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Ever since I started working at Hill Kid I get asked the same question all the time:
“What’s it like working with Marley from Rebelution?”
Well, to tell you the truth, in many ways it’s a dream I manifested straight into reality. It’s something that I desired to do far before I ever knew about Hill Kid, or thought I’d actually have a chance working with a member of what would become one of the biggest bands in reggae-rock.
Years ago, Rebelution played a concert in San Diego where I live; it was the annual ‘OMBAC’ show celebrating the ‘Old Mission Beach Athletic Club’.
It was a perfect afternoon for a concert; I stood there feet in the sand with the pristine waters of Mission Bay providing a peaceful and powerful backdrop for the stage.
Shortly after Rebelution played I remember walking over to the nearby ‘Wavehouse’ venue where Iration had a show–the warm spring breeze lifted my elation and the smell of fresh ocean air washed over me outside the venue.
Marley was standing outside surrounded by a wonderfully happy group of people. My friend Chris Warner of San Diego band Jet West saw him and immediately grabbed a business card and went to introduce himself. I had no business card on me, and watched as Chris shook Marley’s hand and walked happily back over.
I stood there outside the Wavehouse feeling utterly defeated–probably my best chance to meet Marley and introduce my band The StirCrazies and I had blown it–at that moment, the weight of the entire world fell heavily on my young shoulders.
Two years later I found myself answering an ad on Facebook for a blogging position at Hill Kid, and a few days after that I was sitting outside a coffee shop downtown with Marley and Hill Kid co-founder Braelyn Davis talking about the clothing line they had started.
Funny how things work out sometimes–all of a sudden I was in a situation I had only dreamed of.
Working for Hill Kid has been a major blessing in many ways, and here I’ll share with you my life working with the bass player from Rebelution; Mr. Marley D. Williams.
Living In Paradise
For those of you who have never been to San Diego, it’s a pretty nice place. After moving here from New Hampshire, I still greatly appreciate the majestic rows of palm trees lining every road and the privilege of sitting and watching a gorgeous sunset in 75 degree weather on an outdoor patio in mid January.
Hill Kid found itself growing in this beautiful city as co-founders Marley and Braelyn (as well as my fellow co-worker Mike Mackle aka ‘Mackle’ or ‘DJ Mackle’) moved here from Santa Barbara to start fresh.
They all found beautiful spots downtown, where planes land and take-off in the distance and the sun sets serenely over San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
I personally live about 10 minutes north of there, in the small and vibey beach town called Ocean Beach, which is Slightly Stoopid’s hometown.
Every couple weeks or so I’ll head down to Hill Kid HQ and meetup with the guys to talk about designs, business, spreading the vibes and just plain old catching up.
Watching a football game at Marley’s place is similar to a football game anywhere; good friends, good vibes, and lots of laughs and smiles. It is a gorgeous place though.
It has a very relaxing sort of ‘zen’ feel–a place to dream up new creations, work on art and decompress after long journeys around the world spreading good vibes with Rebelution.
Many people don’t know, but as awesome and fun as tours are it’s also a lot of hard work, and it’s nice coming back to a place that really feels like home, where you can find a beautiful peace of mind.
What It’s Like Hanging Out with Marley
Marley is in many ways a regular guy. Sure, he spends 8 months a year playing concerts for hundreds of thousands of wonderful and appreciative supporters of good vibes, but when he gets home he’s not that different from you or me.
He’s nice, warm, friendly, funny, and always the life of the party. The Marley you see on stage is the Marley I hang out with and know; he’s someone who worked hard, followed his dreams and achieved his ultimate desire of playing music with his friends and spreading a positive message.
He can be pretty hilarious too…
He loves telling jokes, and making funny impressions or being random. He’s not afraid to be a kid sometimes and do weird stuff–you never know what you’re going to get with Marley.
But past all that there’s the amazing artist in him–I mean, he’s this guy that played a paramount part in founding Rebelution. He loves embracing creative moments, appreciating music and living life to the fullest.
What is the real meaning of ‘Hill Kid’?
I went downtown one Friday evening to help pack our Hill Kid gear into Marley’s car before the Summer Meltdown Festival earlier this year. We had a booth there and needed to load everything up the night before.
After a couple hours of packing, sorting and listening to some music (a pretty awesome playlist spanning rap to reggae), we decided to toss in the towel and grab a glass of water. As we stood in his kitchen and chatted, he paused for a second and pulled a magazine out of a drawer.
He carefully opened the page to a section in the middle, where there was a picture of a man in a breathtaking home made from natural wood. The caption read that it had been built completely using the surrounding environment.
“I don’t know if you knew this”, said Marley, “but I grew up in a home in northern California that was off the grid, completely surrounded by nature. My father built it with his own two hands, and we got our electricity from solar panels before most people ever even thought to put them on their homes.”
I stood there intrigued.
“There were a bunch of other kids that grew up like this in my area, and there was this deep appreciation for the woods and hills around us–we had so much fun playing out there and experiencing what it really means to live with nature.”
I could immediately sense Marley reliving childhood memories, basking in the familiar glow of some of the best days of his life.
“We called each other ‘hill kids’–all of us who grew up like that. The name and memories have always meant so much to me–they’re some of the most prized times of my life. I couldn’t be happier or more appreciative of the amazing life I live now, but you know that feeling of being a kid, when life was just constantly simple and inspiring–I always try to hold on to that.”
The feeling in the room was one of deep reflection, and I sensed the artist in Marley really filling the space.
“That’s why I called it ‘Hill Kid’. I wanted to spread that vibe and joy with people everywhere. It’s all the things that mean the most to me in life; being active, appreciating nature, and finding love in creating art and music… there have been lots of ups and downs, and it hasn’t always been easy, but you’ve got to stay as positive as possible and keep being inspired, right?”
I felt a vast appreciation as Marley shared this with me. I found myself in a surreal moment; here I was, a kid who had moved out to California from New Hampshire to pursue music, and I’m standing in the kitchen with Marley Williams of Rebelution while he explained the meaning and inspiration behind Hill Kid with me.
He is a regular guy, who has achieved extraordinary dreams and never gave up. I knew this much all along, but it’s always special to me when someone goes out of their way to bear a part of their soul with you. I have a deep appreciation for people who are able to really let you in and share in their memories and dreams.
Marley’s Inner Artist
One of the coolest things Marley has ever shared with me is the original artwork for Rebelution’s ‘Bright Side of Life’ album cover. I hadn’t really ever thought about it to be honest–I just figured they had someone design it for them and it looked cool.
“Let me show you something cool..” grinned Marley.
He pulled out an old, slightly fade piece of white paper and on it I saw a sketch of the ‘Bright Side of Life’ album cover.
“You did this?”, I asked incredulously. Not that I doubted Marley as an artist, being a wonderfully creative and inspiring musician, but I didn’t know he drew too.
“Yep!”, he stated proudly as he looked down at the drawing. “You see, if you look closely, there are pictures tangled into the roots of the tree, and each one of them represents one of the songs.”
I had no idea that he had been the artist for the album art. It really was an incredible sketch, and the attention to detail on there was phenomenal. I felt so inspired in that moment, and incredibly grateful to work with him.
It’s moments like these that the reality of working with Hill Kid really sets in–I realize how fortunate I am to find myself in such a wonderful position, doing what I love and working with people who are really making a positive difference.
Backstage at Rebelution Shows
One of the coolest parts that goes with this gig (besides writing my soul out for the world) is getting to hang out backstage at Rebelution shows. They play with bands that I’ve always looked up to, and I find myself meeting all sorts of great people and seeing the concert from a different view.
Looking out off that stage into the eyes of 15,000 people all stoked on life and singing the words right back at the band is tough to describe–what a peaceful and wonderful thing to see.
It’s always a party back there, and ends up being a fun and intimate time hanging with friends and families of band members. It’s a different view of it all. I’ve been going to concerts since I was a kid, and I’d always wonder (as so many of us do) what it’s like back there.
And now I know what it’s like on the other side. My favorite part is watching an artist go from standing in a group of friends laughing humbly to picking up their instrument and immediately finding ‘stage mode’–ready to go out and help make thousands of people smile in return for the music and love they put out there.
It’s a wonderful thing to witness.
An Incredible Ride
All in all, my experience at Hill Kid has been an incredible ride. We work hard, we play hard.
I don’t look at Marley as some huge rock star; he’s a friend to have a couple drinks with and enjoy life. That’s all anyone is really–even the biggest stars in the world are regular people who direct their time and energy toward big things, and work hard until they get there.
But I won’t lie… I do feel proud to work with someone doing such big things, especially when I see him step out onto the stage as he did the other night at Sleep Train Amphitheatre with Rebelution to play for almost 20,000 people.
I’m forever grateful for the things I get to experience working with Hill Kid and the experience it gives me in turn.
Sitting in Marley’s kitchen laughing, I couldn’t help but think to myself,
“I hope everyone realizes they can go out there and accomplish their dreams–life is too precious to spend feeling mediocre or doing things you don’t love–we can be whatever we want, and Marley is a person who follows his heart and makes his dreams happen.”
After one of the Reb shows in San Diego last year, Marley took me aside, looked me directly in the eye and said,
“Thank you so much… it’s such a blessing to have you on the Hill Kid team.”
At that moment, I knew I was well on track to living my own dreams. Are you?
I certainly hope so, because that’s what we live for here at Hill Kid. Life can be an amazing ride, and we all have the potential to do literally anything we can dream of.
Our idols aren’t really any different than we are; they’re people who wake up every morning and follow their dreams. And it’s not because they’re perfect and never fail that they achieve their dreams, it’s because they never give up and live with the faith that they will in fact get to where they want to go if they just keep moving in that direction.
Stay positive, stay inspired, and share your dreams with us in the comments section below.
Brendan F Clemente