The Ambassador and The Chosen Few
By. Ben G. Rowin
â€œThe Ambassadorâ€, a.k.a. Stephen Gabriel Lewis, was born in Virginia in 1980. He began using the title â€œThe Ambassadorâ€ because it was based on his motherâ€™s words to him throughout his childhood, encouraging him to be a leader rather than a follower, and to be a peacemaker with a message of hope. The nickname went hand in hand with his passion for traveling and learning from other cultures while sharing and shaping his own.Â Throughout his songwriting, Lewis has made it a point to couple thought provoking lyrics with a positive message written with todayâ€™s youth in mind, to encourage, exhort and capitalize on the importance of family, community and relationships.
Lewis has been both a student and a teacher overseas and professes the invaluable lessons of character building as a result of leaving oneâ€™s comfort zone and venturing out into the world. â€“He states, â€œLearning the ways of other cultures allows us to better reevaluate our own society and who we are as individuals.â€ Learning from various cultures through conversation and relationships has no doubt been one of the biggest influences on his more recent musical aspirations.
In 2004, he returned to the U.S. from his latest stint overseas as an English teacher in Korea to begin work on a partnered project with â€œThe Seedâ€ (www.myspace.com/theseedsound), as well as hone his skills as a solo performer. Lewis toured, wrote and recorded with The Seed as their frontman/guitarist, releasing a self-titled debut album in April 2008. While living in Virginia from 2005 to 2008, he hosted acoustic and electric showcases entitled The Ambassador Presents…, which featured various Blue Ridge Valley musicians, sitting in from show to show. It was also during these years that he continued to tour the east coast with The Seed, gaining valuable road experience and sharpening his song writing skills. In February 2009, The Ambassador decided to head west and plant new roots in sunny San Diego, California. Since relocating, he has performed and recorded with some of SoCalâ€™s best rising reggae musicians, including members of Pato Bantonâ€™s The Now Generation and the Slightly Stoopid offshoot C-Money and the Players Inc. He continues to perform acoustically and with his backing band The Chosen Few. As a follow up to The Ambassador Presentsâ€¦EP of 2009 and the 2010 Haiti Relief Benefit EPÂ Sunshine, The Ambassadorâ€™s first full-length solo album New Roots is set to be released in early 2011.
The Chosen Few â€“ About the Bandâ€¦
The Chosen Few is an interchanging group of talented musicians who support The Ambassador at live performances and in the studio.Â Made up of some of SoCalâ€™s finest rising players, The Chosen Few musicians can be seen playing regularly throughout L.A., Orange and San Diego counties.Â Tony Saenz (drums), Adam â€œJah Mexâ€ Arredondo (keys), Carlos Marin Jr. (bass), Bob Bartosik and Nathan Mills (sax & trumpet), Andrew Mencher (producer/engineer/mix), and Jimmy Cui (mix) are the session players who make up The Chosen Few and joined The Ambassador at San Diegoâ€™s own Capricorn Studios in 2010. They are also featured on The Ambassadorâ€™s upcoming solo album New Roots.
–NUG caught up with The Ambassador to ask him a few cannabis related questions:
How has San Diego taken to The Ambassador?
I love San Diego for its laid back vibe. The people here have definitely shown support for my music. A big â€œThank Youâ€ must go out to Tim Pyles at 94.9FM and Rowley at 91X FM for playing The Ambassador and giving my music a chance to be heard. Musicians are a tight knit community here and Iâ€™ve had a lot of fun teaming up to do shows with my friends Brendan Dayne and Scott Woodruff from Stick Figure. Brendan played bass with Scottâ€™s project and my own before recently heading to Washington, D.C., and both he and Scott have always made themselves available for a beer and good conversation on the local scene. I have nothing but love for my San Diego people, and I hope they feel it in my album New Roots because much of it was inspired by me putting down new roots in SD in 2009.
Are you currently playing around town?
I had been gigging locally in OB and PB at spots like Winstonâ€™s, 710 Beach Club and the Pacific Beach Fest. Although I had a killer cast on the New Roots album, it was difficult to keep the same crew for shows because most of the guys are either touring or live in the L.A./Orange Co. area, or have multiple projects. My band went through a lot of different lineups and I decided to shift my focus to recording and producing New Roots with an occasional acoustic show, which is much easier to do on the fly. Now that the album is finished, Iâ€™ll be looking to put another crew together to rock live shows throughout the San Diego area.
Tell us a little bit about the new album New Roots?
New Roots is a reggae album consisting of loverâ€™s rock, roots, and dancehall vibes, and itâ€™s inspired by my move to San Diego from the East Coast. I wrote many of the tunes while sitting atop the cliffs and watching the sunset over Pacific Beach. My engineer and co-producer Andrew Mencher introduced me to some great musicians that I now call friends, and through them I was able to fulfill my ideas in the studio. The album was recorded at Capricorn Studios in downtown San Diego and managed by the wonderful Astra Kelly. The lineup included Tony Saenz of Pato Bantonâ€™s Now Generation on drums; Carlos Marin Jr. formerly of Psydecar and C-Money & the Players Inc. on bass; Adam â€œJah Mexâ€ Arredondo on keys, who recently produced his own roots reggae album Firm Soundation by Jah Mex and The Translators; Shaga from San Diegoâ€™s own Bloodfiyah Angels on percussion; and local jazz players Bob Bartosik and Nathan Mills on sax and trumpet. I look forward to working with these guys on the next album.
Since weâ€™re a cannabis publication, we want to know your views on herb.
I have no problem with marijuana for medicinal, ceremonial or faith-based use, or leisurely recreation. I would like to eventually see the nationwide legalization and taxation of marijuana (but governed at the state level) to aid in reducing our nationâ€™s massive federal budget deficit and individual state budgets by creating funding for social programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and bolstering K-12 school programs, including art, music and sports that would otherwise be cut (as recently seen in California) or funded by further state and federal taxes from average, hardworking American families. However, I do think that much like alcohol or tobacco, marijuana needs to have age requirements for use and purchase. But, letâ€™s be real about it; has anyone you know been involved in a car accident where lives were lost or gotten charged with domestic violence for beating their significant other because they had gotten â€œtoo stonedâ€? â€“Hmmmm.
Has cannabis helped inspire your songwriting?
Cannabis, like any other substance, can be good or bad depending on how you use it. But, to answer your question, buy my new album and see for yourself.
How did you feel about the failure of Prop. 19? Did you go out and vote?
I was excited that it even came to a vote. California has always been at the forefront of Americaâ€™s forward thinking, and it continues to set the trend. It was encouraging to see that people can be open-minded enough to have an issue like that on the ballot, and weâ€™ll see it again in the near future. I look forward to increased educated debates on the topic from our state politicians.
Again, we want to thank you for taking the time to tell us a little bit about yourself and your music. Go ahead and give any shout-outs to friends or sponsors, and let the readers know where they can find your music and see you next.
Iâ€™m a big fan of NUG Mag and NUG Radio, and now readers can find me in both places. New Roots is available on iTunes and everywhere else on 3/1/11. You can order CDs from my website at www.TheAmbassadorMusic.com. New Roots will be featured on Last.fm, Oaklandâ€™s own BigUp Radio, ThePier.org, and many other cool places in the weeks to come. I love feedback of any kind, so please become a fan on my ReverbNation page at www.ReverbNation.com/TheAmbassadorMusic and stay posted on upcoming shows. For any solid San Diego musicians down to rock some soulful grooves, feel free to contact me through my website. Thanks, and respect to the NUG Mag crew for supporting San Diegoâ€™s own rising artists!