Last week, the holiday festivities started early with Roots of Creation dropping their EP Journey, a four-track banger full of features including Mellow Mood, Brandon Hardesty of Bumpin Uglies, Ted Bowne of Passafire, and James Searl of Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. These collaborations create a transcendent listening experience that kicks off strong and gets better with each listen. Today, the New Hampshire reggae-rock/jam band continues to treat listeners with a slick yet gritty music video accompanying the title track, “Journey.”
The aptly titled song acts as a vessel as it cascades into the listener’s ears and takes them through an epic voyage of brilliant instrumentation and booming vocals. Personally, the track instantly got stuck in my head with its incredible arrangement and thoughtful and conscious lyrics, and this prompted me to schedule an interview with Roots of Creation frontman Brett Wilson to talk further about the song.
Before even locking in the interview, my head swarmed with questions of what I could ask. Yet, the most pressing thing on my mind was the concept of the lyrics and how they came about. When listening to the song, the words spoke to me as though they were coming from a celestial voice, guiding me through the brilliant groove of the song.
Wilson stated that he was in a diner when he saw a quote stating, “Life is a journey, not a destination,” and he pondered how he could turn it into a song. “I was also listening to a lot of Anthony B and Sizzla and stuff that was a little bit spiritual, but also a little bit aggressive in terms of where their viewpoint was coming from. It’s more of a Peter Tosh than a Bob Marley vibe.”
Wilson added to this by talking about how the pre-chorus dives into the pressures and frustrations of being the band’s frontman, living life on the road, and all the personalities that come with it. However, as the song evolved, it feels more uplifting to him. “It doesn’t sound so painful, it sounds more positive, and it’s got a little bit of grit to it. I like a little bit of power. Because it’s not all sunshine and rainbows out there, it’s more of what you make it.”
Don’t waste precious time
Worrying your mind
Think positive and you will find
How you live will purify your mind
As for one of the opening lines, “What you find out along the way is education,’”I was curious about the inspiration behind this and some of the lessons he has learned along his voyage of life. Surprisingly enough, Wilson stated that this line stemmed from listening to a podcast with Joe Rogan and The Rock discussing mental health and how the worst moment in life defines you, but it’s all about perspective. He further explained, “I fight a lot of anxiety and depression, and as an artist, you try not to compare yourself to other people in your career, but it happens, and so you have to stay very grounded and know that your journey is your journey alone. Something like this [song] is a beautiful collaborative gift and it just makes you try to remember to have gratitude for the small wins. Try to stay focused on the positive things that happen.”
Wilson jokingly stated that he is horrible at following his advice, yet he felt compelled to share other wisdom he has learned, such as to never take things too personally, trust your instincts, believe in yourself, and be kind to people because you never know what someone else is going through. He also brought up education and how we ought to be taught opposing viewpoints without demonizing them, but instead how to find common ground.
Wilson also cited dub poet Ras Howard Henry as a lyrical inspiration while telling me of their initial encounters. “I met him in upstate New York, and we would have conversations every once in a while. He put out a poetry book in the vein of Mutabaruka, a Jamaican artist who sort of pioneered dub poetry, and he had this amazing style and this good way with words. I would talk to him every once in a while. He was just teaching me the ways of the world, and I think one conversation with him on the phone was – and I’m young at the time, but this song existed in its infancy in 2006 when we were just starting out playing bars – and I think he said, ‘Remember you are just a youth. Spread the message every day,’ because he really vibed with the rock element that we were throwing into things and how we were creating something of its own and not mimicking Jamaican music but taking it and being inspired to create our own thing.”
He added, “Which is something I really love because that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to recreate, steal, or take. I aspire to create a sound and a genre and something that’s instantly identifiable as its own entity.”
Another crucial theme Wilson touches upon in the song is self-reliance, all while finding a balance to not hermit yourself from those around you.
Listen what I say
Give to your community
Stay strong and keep on preaching unity
I am just a youth
That’s what Ras says
Spread the message everyday
The added voices of Ted Bowne and James Searl create a divine trifecta of voices throughout the song, adding to its already unique fusion of music. Wilson says, ” I love Ted’s and James’ verses. They made me love the song rather than just like it. They took it from ‘This has a lot of potential’ to ‘I love this song.’”
Throughout “Journey,” the listener is brought through an array of glistening instrumentation. When asked about the arrangement of the song, Wilson discusses the framework of the song as being almost like the peak of a mountain: “Because my background is in jam band music, you’re always looking for that peak experience, like Phish or The Allman Brothers, not so much The Dead because they are collectively jamming, but a lot of the time with that type of music, you’re building a musical peak that creates an orgasm-like or spiritual experience.” Wilson explained that, while it was conceived with jam band principles, “Journey” is “more like a slow burn.”
This conveniently led to the conversation about the “Journey” music video directed by Sam Scarce. ” I can only take so much of ‘This is me, and I’m singing the song,’” Wilson said, so he suggested to Scarce to intercut live footage from festivals and shows of the past to visually commemorate the journey of the band throughout the years. “He did such a bang-up job, I think it stands on its own as a piece of art, and it compliments the music and the lyrics, which is really hard to do.”
With its infectious riddims and poignant lyrics that grab hold of the listener’s psyche, “Journey” celebrates life, reminding of the beauty of each step taken and the lessons learned along the way. Together with their unique fusion of sound, Roots of Creation, Passafire and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad have created something that reaches beyond the eardrums.