Ginger Root Went From Recording Music in His Car to Rocking the Stage

“Call It Home” music video screenshot. Credit: Tehillah De Castro

If you’re tuned into medicinal herbs, then you know ginger root has plenty of feel-good benefits. The same can be said for the indie soul project that shares the name.

Cameron Lew, the mastermind behind Ginger Root, is completing his senior year of school as a film production major. While he is preoccupied with the insufferable stress that comes with his final semester, he has managed to prepare for the release of his latest single “Call It Home” and tour to perform at SXSW.

“I need to constantly be making music or playing shows,” Lew tells the Weekly.

Lew came across a live Vulfpeck performance of “It Gets Funkier” on YouTube at 3 a.m. When lead singer, Jack Stratton, began chanting “ginger root” mid-breakdown because he was recently sick, Lew couldn’t contain his laughter. When Lew thought of what to call himself, Stratton’s random chant repeatedly came to mind.

“I’d like to think there’s some cool, interesting medium because ginger root is fresh and healing,” Lew says. “No, it’s just because I watched a YouTube video and thought it was super funny.”

Lew performing at House Of Blues Anaheim. Credit: Seannie Bryan

Ginger Root started off as a low-key project in summer of 2016. Lew had always accompanied his friends’ bands and wanted to see how he would do on his own. He mentions how it’s a “whole different dynamic from backing someone up to having your own project.”

Lew has a weekly YouTube series called “Toaster Music” – where he primarily performs oldies covers in his 2004 Honda Element. (These covers eventually made their way to a 14 track album, featuring one original.) The idea derived from not wanting to do homework during his four hour break between classes.

So, he decided to pack his van with gear and turn to his preferred form of escapism – playing music.

He spent this time recording vocals and playing guitar, keyboard, bass and drums, mixing  it via the car stereo on his laptop. All within his four hour time slot. Lew spent another two to three hours editing in his next lecture, where he got away with slipping earphones in and publishing the final product. His natural talent for filming and editing shines through in his videos, delivering not just quality music, but quality videos as well for viewers.

People enjoyed the first season of his cover series so much that they wanted him to do another. And so he did despite juggling school full-time.

“It’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of stress, it’s a lot of time. Oh man, so much time – more time than you think, “Lew says. “But at the end of the day, I can look back at the record, or a show I played, or even recording a drum track. I have a good time doing it.”

College made him realize his passion for music surpassed his love for his major. Music became his “therapeutic escape” from the film world.

While he records, mixes and masters his own music, he is more than happy to work together with his peers.

Within the first few months of starting his project, he gathered enough material to make what was initially supposed to be a five song EP. Soon enough, that five song EP became a nine track album when he started collaborating with his friends. The album, Spotlight People, was released Jan. 1, 2017.

Spotlight People is heavily inspired by oldies with some indie rock influence – from Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and Vulfpeck to Toro Y Moi and Feist. Spotlight People is a result of Lew determined to come out with a record and play shows. When he thought about playing live, it was a no-brainer to have his friends from high school, Matt Carney (drums) and Anthony Grisham (bass), whom had previously been band mates, join forces with him to perform live.

His upcoming record will have 10 tracks that lean more towards an indie sound overall. That is not to say it won’t have those elements of funk and soul that have brought his project recognition. It is set to release in June.

Lew considers his two singles “Call It Home” and “Two Step” to be stepping stones to see where he’s going with a new direction for his sound.

Dan Asip of Nashville’s Acrophase Records “talked to the Spotify gods” as Lew puts it, and managed to get “Two Step” featured on Spotify’s Fresh Finds Playlist from Oct. 18-25. The retro sounding jam is accompanied by a House Hunters inspired music video.

The music video for “Call It Home” will be released March 9. He will then hit the road with his band mates to Texas for their longest tour yet.

The amount of thought and tenacity Lew puts into Ginger Root certainly sets him apart.

“I hope one day my music will reach people that will genuinely like it,” Lew says. “At the end of the day, no matter if that happens or not, I wouldn’t be doing this still if it wasn’t a good time.”

Ginger Root performs at The Wayfarer on Fri. March 9, 9 p.m. $5, 21+. For more details, click here. 

Yvonne Villasenor is often in a sleep deprived daze daydreaming about ’90s heartthrobs, dogs, upcoming album releases, and what she’s going to eat for dinner. When she snaps back to reality, she writes about OC’s latest music and artists.

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