showed him some stuff and he was immediately like, “Let’s do this!” He saw the vision! We did about 14 days in the studio, 12 plus hour days, and we’d never done that as a band. We started to invite all of our friends and have our team reach out to people, and it really turned into this amazing collaborative project that we’re really proud of. Everybody on it knocked it out of the park, and we’re just really honored to have the support of our fan base and all the special guests. The Deadhead community started to embrace it, which is really important to me as a fan.
N: What’s something that you guys learned just by collaborating with all of these people?
B: I just really think that it takes us off and over the top. It takes you out of your comfort zone; you might do things your way with your band, but they bring their special flavor to it. It’s also cool cause it exposes our fan base to their music and their band. And, it brings people together in a variety of ways. It’s super fun for me, it’s one of my favorite things to do! You send the track out and either you’re in the studio and watching it unfold, or we communicated with the artist and you don’t know what it sounds like. And all of sudden, we get a verse back from these people and it’s almost like Christmas: you don’t know what it’s going to be, and you’re unwrapping it and you’re like, “Woah! Look what they did with the art we’re creating!”
N: Was it more of a challenge or an opportunity for creative freedom when trying to stay true to The Grateful Dead?
B: A lot of the songs just flowed like no problem, but there were a couple songs that almost didn’t make the record. “Shakedown Street,” wasn’t liking any of the vocals that I did, and we ended up replacing it with the horns instead to make it instrumental. “Standing on the Moon” was tough because it’s such a delicate emotional song. It’s actually probably my favorite. Once we started adding the reggae to it, it felt like that was taking something away from it, so Errol started telling us the story of “Redemption Song” and recording that with Bob Marley – how it just sounded better stripped down. And, we said, “Let’s apply that to this song.” So we started off the song acoustically and gradually brought the band in at the end. Most of the other songs I’ve been playing my whole life, so it was just a matter of having fun and coming up with creative arrangements, making sure the guitar and keyboards were always rhythmically skanking together. All the things that made a powerful sound. It was mostly super fun, especially since we didn’t have to write the songs (laughs). They’re already iconic, so let’s just have fun rearranging these and have an awesome record.
N: What’s coming up for the band that you’re most excited about?
B: The touring is super exciting! We’re ready to spread our wings and do a couple shows in New York and hit Pittsburgh, and then we’re westbound! We’re really excited to play Stephen Marley’s Kaya festival in California, and in San Diego, we’re gonna have Slightly Stoopid playing with us. We’re starting to talk about all the new original music we have and about who we wanna tour with/open for in the fall. Maybe even doing a volume two to this Grateful Dub album!
N: How do you want to stand out in the music scene?
B: For me, it’s about creating iconic music that will stand the test of time. It’s always searching to create that piece or body of work that will live forever and create a positive impact on the world and make people forget about their troubles and just have a good time. We’re also just always trying to redefine our sound so it’s completely original and our own. I‘m always searching for that: something so original that when you put it on you know exactly who it is.
N: Is there anything you want to say to the fans coming to your show?
B: People who might be thinking of coming to the show: it’s free! Make sure you reserve your tickets ‘cause it’s almost sold out, from what I’m hearing! Also, if you come out and see the show, make sure you come out and say hi to us! We like to meet everybody, so stop by the merch table at the end, we usually hang out there. Shake our hands, give us a hug, and we’re happy to meet you and welcome you into the RoC family. Definitely come say hi, don’t be afraid!
Roots of Creation will be performing at the Rex Theatre on April 14th with Bumpin’ Uglies. For tickets and more information, check out their website rootsofcreaction.com.