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Saucy singer Levi returns to his reggae Roots

Levi Roots made a name for himself on Dragons' Den with his Reggae Reggae Sauce but he is also a successful musician. Ahead of the release of his new album, he spoke to Andy Welch

Levi Roots, whose new album, Rise Above, is released today

You're so well known for cooking but have also made music since you were 16. What made you return to music now?

It was no accident that it was now. It's no coincidence that I was on Dragons' Den with a guitar rather than a business plan. That was always the way to go, and the plan was always to be me. I've been making music a long time, and I wanted to get back to my thing.

Do you get sick of the Reggae Reggae Sauce jingle?

I sang it, and it got to people's hearts and it was very successful. I owe a lot to that song, but I got a bit tired of singing it and wanted to sing something else after eight years. I wanted to represent the music I love, and the music I say is in my food. I wanted to rise above it, hence the name for the album.

There are a couple of covers on the new album. Was it easy choosing them?

It was actually one of the most difficult [decisions]. My music prior to this album was actually quite heavy roots and culture music in the old tradition, but for the audience I am lucky enough to have now, because of the TV I've done and the sauce, I've had to change and I wanted to offer a little bit more of the reggae message they've seen me talking about. I've been very lucky to cross over with the sauce, so I want to cross over with the music too.

Where did you record it?

We went back to Jamaica to record it and it was the best time of my life, musically speaking at least. We went to an old studio, Harry J, where Bob Marley and the Wailers recorded some of their albums. I wanted to follow that path – Bob Marley has always been an idol of mine so I was hoping to get some of that vibe. We went there and formed a 14-piece band, using some of the musicians that played with Bob, some of Jamaica's greatest musicians, for a week. We did 16 tracks, not a computer in sight, live music, having a great time, eating together too, just as they would've done during the halcyon days of reggae.

Do you still think there's good reggae music out there?

There's definitely still great reggae music being made in Jamaica but it doesn't always make it over to the UK for us to hear here. And what we do get from Jamaica is more along the dancehall vein, which I think descends from reggae but I don't think is reggae. Bob Marley would be cringing if he knew his music had inspired that. Dancehall has evolved into something that doesn't have reggae's influence and spirit – it more takes its influence from American hip hop and I don't like it.

Are you going to be playing live?

We have done a couple of shows, and we have a few more coming up. We want to get on the road and I am looking forward to getting to the heart of the music and letting people know what I am all about.

:: Find out more about Levi at leviroots.com. His latest album, Rise Above, is out today.

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