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The Authenticity of the X Ambassadors

On the heels of their inaugural Cayuga Sound Festival, vocalist Sam Harris opens up about the band’s forthcoming album

Since dominating the charts with soulful hits like “Renegades” in 2015 and “Unsteady” in 2016, alt-rock band X Ambassadors continue to forge ahead in their climb to success with their latest feat: a music festival in their hometown of Ithaca, New York called Cayuga Sound. Brothers Sam and Casey Harris, along with band mates Noah Feldshuh and Adam Levin, curated an impressive lineup that included The Roots, Tei Shi and Savoir Adore for the inaugural fest.

In addition to organizing and headlining a music festival, the X Ambassadors have been busy in the studio, working on their forthcoming second album. Following the hype that “Renegades,” off their debut album VHS, garnered after being featured in a Jeep commercial, the band could have been engulfed by the pressure but instead, they believe they’ve risen to the occasion. Lead vocalist Sam Harris says that the new music has unlocked something inside each band member—something the world has had yet to see. “We want this to be an identity-defining album for us,” he says. “Since putting out VHS, we’ve all gained a lot, lost a lot, learned a lot from our mistakes, and made some new ones. That’s all in the next record.” With a soulful tone, Harris offers a raw emotion to his already poetic and sometimes gut-wrenching lyrics. Though this time he does things with his voice that he feels he only touched the surface of on VHS, he admits.

X Ambassadors, Photo by Catie Laffoon

As an introduction to the band’s new musical adventure, they released “Ahead of Myself,” an intimate story of heartache and personal loss. “It’s a song about jumping into things too quickly,” Harris explains. “In the last two years I’ve either committed to something or someone before I was ready to or put my trust in someone or something before I was ready, leaving me with pretty substantial emotional scars.” Throughout the track, Harris fills his voice with longing and regret to cut right to the point, lyrically and sonically. With an anthematic chorus that is classic to X Ambassadors’ sound, “Ahead of Myself” will leave you chanting at the top of your lungs while simultaneously holding your heart.

The video for “Ahead of Myself” brought the band back to upstate New York and gave them yet another opportunity to show their hometown a little love. “It was both heartwarming and bittersweet,” Harris says of returning home to make the video. “[My brother] Casey and I have a lot of nostalgic memories of upstate New York. Places like Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton and Buffalo have been suffering economically for a long time. The folks living here feel like they’ve been forgotten. So, we always try to show love to our home state.”

Their love extends beyond their home state though. Harris opens up to me about how a fan approached him after a show in Columbus, Ohio to thank him for writing “Unsteady.” The fan explained to Harris that after coming out to her parents, she was disowned and struggled with how to be a good parent after undergoing such cruelty from her own parents. “She told me that ‘Unsteady’ helped her cope and helped her believe that she could still be a good parent to her new child. I will never forget that incredibly brave woman,” Harris says.

With sincerity and authenticity, X Ambassadors clearly offers a voice to the voiceless. In past interviews, Harris references that his brother–and X Ambassador keyboardist–Casey Harris, has been blind since birth. He explains that speaking up for people and standing up for the disenfranchised people in the world is part of who he and the band are. From publicly supporting American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood, to making music that speaks to a struggling fan in Ohio, the band is making an impact using their musical platform.

With Harris at the helm, the band delivers truth through lyrics and melody and work to transcend any societal pressures, a trend you can see in the video for “Ahead of Myself” below.

Main image credit: Catie Laffoon