Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Aston Barrett Jr. is the son of Aston “Familyman” Barrett, who was the bassist for Bob Marley & The Wailers. He is also the nephew of drummer Carlton “Carly” Barrett, and Grandson of the late Joe Higgs (mentor to Bob Marley). He grew up in a mixed family which was part Rasta and Christian, with his mother encouraging him to study spirituality to learn a strong sense of right and wrong. Reflecting on how music was a central part of the household, he says: “I have an ear for music. Music is in my blood. I was born for music and I live for music.”
He first became aware of his family’s fame when he saw on television The Wailers performing the 1979 concert in Santa Barbara when he was four and a half years old. He had grown up seeing pictures of Bob Marley and hearing his music, but only now realized the significance.
The first instrument that Aston decided to pick up was the bass, following in the footsteps of his father and trying to emulate his style. Familyman quickly sensed his son’s potential and began teaching him how to play bass; a mentor- student relationship that would continue for years to come. Inspired by his father’s encouragement, Aston diligently practiced for days and days, developing the discipline required for an artist to achieve mastery.
Aston Barrett Jr. joined his first band when he was only seven years, becoming the first boy to play with an all-girls high school band in Kingston. His older peers were amazed at the young child’s ability, and he was embraced by the director of the band and his bandmates. His father continued to mentor him until Aston moved to the United States after finishing 5th grade.
Now living with his sister in Miami, Barrett Jr. joined his school’s jazz band, choosing to play drums in order to his repertoire of skills. As the nephew of a legendary drummer, his natural rhythmic ability helped him fit in quickly as his jazz instructors tutored him to speed up his advancement.
He gained his first professional experience while he was still in high school, playing bass for Julian Marley And The Uprising Band. He was already well acquainted with the Marley children, as they had often gathered together while growing up in Jamaica. They played their first shows around Florida and the rest of America, before eventually touring internationally. The group shared the stage with other prominent artists such as Stephen Marley, and Nas. With his reputation growing, Lauryn Hill sought him out to become her bassist, and the two collaborated for over two years. Aston managed to build this impressive resume while still graduating high school with honors, attending night classes to make up for time he missed.
In 2009, Aston Barrett Jr. began accompanying his father on tours with The Wailers. While he was not yet an official member, he used the time to absorb as much information as possible from his father, who taught him how to lead a band, set up a stage, and manage personalities. He would occasionally join the band on stage, when he was invited to perform on crowd favorites such as Exodus and Get Up Stand Up.
When the Wailers chose to reunite in 2016, Barrett Jr. used his experience to become the leader of the band, with his father urging him to take on the position so the band’s legacy could thrive into the next generation.
“Wailers music represents peace, love, and unity, that’s what I want to keep alive,” he says. Expanding on the importance of staying true to the style, he adds “I understand the new generation sound, but I play bass more like my father did in the 70’s.”
The Wailers are currently working on a new album with Emilio Estefan.
In 2017, Aston Barrett Jr. received a Grammy certificate as co-producer with Damian Marley for the track The Struggle Discontinues, featured in the Album “Stony Hill” which won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.
In 2018, he joined efforts with renowned Italian reggae artist Alborosie to co-produce and record the album “Unbreakable – Alborosie meets The Wailers United”.
Aston Barrett Jr. is a co-owner of BAD Lions Productions, LLC. who operates a studio in Pompano Beach, Florida. He can be heard playing guitar, drums, bass, and organ for Daniel Marley, Junior Reed, Julian Marley, Kwame Bediaco, Aka Beka, Jessee Royale, Reggae Force, and many more. His sponsors include Rupert Neve (whose pro audio gear is heard on every album he has played on and every live Wailers show), as well as Fender, Mannabasso, Black Lion Audio, and Pigtronics.