Phil Emerson/Harper Digital Entertainment

Collie Buddz finally made a welcome return to music with Good Life (released in May), marking his first album in a decade. It has never been proven easy for dancehall or reggae artists to stay relevant, as the genres' turnaround have become so fast-paced, but the Bermudian artist found a way to stay true to himself and give core fans what they've been craving for.

"It’s been a long time in the making!" Buddz explained over the phone as he just woke up in the afternoon from sunny California. "A lot of the beats I had from years ago, so it was a lot of emotions mixed into one [record]." Keep reading below for our conversation with the artist, who is now finding his way back into the mainstream spotlight 10 years after his self-titled debut album.

FUSE: Were you nervous about putting out this record? It's your first in 10 years!
Collie Buddz: Yeah, I was. You know, we released a lot of music throughout but this is definitely the first full-length album in years. But I was kind of nervous just to promote an album that’s been a decade in the making. I’ve dabbled in different genres—I have a couple pop songs—and it felt good to get back to what I do, which is reggae.

What was your mindset like for this album?
A lot of it is based on life on the road and mixed emotions about being away from home. And the “good life” for me is being around family, so that’s mixed in there as well. Basically I just needed to put out a project [laughs]. We didn’t have a lot of time either, but it wasn’t rushed. That was one emotion that I had too: “Just get it done!”

Why did you want to do more one-drop reggae instead of dancehall that us fans have become used to?
I’ve been doing a lot of tours with the bands out here [in California] and we just finished one up with Rebelution. And that’s what I really loved growing up, the roots and conscious reggae music. So I definitely wanted to that tie into this album. But yeah, it is missing a little bit of dancehall. But dancehall has kind of changed in the last 10 years or so, music in general has changed. So I was trying to evolve the one-drop that I love to a nowadays feel.

I think my favorite songs are “Lovely Day” and “Used To."
I gotta say my favorites are “I Got You,” which is produced by Stephen McGregor and Supa Dups. It’s that nice transition between the one-drop and dancehall. That and “Good Life,” I love them both. But “Lovely Day” is definitely one of my favorites too. I had the first verse written back in 2009. That was tough to finish because when you’ve been sitting on something for so long, you’re like “Well I don’t know how to do this!”

Well did you change it from the original at all?
Oh definitely. It was on a hip-hop beat so we changed it a lot. But as soon as I heard the new riddim, I knew it had to fit on the album. I had fun with that one, reliving the younger days! [laughs]

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I like that you don’t have too many collaborations on it, because that can take away from the music sometimes. But how did these come about?
Well Supa Dups had Kat Dahlia in the studio and they were doing some stuff, but he always had that chorus [on “Save Me From the Rain”]. As soon as I heard it I was like, “Yo this is so wicked. I gotta use it for the album.” Kat Dahlia is an amazing vocalist; she just killed it. So that’s how that one came about, it was kind of just handed to me. That makes my life easy! [laughs]. With P-Lo, my tour manager is from the Bay Area and he mentioned him. Once I heard some of his music I asked if he could jump on the track. About a week later he sent back the verse…that was awesome. “Level” is—I wouldn’t call it trip—but a little more along the lines of those genres. And the Snoop Dogg and Riff Raff one…

What was that like? Did you meet Snoop?
I haven’t met either of them in person. I got like three songs with Snoop but never met him. So Riff Raff hit me up, I think on Instagram, and asked if I could get on the song. I was like, “Well…” because if you heard his music—

It’s completely opposite from what you do.
Yeah, exactly! So once he sent me the track and I heard the chorus I was like, “Yo that’s what’s up!” I did a couple verses and they decided to get Snoop on there as well. I think that’s the way things go nowadays, just sending people tracks. I haven’t been in the studio with most of the collaborations I’ve done, really. Maybe I’m just out the loop [laughs].

Will you be going on tour soon?
Yeah, so we have a couple shows left with Rebelution and then we’ll hit Europe after that. That’ll be the official start of the Good Life tour. We’ll head to the West Coast around November and the East Coast in January or February.

I’ve realized a lot of dancehall and reggae artists usually begin their tours in Europe. I feel like they’re more appreciative of the music rather than people here in the States.
I’m not sure, but it’s definitely true. I think maybe we’re a little spoiled over here. We have the opportunity to see any artists we want, so maybe that has something to do with it. They definitely appreciate the music a lot [in Europe]. The last time I was there…I don’t know what it is but they always have a love for the foundation of reggae music. I know there’s still DJs out there who still play records and turntables. I remember the first time I went out there to play a show and the guy goes, “Okay, give me your instrumentals.” I handed him a CD and he was like, “What’s this? I only have turntables!” [laughs] But yeah, Europe is such a different vibe. It kind of reminds me of the west coast, just more laidback with people enjoying themselves.

For someone who was just being introduced to your music, what's the first song they should listen to?
I would say “Come Around,” “Blind To You,” “Good Life” and “Lovely Day.” Oh “Mamacita” too!

You brought up the changes in dancehall earlier. I spoke to Konshens a few months ago and he thinks the genre is on the come up again with all the new faces.
Yeah I agree, with Alkaline and everyone. I’ve always loved dancehall. There was a patch for me where I kind of dipped off—I think it was more to do with the quality. There was so much music coming out that it was a little much for me to stay up to date. But the new artists that are coming out right now are definitely holding it together. And you still have Kartel who’s in jail and is still running it! But me for right now, at this current time in my life, I like soca a lot.

You know what’s funny? I’m Jamaican so I grew up with a lot of dancehall in my house and barely listened to soca.
When I was younger, I used to hate soca. If you listened to dancehall and reggae music, soca was like the joke.

We didn’t take it seriously!
Exactly. But now I like listening to groovy soca. It has a lot of melody and almost reminds me of dancehall in a way because it’s all about having a good time. That’s what I like. Every song is like, “Let’s just drink and wine and have some fun!” I miss the conscious reggae side, but I think that’s starting to come back with Chronixx and Protoje. I grew up with Luciano, Anthony B, Sizzla and all of those ‘90s conscious music, so I kind of miss that era.

So which artists do you think are the next generation of dancehall or reggae?
I definitely think Chronixx and Protoje, those two will definitely live long in the industry. They’re young and it’s refreshing to hear their music. I hope more artists come out like that. Kabaka Pyramid is also another one.

Do you listen to more dancehall and soca? Or do you like hip-hop as well?
I own a radio station in Bermuda called Vibe 103 and it’s a Top 40 station. We always have a live DJ too but we always throw in the top dancehall and soca songs in there as well. So we’ll maybe play 10 minutes of EDM and then another 10 minutes of dancehall…so my knowledge of other genres is always going up because I listen to it every day. I like some of the EDM stuff as well. But the trap music, there’s only a few songs I can handle. I’m trying to build up my tolerance. [laughs]

Oh it can get repetitive sometimes.
Or maybe I’m just getting old! Maybe I’m not up to date with all the new talk, but the young kids love it. Whenever we play it on the station I ask the DJ how long we’re gonna play it for!

I always wonder with established artists if you find it hard to compete. Or have you found your own lane?
You definitely have to find your own lane, especially with the exposure you can get on the internet. Music is subjective, right? So you gotta be your own artist and see where it goes. You can’t follow people because that’s selling yourself short. Then you get tired of that and when you do express who you are as an artist, people might say “Well why did you change?” Well this is the real me! So I definitely feel like you have to be your own artist, for me anyway.

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So I’m gonna flip it to the King of the Dancehall movie. How did you score a role in it?
Well I got a call a couple years back while I was on tour in Europe from my boy and he said, “Hey! Do you wanna be in a movie?” He was very sarcastic so I was like “Get outta here!” But the next thing I knew I was on the phone with Nick Cannon and he told me he love to give me a part in the movie. Then I went to Jamaica and we were filming it! I’ve never been on a set before. I’ve obviously shot music videos, but that’s a little different. It was definitely an eye-opener for me and was exciting to learn. Nick Cannon is such a workhorse. He’s the first one on set and the last one to leave. It was inspiring to see him direct and act at the same time. That takes a lot of patience. But it was fun to play the role of the bad guy! [laughs] 

How do you think the movie is a reflection of Jamaican culture?
I think it was really good. When the movie was shot the songs they were gonna use would probably be dated. You’ve got to stay on top of dancehall, so they switched that up which is awesome. It’s kind of like Drumline mixed with Belly. And Busta Rhymes killed it! “Bloodclaat” was every other word! will he do more movies in the future? I would love to! I’d take whatever role is given to me, but it’s definitely something I’m interested in. But my roles would be limited due to my accent! I’ll need a coach. 

Well if Rihanna could do it, I’m sure you can too!
Yeah! Have you ever seen that movie Home? She still had the Bajan accent in that one, so hopefully I can play a role where I can just keep my accent. That would be better! 

You’ve had so many high moments in your career with “Come Around” and “Mamacita.” But is there anything you would’ve changed throughout your journey?
I would definitely take a little more time off from touring and recorded more. I wish right after that [first] album…we were everywhere on the road 24/7. It was tough for me to record on the road because before that I never done an interview or sang live. The album just came out, which is kind of crazy now that I look back. My first show I’m sure was horrible. It might’ve sounded all right but I probably looked a little awkward on stage. But I wish I took a little more time to develop as an artist. We should’ve put out an album right away, but you live and learn! Actually, after these next couple of shows we’re going back to Oakland—I have a studio out there. We’re gonna start working on the new album and just keep it moving. I can’t wait another 10 years.