As Ziggy Marley sat in his home recording studio, he took out a scrap of paper and thought about what would become his fifth solo studio album. He jotted down life experiences and feelings about freedom and love.
Those ideas provided the seeds for "Fly Rasta," which is different from his previous work in that he infuses psychedelia, rock, funk, soul and pop into reggae. To broaden his approach, he explored and added the sounds of the sitar, tabla and taiko drums.
Marley will bring the results of this creative thinking to the Pacific Amphitheatre on Saturday — his first OC Fair gig in four years.
"I'm looking to push the envelope, to challenge myself," Marley said. "I have always wanted to travel far beyond the realms of expectations."
The oldest son of reggae legend Bob Marley has earned his own acclaim as an artist, receiving four Grammys, including Best Reggae Album. "Fly Rasta" was recorded with the help of friends and relatives, including the Melody Makers, comprised of his sisters Cedella and Sharon Marley and singer Rica Newell. He worked on tracks with a variety of musicians, including drummers Stephen Ferrone and James Gadson and keyboardist Brian LeBarton
The songs weave together personal, social and political themes. "You" is about finding one's true self, while "Sunshine" deals with finding hope in adversity. The album's lead single, "I Don't Want to Live on Mars," is a love song to Earth. And then there's "You're My Yoko," the love song for Marley's wife, Orly Marley, which includes the phrase, "Oh, your sweet inspiration."
The album also is a call to help preserve the planet. A packet of wildflowers is included in every CD, encouraging fans to connect with nature.
Marley is deep into rehearsals for the upcoming U.S. tour. The outing kicked off with a worldwide release party at Club Nokia in Los Angeles and wraps up Nov. 9 at Uptown Theatre Napa.
For Marley, the record represents what is true to him.
"It's pretty much love," he said. "Being in love is a big theme. It's underlying in my music."
Love was present at home when Marley was growing up in Kingston, Jamaica. He and his siblings would sit in on recording sessions with his father's band, Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Asked what he is passing on to his six children that he learned from his parents, he is quick to say love and respect.
"The biggest thing is respect," he said. "Growing up, that was the lesson."
His music, activism and projects reflect that home training.
Marley founded the charity U.R.G.E., or Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment, a nonprofit that builds schools and health clinics in Jamaica, Ethiopia and other developing nations. His charity supports Mary's Child, a center for abused and neglected girls.
He also is committed to supporting an organic lifestyle with Ziggy Marley Organics, a line of coconut oils and hemp seeds.
The singer and songwriter added children's author to his credentials with his first children's book, "I Love You Too." The book is based on the title song from Marley's 2009 Grammy Award-winning children's album, "Family Time."
But for now, the focus is putting on a good show.
"Reggae has very significant appeal in our area," said Dan Gaines, entertainment director of the OC Fair. "Ziggy embodies the spirit of this music more than any other reggae performer today, both through his own talent and his father's legacy."
Joining Marley is Southern California reggae band the Expanders, which has a vintage reggae sound similar to that of the 1970s.
"We will have a good time," Marley said.
If You Go
Who: Ziggy Marley, The Expanders
Where: Pacific Amphitheatre, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Cost: $25.35 to $47.85