Freddie, your latest effort, ‘Di Captain', was a celebration of your 50 years in the music business, but it also felt like an album for which you indulged yourself, for once not thinking of your fans' wishes but choosing songs you loved and wanted to hear.
Freddie McGregor: "I saw this album a bit as a closing chapter in a 50 year journey. Some of the songs in the track list of 'Di Captain' are definitely songs that have a special meaning to me, but I also wanted it to be songs that are still relevant today. Take The Heptones' 'Equal Rights' for example... I've always loved that track and was even fortunate enough to have Leroy Sibbles play guitar on it when we recorded the version for the album, but the message of that song is still as relevant to today's youths as is was when it was first recorded. Something completely different was the reworking I did of 'Bobby Bobylon' (called 'Standing Strong' on 'Di Captain', red.) with Gappy Ranks, which was a deliberate effort to revitalize that song."
Why did you think of Gappy Ranks, a UK based artist, for that collaboration?
Freddie McGregor: "That came about through my connection with Stingray Records in London who are blood relatives of mine. By doing that collaboration Gappy can reach out to my fans and vice versa. The song came out a treat and live it works very well. 'Let It Be Me' the song I did with Etana was done in a similar spirit. I find her to have one of the most beautiful female voices coming out of Jamaica today and I really wanted to work with her."
On the album there are also a couple of covers from the world of pop and rock (The Beatles' 'You Won't See Me', The Everly Brothers' 'Let It Be Me'). Apart from reggae, what kind of music does Freddie McGregor listen to?
Freddie McGregor: "Well, The Beatles are one of my all-time favorite bands; that's why I wanted to include that cover of 'You Won't See Me' on the album, but I listen to The Rolling Stones just as easily and I've always been a big fan of Phil Collins. It were actually The Clarendonians, the band I started my career with so many years ago, who first made that Beatles song popular in Jamaica. Not too long ago, I bought a Beatles song book with all the lyrics and the music written out and I gave it to my son Stephen because I really wanted him to get to know their music, but it also made me think back of that old Clarendonians hit and that's how the ball got rolling."
Damian Marley is organizing his first reggae cruise this year. With nautical references aplenty - the Big Ship Records label, the title of your latest album 'Di Captain' - I can't but wonder if that's something you'd also be involved in?
Freddie McGregor: "I've been doing cruises for years now and the next Big Ship cruise is scheduled for December: The Independence of the Seas will take us around on an eight day journey across the Caribbean visiting in places like Grand Cayman, Haiti, Mexico, Saint Martin and Saint Kitts. Chino and Stephen will be accompanying me alongside well-known artists like Mikey Spice and Marcia Griffiths. People who are interested can look it up on the internet at www.jwfamilytravel.com. In general we mostly attract a music-loving crowd wanting to get away for a week, but it's a cruise ship with all the amenities you'd expect so we just as well attract regular cruise lovers."
You're working on an autobiographical documentary at the moment. What should we be looking forward to?
Freddie McGregor: "The documentary is put together by Jay Will, one of Jamaica's top talents in the field of film and television and although it's hardly possible to reflect a fifty year career in a couple of hours, he interviewed a lot of people including myself and members of my immediate family like my sons and I think the end result has been worth the effort. Like the track on ‘Di Captain', which also tells my story, the documentary will also be called "My Story". It's all edited and ready to be released, so you should expect it soon!"