SHAGGY: Mr. Boombastic Follows Grammy Win With New Album
BY DAVID DeROCCO
There’s a lot you probably don’t know about SHAGGY, the Jamaican dancehall/reggae star with the instantly recognizable voice. Like the fact he actually took his name from the Scooby snack-munching cartoon character. Or the fact he served in the Gulf War as a U.S. Marine, where he honed his vocal delivery free-styling the marching drills to motivate his fellow marines. Or the fact he’s sold over 40 million records, scoring eight singles in the Billboard Hot 100 including two #1 hits. Or that he remains the only diamond-certified dancehall/reggae artist in history. What you probably do know – besides the unmistakable vocal delivery – are the songs: “Oh Carolina,” “Boombastic,” “It Wasn’t Me,” and “Angel,” just four of the long string of hits SHAGGY has scored since releasing his 1993 debut, Pure Pleasure.
What you need to know, however, is that Shaggy just picked up the 2019 Grammy for his reggae collaboration with Sting called 44/876, a super-accessible reggae hybrid that successfully showcases the two very distinct artists. You should also know that Shaggy’s 14th album, WahGwaan?!, is set for release May 10th, a 12-song collection of solo tracks and collaborations that’s emblematic of the singer’s richly diversified sound. But the most important thing to know about Shaggy is that he’s coming to the Avalon Ballroom March 29th to bring the heat to Niagara Falls. The singer took time to chat with GoBeWeekly.com about beating out a Marley for a reggae Grammy, why Sting is in such great shape and why having a lawyer isn’t such a bad idea.
GoBe: 2019 is shaping up to be a good year for you. Let’s start with your GRAMMY win for best reggae album, 44/876. When you’re up against someone with the name Ziggy Marley in the reggae category and win, it must be extra sweet to have achieved that win.
SHAGGY: It was a great win, because this album is an album that is good for the culture and the genre of reggae. You have a massive superstar like Sting choosing to create this kind of a hybrid fusion in celebration of this genre, reggae music. It was an album we did very well with, we toured it and put a lot of smiles on people’s faces and I think a lot of people in Jamaica were truly happy with it. I’m very pleased.
GoBe: I listened to the album all weekend, it’s definitely a fun album with a great vibe. Was it an easy album to make given the difference in your styles.
SHAGGY: It was easy, yes, in the sense that Sting and I kind of pushed each other. We always joke about it now that if we were to make another one it would be much better because we really know each other now. Back then you’re trying to find out what he likes and what he’s into and what I like and what I won’t like. I think that little bit of uncertainty and anxiety kind of brought the magic to it. It got us out of the box, out of our comfort zone. And I tell you what, it’s always magical when you’re comfortable being uncomfortable.
GoBe: I love the diversity on there. You’ve got a song like “Crooked Tree” and the darkness in those lyrics. And then you’ve got your sexy on with songs like “Don’t Make Me Wait.” How many songs did you work through before choosing the 12 tracks that made the album.
SHAGGY: I think we did somewhere close to 20 songs. As we went along we would sit in the studio with (Sting) on one microphone and me on the other microphone. And we would just throw ideas and melodies out. I’d kind of freestyle a few things and he’d take what I did, and then we’d go home and do homework and just come back the next day with thoughts we both wrote down and record it. That’s how it came to life. Once we started the tour and were in front of 10,000 people, it was like ‘they’re really into these songs.’ That’s when it really connected for us.
GoBe: It looks like you put him to work. He was at the Juno Awards in London last night and he’s looking fit and trim.
SHAGGY: It’s not him keeping up with me, it’s me keeping up with him. He’s a big yoga guy, he exercises, he loves to swim. Most of all, he’s incredibly competitive. I think that’s what keeps him in shape. He doesn’t want to slack off at all. I’ve met a lot of people and I don’t think there’s many that can out work me. This guy takes very little time for sleeping.
GoBe: You’re not exactly slacking off either. You’ve got a new album coming out in May, WAHGWANN?! When did you find time to start production on a new album given all you’ve got going on.
SHAGGY: Well you know, I keep making albums no matter what. I feel like I’ve made this album two times over already. Funny enough, we have the album date, May 10th. Coming out with this album, I probably took another weekend and redid six or seven tracks on it. That was just in my head at that point.
GoBe: One of the tracks on the album called “YOU,” you’re working with 19 year old Canadian Alexander Stewart. You do so many collaborations with so many artists around the world, how did he wind up on your radar.
SHAGGY: I had this song that I wrote, “You.” And it was in a demo format. I knew Alexander because Martin Kierszenbaum, who manages Sting and who manages me also, co- manages Alexander. I said hey, Martin, do you think Alexander would actually do this, because his voice works. And Martin said I’ll take a shot at it. And I tell you what, he’s so meticulous in his vocal. Everything that we asked him to do he delivered. And it sounded really really great. He’s an amazing kid and a really hard worker.
GoBe: For you, what’s the goal with a new album. Radio playlists are always tight, CD sales are dwindling. You’ve had great streaming success, over 700 million streams of your catalogue. But when you put a new album out as an artist, what objective do you set for yourself. What’s the measure of success.
SHAGGY: I just want to make songs that I can put out there for my fans and play for them. I make records to play them live in front of people. The fans that I play for, I want these songs to actually mean something in their lives. I know you remember where you were when you heard “Boombastic” for the first time. I know you remember where you were when you heard “It Wasn’t Me” or “Angel” for the first time. You can actually map out what was going on in your life because these songs are actually part of the soundtrack of your life. This is what I want to do with music. So when I make an album I want to create moments for my fans with these songs. That’s the real motivation.
GoBe: So speaking of playing for the fans, you’re coming up to Niagara Falls to perform at the Avalon Ballroom March 29th. What can you tell us about the show, what can you tell fans who might not have been lucky enough to see you perform live before.
SHAGGY: I love playing Niagara Falls. I’ve played it a couple of times. The audience is so pumped. I don’t know if it’s the cold weather, but when they come hear my music they feel like they’re on vacation to let loose. We do a lot of the classics, but a few tracks from the new album WahGwann?! We’ll do the new single “You” and another single “Use Me.” We’ll give you a little taste of it.
GoBe: Coming up to Niagara Falls from Jamaica, is it on your rider that they have to turn the heat up in the venue?
SHAGGY: It should be. They don’t have to turn it up, we will. We bring the heat.
GoBe: It’s been 26 years since Pure Pleasure came out and launched your long successful career. Was the kind of success you have enjoyed part of your original vision, or has your career exceeded your expectations.
SHAGGY: You know what, I’m very very fortunate to have survived it this long, especially in the genre of music which I’m in which is reggae music. I remember when I started with “Oh Carolina,” which went to the top of the British charts. At that time they dubbed me as a one-hit wonder. The history of dancehall music at that point, there were rarely artists who came with follow-ups. I kind of broke that mold when I came up with “Boombastic.” And then I was called a two-hit wonder, but I just kept going. I’m just really really happy to stay relevant in this day and age. We’re in the streaming age, and I’m in a genre of music that is keeping its relevancy in a very hip-hop heavy climate today. We’re definitely holding our own, we’re creating some damage. I’m just fortunate to still be doing it. Whether I expected it or not, I’m a go-getter. I go hard. I say it every day. I thank God for managers and lawyers, because if it was up to me I’d probably do it for free.
GoBe: You’ve got the new album coming out, you’ve scored the 2019 Grammy for best reggae album. What would make 2019 complete for you.
SHAGGY: You know what man. The year started out winning the Grammy, and we’re actually doing a couple more shows for 44/876 in the U.K. And then we have a couple tours lined up for the summer. So I think a big fat hit from this record, and touring this record in front of fans who really appreciate it and have it connect with people, that would be the icing on the cake.