Since coming to California, former Virginian, Stephen G. Lewis, has had the opportunity to work with some of SoCal finest musicians, including members of Pato Banton’s band The Now Generation, and C-money and the Players Inc. With his backing band, The Chosen Few, The Ambassador released his debut EP The Ambassador Presents… in January of 2009. The Chosen Few is a talented and experienced group of musicians who support Stephen Lewis both in the studio and on stage. With their helping hand, The Ambassador released his first full-length album New Roots on March 1, 2011.
– The Chosen Few are:
o Keys: Adam “Jah Mex” Arredondo
• Known for supporting legendary reggae performers, and also for many SoCal performances with his band “Jah Mex and the Translators”
o Bass: Carlos Marin Jr.
• Has performed with PsydeCar, C-Money and the Player’s Inc., and nationally touring act Mandorico
o Brass: Bob Bartosik and Nathan Mills
• For ten years, they have performed and recorded with many local groups, playing anything from Jazz to Punk Rock and in between.
o Drums: Tony Saenz
• formerly of Mystic Roots, now a member in Pato Banton’s group, The Now Generation
o Producer/Engineer: Andrew Mencher
• has worked with multiple reggae artists including Pato Banton, Messenjah Selah, and the Lambsbread..
The Pier: To start, give us a bit of the background behind The Ambassador? What does that title signify and how does it relate to your music as an artist?
The Ambassador: I used to have a real passion for International Politics and initially wanted to do diplomatic work on behalf of the government, even received my Bacherlors in this field. My Mom would also tell me to be a good ambassador for my people whenever I traveled abroad. Thus The Ambassador. The title signifies an attempt to reach out to others, here and abroad, and bridge the gap between people in order to learn, share and grow. Music is a great way to express shared emotion and celebrate other commonalities between each of us as people, no matter where you are. We all act as ambassadors everytime we meet new people and travel to new places.
The Pier: You have a new album out titled New Roots. Tell us about the new album and how it came to fruition..
The Ambassador: I’m excited about releasing New Roots. It will be my first full-length solo album and came to fruition during the last two years spent along the beautiful sunny coastine of Pacific Beach, San Diego. Unlike some of my previous music, this album is strictly reggae-roots, lovers rock and dancehall. Reggae music has been good to me over the years and I had wanted to make a reggae album. My move to the west coast proved the right time to do it. My good friend and album co-producer Andrew Mencher of Wisdom & Sound had introduced me to some very skilled session players throughout San Diego, LA, and Orange County and with them in the studio, we got some serious work done. The tracks on New Roots have diversifying lyrics and I hope that the songs can brighten one’s day, make them feel for their lover, encourage them to live with their head held high and much more.
The Pier: Now I understand you spent some time in Korea as an English teacher, is that right? Tell us a bit about the background behind that..
The Ambassador: Yes, I spent a year in Korea teaching English and Guitar and during that time I wrote “Reunion”, one of the few tracks on New Roots that wasn’t written in San Diego. My college had alumni that had taught abroad and were posting international teaching opportunities on the college career board. I loved to travel and needed some time to find what it was I wanted to do. At year’s end I was offered the opportunity to extend my contract for another year, but by that time I had been steadily writing and speaking with musicians back home in VA about starting a project. After some adventures elswhere in Thailand and the Philipines over the next couple months I was ready to come home to the US and give a music career a chance. I love Korea, its’ people and its’ culture and learned an immense amount about life during my time there.
The Pier: Having lived in Virginia for a few years and now living in SoCal since 2009, how would you describe the difference between Reggae music in VA vs how its embraced in Southern CA?
The Ambassador: Reggae music is definitely celebrated in a big way both in VA and Cali. The great thing these days is that you can see several great reggae shows in either place and reggae shows and festivals are now supported all over the country. Cali may have had a headstart on helping spread the vibe especially when SoCal artists like Sublime and others began paying homage to their own favorite reggae artists in their music, further helping bring the genre to the youth and the general public.
The Pier: Are there any plans to tour in promoting your debut release? Any specific areas you’d like to target?
The Ambassador: Actually, it’s been about six months since my last full band performance and I’m really itching to get back out there. Finalizing production of New Roots was the main goal for me these last months but with the album’s release I will definitley be doing some shows again soon. Not set in stone yet, but possibly an east coast tour this fall (acoustic shows and with full band) that would take me back to VA and we have begun booking shows this summer at several of our favorite San Diego area venues including the Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach areas and I’m playing an intimate acoustic venue, The Wine Lover on March 20th in San Diego to promote the release locally.
The Pier: For someone who’s traveled around the world from Thailand and the Philipines to Virginia, Korea & now SoCal, what are some of the influences you’ve picked up along the way that’s inspired your music?
The Ambassador: I’ve seen some killer shows all over the world and I’m always watching performers to see what I can pick up and how I might be able to perfect my own music and skill. But it’s the conversations with friends, family and teachers that have always had the biggest impact on my music. One philosophy I learned on my travels that fully became aware to me while living in Korea is that: One should be given respect automatically by another as a fellow human being and over time, if that person shows that they do not deserve respect then they will lose it. If we all begin our interactions with respect toward each other then we will repair some of the breakdowns we have communicating with those of a different culture and even our own. I feel that a lot of us in the US operate in an opposite manner where no initial respect is granted to an individual, it must be earned over time. Its questions like these that inspired me to write the lyrics behind much of the New Roots album. I hope it brings encouragement to those that need it and a smile to those that are doing just fine.
The Pier: Are there any artists you plan to or look forward to collaborating with in the future?
The Ambassador: I plan on doing some collabo work with friend and neighbor Scott Woodruff of Stick Figure pretty soon for a single release, I’ll also be releasing a collab reggae album with Wisdom & Sound in the coming months. And I have also asked my management to contact Anthony Hamilton and Beres Hammond regarding features on the next album which is already in the works. I always look forward to working with diversified artists with open minds and endless talent so that I too can grow. Big up to all the Pier Crew and thanks again for supporting rising roots music!
The Pier: Thank you Stephen! Congrats on your new release & be sure to check out New Roots thats now available for purchase!
The Ambassador Links:
The Ambassador Website
The Ambassador Facebook
The Ambassador Myspace
The Ambassador Reverbnation
– Interview by: Mike Patti
[Read Matt Emodi’s album review of New Roots by clicking HERE]