Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Marc Ambrosia. Together we discussed receiving a radio for Christmas and how it helped inspire them, their influences, their latest album “Edge”, and so much more!
1. Mustard is thankful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?
It’s a delight to be here at Music Shelf, I’m quite well!
2. At five years old on Christmas you received a Memorex Blueberry radio. Do you remember the first song you heard on this radio? Did that song help inspire you to want to become a musician?
Well, not only did my grandparents get me that radio, they also gifted me several cds to go along with it. If I remember correctly, there was a B2K record, some sort of Kidz Bop thing, and an Aaron Carter record, may he rest in peace. That Aaron Carter record got spun quite often in my bedroom,I especially loved the song, “Too Good to be True.” It was a hooky little thing, had that great ‘na na na na” tag at the end. That was one of the first moments where I remember thinking to myself, “ooh, stuff like that is catchy and helps people remember a song.” My songwriter brain was just starting to form. It would take a good ten years for me to actually start writing songs of my own, but I knew one day I would, from a very young age. Shout out to my grandparents, Jackie and Carmen Ambrosia for getting me that little radio! Suffice to say, it made quite the difference. All my love, Grammom and Pop!
3. What song (or album) had a significant impact on you? Could you share more about it?
I grew up on gospel. That’s the majority of what I listened to from like five to ten years old. That music will always be a part of my musical makeup. From a lyrical standpoint, the music I make isn’t gospel oriented, but there are alot of gospel infused musical elements. “One Step Back,” for example, has that sort of gospel-choir effect going on in it. “Say You Love Me” from the new record is another one that sounds like something you might hear at a revival or something, almost hymn-like.
When I was growing up, I was listening to Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir records, Milton Brunson records, and one record in particular I remember was called “Church: Songs of Soul and Inspiration.” That record was a masterpiece produced by the brilliant, Tena Clark. Tena managed to pull together the likes of Jennifer Holliday, Patti Labelle, Dionne Warwick, Ann Nesby, and so many other great R&B legends to record songs that aren’t particularly gospel, but are uplifting and comforting. Denyce Graves delivers my favorite recording of “Ave Maria” ever on that record.
When I got a little older (like ten or eleven,) I started to delve into other musical realms. It doesn’t take a genius to listen to Milton Brunson records and then naturally shift to Stephen Stills, Bonnie Raitt, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder. Gospel, Blues, and R&B are all leaves from the soul tree. That’s where I see myself to be honest. I’m a soul singer. I’m not always singing ‘soul music,’ but I’m always singing with all my heart and soul.
4. Who (or what) influences you?
From an artist standpoint – there’s no bigger influence on me than Lindsey Buckingham. He has spent his entire career confounding expectations. When Fleetwood Mac were riding high with the success of “Rumours” in the late seventies, every Warner Brothers executive wanted that band to put the genie back in the bottle and create a ‘Rumours 2.’ Lindsey had the steadfast artistic vision to know that wasn’t the right path. It would only have stagnated the band and kept them from evolving. He knew not to put the genie back in the bottle, but rather to smash the bottle in a million bits and create something entirely new. That bold, gutsy move resulted in “Tusk,” my personal favorite Fleetwood Mac album.
5. What is your songwriting process?
Years ago (when I didn’t really play anything,) my process started out as me writing lyrics down on paper and waiting to meet up with a musician and put music to my words. That’s changed over the last five or six years. Now, I usually kick up a musical riff first. I’m not a great player, but I can manage to plunk out some melodies on piano, or even draft something in garageband on my ipad. That’s how I get my musical ideas down. I play all the instruments on my demos and write the lyrics pretty much as I go.
Once I head into the studio, I bring in musicians who can execute the parts better than I can. I play some keyboards and synthesizers on the record,I even played some drums on the new record, but my main focus is the singing obviously, and writing and producing.
It’s funny that you ask that though! In recent weeks, I’ve been trying to re-visit my old way of just writing words. One of my niece’s other uncles is a superb musician named Steve Locastro. Steve and I thought it might be a good idea to put his playing and my writing together, so I’m trying to cough up some new lyrics to present to him and he’ll write some melodies for them.
6. You’ve described your music as something like a therapy session breakthrough. How does music allow you to express yourself freely?
What I’m really speaking to there is epiphanies. After some personal reflection, you find new realizations. Things that maybe your ego or personal hang ups couldn’t let you properly perceive. For me, songwriting is that process of looking inward or looking at a situation from different perspectives and realizing where maybe you reacted wrong or realizing you were mistreated and didn’t even know it, or discover the real reason for your personal feelings or someone else’s. Writing music allows me to go through all those emotional journeys because my lyrics are essentially reevaluating a particular feeling or situation. Many times, things I wasn’t able to think of at the moment get said in a song; that provides closure in a lot of ways.
7. For humans who may be on the fence, what are some benefits to therapy? How does the human mind change internally after being free of something? What advice do you have for those who may be struggling mentally?
To be honest with you, I’ve never attended therapy. It’s not that I’m opposed to it or afraid of it, I actually think everyone should attend therapy at some point in their life. Up until now, I’ve found music has helped me channel through my emotions and make sense of the world around me. My sincerest hope for anyone struggling would be to find a creative outlet to let out and examine their emotions. If that isn’t enough to help you fully grapple with something, see a therapist. Commit to keeping your mental wellness a top priority.
8. Can you recall the moment you won the Trendsetter Award?
It was a beautiful moment in time! I had a couple of songs doing well then. “Let Me Be Your Secret” was getting a lot of worldwide radio play; “World with You” landed in a french commercial… Then suddenly, I was winning a trendsetter award too! It was a distinct honor to have that many eyes on what I was doing and to have the Trendsetter award sort of acknowledge those strides.
9. You’ve been writing music since 2013. Would you say your writing style has changed since then? What song or album would note the difference?
When I make a record, my goal is always to have it be different than whatever record preceded it. The “Footprints” record is more of a roots rock/power pop collection of songs about standing at the precipice of personal independence. “Unleashed” has a hint of rose petals on the floor, bottle of champagne romantic record, “Edge” is a little more turbulent emotionally, more of a rorschach. It’s equal parts commercial and experimental, where the other records were a little more straight up commercial, less daring. Everything you make as an artist is an evolution of who you are as an artist. I think “Edge” exemplifies a new found freedom I’ve found as an artist, and a new found confidence. I think my best vocal performances to date are on “Edge.” Every time I put out something new, I want that to be the new gold standard of what I’m capable of. At this moment, “Edge” is my gold standard.
10. Humans sometimes give each other the cold shoulder. Why does this happen? How can the situation be fixed? Was this song inspired by your actual experience?
Well, “Cold Shoulder” isn’t particularly autobiographical. In fact, it’s completely made up. Generally, it’s a song about two people who once felt so in love, but have grown to hate each other. Now, instead of craving love and affection, they’d love nothing more than to actually receive the cold shoulder, it’s kinda funny actually! So, I suppose you have to ask yourself – if you’re being given the cold shoulder, is the situation worth fixing or not? In some cases, the cold shoulder may just be the kiss of death, and that may be alright. In other cases, you may realize you had a love worth fighting for, so you better fight.
11. Last October you released your newest album “Edge.” Could you share with us what it was like to put this album together?
My intention with “Edge” was to stay out of the music’s way. I always self produce my records, but I didn’t want to stand in my own way by over analyzing or second guessing anything. I think one of the best things about “Edge” is that so much of the spontaneity was maintained. If we tried something and it worked, we didn’t try to go back and re-do it better. There’s a reason it worked well in the first place, because it was spontaneous. The ad libbed vocals at the end of “When I’m Craving Love” and “Million Little Reasons” are perfect examples of me singing something that sounded perfect in the moment and we kept it in.
12. Who would win in a fight: Edge from U2 or WWE superstar Edge?
If they’re fighting for my attention, Edge from U2
13. Sometimes humans feel “on edge.” Would you say you feel this way? How do you combat anxiety?
Some might say I’m a bit on edge because I’m quite particular when it comes to doing certain things and I have an opinion on everything and I’ll usually let it be known. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. As far as anxiety goes, I’m not a worrier. Lord knows my father is. I’ve got friends who worry themselves sick, that’s not me. Despite any quirks I have, I’m an optimist, so I don’t let anxiety interfere with me. My mantra is to always look for positivity. If you can’t find positivity, be it.
14. What is on the horizon for Marc Ambrosia?
Presently, I’m working with Cody Williams on what should be a stellar music video for “When I’m Craving Love.” There’s also going to be some more new songs going out this year! I’ve just cut a lovely little song called “Found Light,” which I love. I’m also working on a handful of other songs right now which I’m hoping will go out in late spring/early summer. I just want to keep creating and put music out on a more regular basis. Rather than just putting out a big record every couple years, I’m focusing my efforts on singles and EPs to go out more regularly.
15. Where can readers listen to your music?
Everywhere. Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Youtube. If you look for Marc Ambrosia, you’ll find me, so sit back, listen, and enjoy!