Roy “Gramps” Morgan is a Jamaican singer, instrumentalist, producer, record executive, and entrepreneur. The Grammy winner teamed up with Canadian country star and record producer Johnny Reid for his latest album Positive Vibration, but the Canadian connection doesn’t end there.
He married Canadian-born cell and developmental biologist, Dr. Annabelle Manalo – who spent some time going outside medical norms to save her son’s life using CBD oils.
So there’s no doubts Gramps has a love and passion for the magical healing and creative powers of marijuana.
Can you tell me about the new album?
Well, the album is full of sunshine, it is truly something that I believe the world needs now. Of course, there’s always been great Reggae albums and great Country Albums. But this is one of the first I believe that we were able to accomplish.
I don’t know how it happened, but the universe brought me and Johnny Reid together. It is truly an example of two amazing worlds coming together to say one amazing message and it’s to stay positive, enjoy your family.
I feel fun wearing Hawaiian shirts where I reached a point in my life that I can just relax, take a sip or rum and then think of myself being taken away, whether it’s in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the mountains visiting Dollywood, or going to the islands of Jamaica, Cayman Islands or the Bahamas. But I find that space where it’s your peace, when anyone’s looking for you, you saying hey man, it could be in my backyard by my pool, it could be my family at a barbecue, or down by the lake, but to find that inner peace within yourself, that’s what I was able to accomplish within this pandemic.
Your last solo album came out in 2012. So this is long overdue. What was holding you back from making this new one?
During touring, my son, Jemere Morgan, which is also on this album, he always said to me, ‘Dad, when are you gonna work on a new solo album, it’s just something special when you do a solo album?’. Of course he was there during the first one and the second one and people really got a chance to enjoy my voice.
The focus was with me and my brothers, Morgan Heritage throughout the years, that’s my day job, but it’s something special when I do a solo album and I told my son, when the right time comes for the right reason and with the right person. I didn’t know who it was gonna be, I didn’t know when it was gonna happen. I didn’t know if it was gonna be 10 years, 20 years from now and boom, I walk into a hockey game here in Nashville, Tennessee at my home. And I go to this hockey game, and I meet Johnny Reid. And I’m like, Okay, cool. And he wasn’t doing anything.
We were kind of bored, everybody else was talking in the lounge, and I’m watching the hockey game experience in this game that I love.
He invites me to his recording studio and he said, Hey, man, how’s it going with the pandemic. And I told him, Hey, man, I just want to become a better songwriter, you know, if I could take the time to become a better songwriter, I’m happy with what I was able to accomplish with all the awards and all the audiences that we’ve played around the world, but I would love to improve that.
He said, Hey man, come on over mate. Come on over to the studio mate. And I said, Okay, and went to the studio, and we just started writing some songs, and I’m like, wow, you’re an amazing songwriter. He was a fan of me. I ended up being a fan of him. And it just produced this magical things.
So God, and the universe said, Okay, this is the right guy. This is the right time. And each song was magical. My son was just like, Yes, Daddy yes Daddy, and remind you this is a big grown kid, which he’s now doing his own music as well. But he’s been one of my biggest supporters and my fans from day one, as well as my brothers, they always want to say Yo, push yourself, because I’m kind of like, easy.
I just want everybody to be happy and barbeque and good vibes. I never really pushed myself. And with this project, it allowed me to just be an artist relaxing, my team there in Toronto – Halo Entertainment Group – Tracey, just, I’ve been blessed, you know.
Talking about Johnny Reid. You did the song, “A Woman Like You”. I love the video. It’s beautiful.
Oh, thank you so much. It was amazing. Johnny Reid makes me, as a producer, many people may probably know him as a producer, but an amazing songwriter, as an amazing performer and artist. But working with Johnny and when I sang that song, it was just like, the reggae version of it. It was just a beautiful song already. Right? But I felt some of my audience would love to hear this rendition, a reggae rendition of the song. Because the lyrics are for grandmother. It’s for the auntie. It’s for a father experiencing his first child that happens to be a daughter, so it’s not necessarily a love song to your personal relationship, but it’s the love song to the female gender. It’s a love song to your daughter, your grandmother, your auntie many men have been grown by their grandmothers or their aunt, or sometimes even their sister.
So it’s a song of appreciation, a song of devotion and dedication. That’s the kind of song that this really is. ‘Hey, have I told you’ (sings) you know, it’s like, who’s sings like that? Who says those words and that is what I’m talking about when you talk about the songwriting and knowing the right words to say because there’s been many love songs. But not many songwriters can write a love song the way it’s supposed to be.
The video, it’s very simple, but it just captures the whole feeling of that song.
Yeah, it really is and shooting my latest videos,. I did “People Like You”, “Runaway Bay” and “A Woman Like You”, and one of the things I’ve learned, even me and Johnny brainstorming together is that when there’s too much in the music video, it’s like it takes the viewer away from the song and the essence of the song, if you understand what you know.
I’ve learned that working with Johnny that when the videos more simple people listen, you’re still, right? But if it’s like boom, here and in a beautiful shot here and you’re distracted from the true mission of the words absorbing your heart and your spirit, that’s what I believe that we are able to accomplish with this project, even shooting the music videos.
Is the release of a new solo album and indication that Morgan Heritage is going to be on another hiatus?
Not at all, like I said, it was nothing planned. We were just home like the rest of the world and the pandemic and we had nothing to do and I went to a hockey game, right? This is at the beginning before they shut down sporting events and it was just to be careful and wear a mask and I want to tell you, there was no A&R there was no big marketing team and, you know, we’re just kind of catching up to this project because it formed out of the universe, if you understand what I mean, it kind of just came out of nowhere. We’re kind of like having to catch up and so it’s no indication.
We say, Morgan Heritage for life, actually, they are my biggest fans. They’re like, go, go, go, go. Gramps you sounded amazing, so, whatever happens, we’ve accomplished so much and toward the world. I will always tour with my brothers and that’s my family. How do you get away from your family that you love, you know, some people want to be away from some of their families, but I don’t have that problem.
So it’s a situation where they are my biggest fans, and they are pushing me like, dude, you can’t stop now you got to keep going, you got to keep going wherever it leads to, and I look to take my music to the four corners of the earth.
I’d love to play and all the way up in Halifax, Canada, when it’s 40 below, and I want to experience that wearing a big fur coat singing for the Eskimos, so for me, it’s not really about, okay, an indication of going on hiatus again. But it’s just following the universe.
It could be next year, me and Johnny Reid touring. Some of that time could be divided between Morgan Heritage touring, Gramps Morgan touring with India Arie or anything’s possible, but no indication of another hiatus.
Morgan Heritage is a second generation of music for your family. So before I get in and talk about the band, I was hoping you could tell me about the first generation with your father Denroy.
Growing up, we saw dad writing songs and smoking his joint on the couch and writing songs, and it would be like, What is he doing? So, like I say to a lot of people, parents are their children’s first role model. So you really have to be careful as a parent raising a child on what you expose them to.
Thank god my father exposed me to music and watching him prepare rehearsal. I remember one tour, he was going out with Frankie Beverly and Maze, which I had no idea who that was, I just saw my dad doing this thing and playing music. I didn’t realize his life until I got a little older. I was like, wow, dad, that’s what that square vehicle was in front of the house. It was a tour bus. It just shows the innocence and pureness of a child, there was no hype. I just saw my dad going into this big bus and pulling off and they had radios and headphones in the bunks. I’m like, oh, wow, this was in what may be 1983.
My dad has really done so much for this music. But what I love him more so is for putting into me and my brothers and sister, it’s not easy to put down your own career, and all of a sudden begin to invest in your children, and he saw the talent in us.
I used to play American football and after I left high school, and my dad kind of said, that’s not your true calling, and my football coach, Mr. Coach McGlothin, a very strong Irish man, I would say hello to him. I just thank him for looking at me and say, Hey, you can play football till maybe in your mid 30s. But you can sing forever. So it’s your choice. And it’s the greatest advice he could have ever gave me. And I took his advice and made the choice to focus on music. And here I am today speaking with you.
Music has always been in your life then?
Absolutely, from a very small age, just pictures of me playing the piano at two years old. My dad would tell me stories that I would mimic his songs with one finger. There was a song called “I am not coming back with water but with fire”, and I would play it with one finger and my dad turned around and said, “Oh, my God, who just played that?”, and it was me at the piano at two years old, playing with one finger and at that point, he said this kid is gonna be something.
So it’s just a blessing to have him here still in the flesh and share stories like that with me as a grown man to say ‘What I did that?’ and then it makes sense and makes me understand the true calling because way of life in the journey of life, we can sometimes get distracted or be even inspired, if you want to call it that. But your true God given gift is a lot of times your parents see at first, and that’s why I always push my friends to listen to the elders around you, your auntie, your mother, your grandmother, your uncle, because they’ve been through things that you haven’t been through and are going to go through, which will help to guide you.
What do you know about the life of the Morgan family before your father left Jamaica?
I knew my father was a butcher and he was a barber. I knew my mother used to be a babysitter for the Jackson Five in New York City, when they used to leave from Gary, Indiana to have business meetings in New York City at their record label.
My mom was one of the babysitters, they wanted a strong Jamaican woman to keep Michael, Tito and the others in line and to keep them disciplined. Caribbean nannies have always been something special. We are people of discipline, principle, culture and love, which a child needs out of all of that, especially when their parents are not around.
Those are just some of the things and the fun things I’ve heard as an adult to say, Wow, you even if it was one day, a babysitter for Michael Jackson and his brothers and then you hear about my dad coming to the United States with $100 in his pocket and trying to find life. So I always say to my dad, ‘Daddy, no matter what you were able to come to this country. And as long as you have more than $100 in your pocket, you’re in a profit zone. So be thankful and just continue to share your story.
He has such an amazing story, the story of an immigrant to say you can come from anywhere in this world, which makes North America one of the greatest countries in the world. Especially between Canada, a lot of Jamaicans have come to Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, where people come and try to find a better way of life to take care of their families. That’s one of the greatest things about my history, knowing my father, knowing how to take an opportunity and turn it into something.
Going back to Morgan Heritage, It’s such an active band, you have quite a few albums with one Grammy and a couple nominations. What do you think makes the band more successful than others?
Our willingness to work hard, that’s the greatest thing. Our willingness to work hard, our work ethic, and a lot of people’s work ethic, they want to get to the big dance, but don’t want to know the process, the process to working to get there, nobody wants to do the work. But everybody wants to get there. That’s the difference between my band Morgan Heritage and a lot of other bands that they’re not willing to put into work or make the sacrifice. There are a lot of times that we spend away from our family.
I remember there was a time when we toured for 18 months with 11 days off. It’s a situation where it’s just the energy of knowing and doing. You know your mission, you know what you’re trying to accomplish, and you just got to stay on it, and we’ve made the sacrifice.
I remember playing at this venue called, Cat’s Cradle in North Carolina, and there was only one person that paid to come and see us. one ticket we were able to sell in 1994. My dad said, ‘It’s okay. It’s okay. Go out there and perform like it’s 10,000. This is your lesson, and you will remember this show for the rest of your life.’ And he was right.
You know, it’s not the great shows where I played for 300,000 people opening up for Lenny Kravitz or Jewel, you remember those two, but it’s what brought you to where you are today and I’ll never forget that show Cat’s Cradle in Greensboro, North Carolina.
What differentiates what you’re writing with the Gramps album versus the Morgan Heritage album?
With this last Morgan Heritage album, it’s a collective of some of our greatest hits, which is called Legacy and with the Gramps Morgan project. First of all, you get a lot more Gramps Morgan vocals. With the Morgan Heritage it’s split between me, my brother Mojo and my sister Una.
So, you get sprinkles of Gramps, here it is where somebody says, Oh, I want to hear more of Gramps. Here you go. Here it is, right. And you get to enjoy that number one and number two, you get to enjoy my emotions. Because I’m a very emotional, lovey, I’m a big teddy bear. And I love people. I love so many different cuisines. I love different people from different parts of the world, that’s Gramps, if you get to know me, I bring people together from all different walks of life. I’m known for that.
But one of the biggest things is that when you listen to this album, it is truly the definition of where I am in my life today. I never drank alcohol my entire life because I just thought it was like, okay, focus, workout, stay healthy, focus.
But at this point of my life, now, it’s almost like, you’re ready to retire. I got my Hawaiian shirt on, I just feel comfortable, and I feel fun. And when I have on shirts like this, I don’t know what it is, it makes me feel like I’m in the islands, no matter where I am, I could be in Alaska and it just gives me the essence of where I am in my life, you know, enjoying my kids.
The pandemic is what really made me tune into that, because the world stood still. No one could go anywhere. I had five months of tours lined up and God said, ‘No, relax, take it easy. Put on a mask.’
It’s the small things like going to have an ice cream with my son, taking my kids bowling and just enjoying the small things. A lot of times when it’s my birthday I was on tour, my birthday was July 7, it was amazing. This is two birthdays now I’ve been home. That never happens, so it’s the small things that you took for granted, or you didn’t really take the time to enjoy, and now I am enjoying that. So you get a chance to see me just relaxing. Now I’m taking a sip of rum, once every three weeks, maybe once a month.
I’m enjoying it now and understanding what somebody enjoys when they go on vacation to Jamaica, and has a little stick around on the resort and is just enjoying life and then they go back to work. So this is where I want to share that energy of positivity.
Getting up in the morning and kissing your wife. A lot of men just rediscovered their wife through this pandemic because they’re like, wait a minute. Oh, hi. I guess that’s my wife, because before that we’re just so busy. Everybody’s working, trying to attain things to impress people that hate you, but now the world stood still. Now people are working from home, people are doing Zoom calls.
The brick and mortar business is probably shutting down now because nobody needs to go to a building to be efficient. I actually think a lot of corporations in the world probably have more efficiency now instead of people coming into work. So for me it’s really that.
We talked about you working with Johnny Reid but there’s a couple others that I would love to know what it was like working with and they are Shaggy and Sting.
Shaggy has been in a friend of mine for over 25 years, we came up together and I saw him when he got his first hit record.
Seeing him perform for Michael Jackson, I witnessed all of that, you know, his greatness, and he has so much experience in this industry today that is gonna come and help a lot of other artists. Like I said, the project was really just a bunch of friends.
My dad is on the album, my son Jemere, Shaggy, that’s been a friend for 25 years. India Arie has been a friend for over 10 years. So it was like, Okay, I’m doing an album, guys. ‘What? You’re doing an album?’ I said, Yeah, I don’t know what’s gonna happen with it. But I hear your voice on the song. And I was in Jamaica at the time, I’m sitting in the backyard and Shaggy’s at his house, and I’m playing some of the songs for him.
And he’s like, wow, wow, wow. He said in the song that I actually wanted Shaggy to sing on. He didn’t, he said, this one’s good. But I like THIS one, which is a song called “Float Ya Boat”, just easy man which is Jamaican for whatever makes you happy. Make sure you do that.
The greatest thing in this pandemic is that we’ve realized that life is short. And we’ve lost a lot of people and that time is not promised to no one. So just float ya boat, man, you know, whatever floats your boat. And he said, that’s gonna be a hit record. I said, You think so? For me, it was it’s a fun song.
Then with India, it was just like, this amazing Love Song talking about paradise. You and your wife going to the islands or your girlfriend or your significant other to just enjoy the moon. Have you ever seen a moon set on the ocean? Have you ever seen it just glowing? It looks like it’s setting but it’s glowing on the ocean, almost like a sunrise? It’s if you haven’t, you have to see it. So that was the project working with Shaggy.
With Sting, it was after our second nomination as Morgan Heritage and he said come by the studio. I came by the studio and Sting is in a red shirt. And I’m like, Are you kidding me? It’s Sting, (Gramps sings “Every breath you take” and also sings “Roxanne”).
You’re like all of this is running through your body right now. And we’re sitting there talking and he has all these people in there listening to this album that he did and they’re about to close the album and Sting looks at me and goes, ‘Hey, man, why don’t you go in there and put your voice on this one?’ And I’m like, Are you talking to me? It was amazing. I ended up winning a Grammy for it right? Just to show you how the universe works. So it’s simple things like that. And lessons in life you follow that. Nothing is ever planned. It’s never planned. And with that experience, it just made me value my relationship with Shaggy even more to show you that he’s just an amazing person inside and out as well as an amazing artist.
Another Canadian that I would love to ask you a couple questions about your wife, Canadian-born Dr. Annabelle Manalo? How did you guys meet?
I met her through a friend at a football game was I think it was my first or second NFL football game, I can’t remember, but I was working on a project. I was producing because I produced as well. I’ve produced many records throughout the years.
I was working on a project for an NFL player which was his wife and she said I need you to come to Washington because he was with the Washington football team, and she happened to be there and I was making some jerk chicken. Everybody said Gramps make some jerk chicken. And I have my own jerk sauce and she was telling us about how he has his own jerk sauce and I was like, come on make some jerk chicken. Donovan McNabb was there, his wife which happens to be a Trinidadian and then they said make some jerk chicken. I was like, What am I gonna do? I have my jerk sauce. And I said, I’ll make it from scratch.
So I’m making my jerk chicken. And all of a sudden, she walks over with a glass of red wine. I’m like, Who is this lady get away from my grill, and she said ‘what you doing’ and I said, ‘I’m making jerk chicken… Hello” and then from that day, we just became friends and it was pretty cold at that time. And she stayed out there with me for about 10 minutes and that was it. And then a few years later, we ended up doing some business together. And we’re like, wait a minute, we’re communicating.
Then all of a sudden, the rest is history. I fell in love. She’s my best friend. She’s an amazing mother, scientists, educator, I couldn’t have asked for nothing. I’m blessed. We have such an amazing family, and the things that I’m seeing her do and all these clinical trials and speaking to Dr. Fauci and working with COVID-19, and helping saving so many lives.
Out of that came my son, which is Macario. He’s missing 38% of his brain. And that’s why I said, that’s for entire other interview when and if you’re ready and she developed the formula that she did as a scientist, not as just somebody, and it was made from cannabis. And my son was told that he would never walk. He was having over 200 seizures a day, uncontrollably. He couldn’t control it. And she made this formula for him, didn’t tell anybody took him off of all of the medications that the doctors had put him on. And he’s a normal five year old today, as he’s just saw him walk through this door. And he’s a miracle child.
His story was published in Forbes magazine, one of the first cannabis stories in history to be published in Forbes magazine, because it was that good and that inspiring. Till this day, we help a lot of other people with arthritis, diabetes, vertigo, epilepsy. So that’s Dr. Annabel, for you right there. That’s my wife and she’s amazing.
What were your beliefs of marijuana and CBD before all of this happened for you?
We always grew up knowing and hearing the Rastafarians saying ‘It’s was the healing of the nation’, and I was like, Oh, come on, please, would you guys stop? But now there’s scientific proof. I’ve seen what my wife has done for my son. So before that, to me, I’m like everybody else, where’s the data? Because I’m educated, right? I’m saying, where’s the data? Where’s the proof? Where’s the science behind it? And now, it is growing as an industry that is no longer a leisure plant where people just smoke to feel good say, hey, come down. 519 magazine is at your door? It wasn’t, it was a thing.
Like the peace pipe, you pass it around with the native Indians. It was that kind of thing. But for me, I never saw the science behind it. I just always heard the Rastafarians say that it was the healing of the nation, but they never knew how. But people made different things. And sometimes they said, it took away my headache. It made me sleep better, it made me have an appetite, because I didn’t have an appetite. A lot of times cancer patients, which is I’ve seen that patients who have cancer don’t have an appetite. And there was a strain that makes them want to eat and makes them to be able to hold down food. So that’s my knowledge of it before, Canada took the big step and made it legal.
I’m happy that it did.
And of course, there’s still a long way. I believe that there’s a lot of more information and a lot more clinical trials that need to be run, of course, we have our own. The formula that my wife formulated for my son is now available, we now sell it on our website, MasayaMedical.com. My wife wants this formulation to continue to spread. It’s patent pending, but it helped my son. We want it to help others and that’s why we haven’t sold this company yet. Because I’m sure they’re coming, there have been offers made already. But the plant has to do its job in this formulation that Dr. Annabelle has done.
So it’s probably safe to say that CBD is a big part of your life.
Oh… 519 magazine. You heard it here first. It’s a huge part of my life, very huge. Masaya Medical has brought me happiness. I’ll never forget the morning when they said they had to remove 38% of my son’s brain and I didn’t have any hope. I was afraid. I cried. Just to prepare his surgery was something else. Just to wait on the surgeon who is going to perform the surgery.
Originally they said they had to perform a hemispherectomy, where they remove half of the brain. I’m saying to the doctor, what kind of life is he going to have? What quality of life is he going to have? Then him and my wife called their friends from Yale, Georgetown, and Harvard. They came up with this idea to do this surgery that would remove a quarter of the brain. And they said he was the first human being in history to have the surgery done.
Normally, they just take out half of the brain and just do away with it, and then solve the problem. And to see what that cannabis plant, and there was no smoking, this was just a small little tincture that was made. And they put it inside of his g tube. I remember when he couldn’t crawl, because he wasn’t developing like a normal one year old baby, he was like a little Buddha.
My wife’s from the Philippines, so he literally looks like a Buddha. He’s so cute, and like a little ball and he would eat through this tube. And he didn’t even learn how to eat through his mouth. Because he had a little bit of damage from the tube in his throat as a baby. So the there’s a flap that allows you to breathe, or go to your belly within your esophagus. So all of that had to develop. And I literally saw this plant, change all of that. For me, as a father, I’m thankful for this plant that was able to change my son’s life.
As a husband of a very active doctor, what’s your take on COVID-19?
I think it’s scary. It’s very scary. My uncle died from the Coronavirus. So I know it’s very real. You know, a lot of people have their opinion. There are so many different opinions. But I know I’ve lost a lot of people. My producer, Bobby Digital producer, from Jamaica, very prominent producer for artists like Cocoa Tea, Shabba Ranks all kinds of artists. I saw this disease just take way so many people. I’ve also witnessed at the same time that my wife, use her knowledge and save so many lives. She’s went to the Dominican Republic and created another product because it’s not just cannabis. She’s a scientist, right? So she just does all these, whatever molecular structure she’s able to use. She just used cannabis for my son.
She also has another project that you use scorpion venom and has cured over 4000 people in the Dominican Republic of Coronavirus. These things aren’t public, but I guess it is now. She’s done so much. She’s an amazing, amazing scientist, and if you know anything about the medical world, scientists are even more radical than doctors because there are doctors that don’t even understand scientists.
She has a PhD and she’s a doctor, but she’s a scientist by trade. So she can really take anything, she can take teabags, and make a formulation based on the data based on the molecular structure of whatever product she’s using to heal whatever ailment and I think she’s the perfect blend of bringing Western science and natural science where we call Eastern medicine together. Because she’s very particular, that’s not saying I’ll take this herb and put it on your forehead and it’s gonna make you feel better.
She also believes in the science even more, I tell you that scientists are more anal than doctors. They’re like, oh, there’s no proof. That’s not true and she brings both worlds together, she can speak with the best of scientists. And she also can speak with a baby and make them understand biology. And that’s the gift that I think that makes her special. And the Dr. Annabel brand, I think a lot of people are going to want to gravitate to that.
There are a lot of people that don’t want to take things like chemotherapy, antibiotics or they don’t want to take this for a headache. They rather just put a mint leaf on their forehead and if it works, you know, so Dr. Annabel is one who can come and find the data, find the proof and bring both worlds together, and I think that’s what makes her special.
Did the pandemic make its way into the lyrics of any of the new songs on your new album?
Yes, it did, in the sense of appreciation, but not necessarily watch out for the Coronavirus. It was a sense of appreciation of time, appreciation of enjoying your family and appreciation of life to still be here as one of many few because, I mean, it’s over a million people, I think that have died from this virus. A million people just think that, one of the biggest audience that I’ve performed for was about 300,000 people, and that was a lot of people. So imagine three times that are dead. So you as a creative person, you really get a chance to sit back and value that, for that, I’m thankful.
On this album, Positive Vibration, you really hear a lot of thankfulness and a lot of fun, and a lot of rum and a lot of sunshine and a lot of love and appreciation for my wife and appreciation for my kids. That’s what you do. I think it is Coronavirus, right.
I guess it is Coronavirus, but not in the sense of Watch out or wear your mask or don’t wear your mask or, you know, it’s an appreciation of enjoying the things that we took for granted for a very long time.