This month I was fortunate enough to get to chat with X Ambassadors lead singer, Sam Harris! You may remember my discovery of this phenomenal band from last month’s concert review or Aaron’s review of their latest EP, The Reason. X Ambassadors will be headlining a club tour on the east coast in April, be sure to check it out! You can get more info on the band at www.xambassadors.com . Enjoy!
Lemonade Magazine: Hey Sam, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us today! How’s it going?
Sam Harris: Doing good, it’s a lovely Sunday afternoon here in Brooklyn. Thank you so much for doing this, we’re really excited about it.
LM: That’s perfect because we’re really excited about you guys! X Ambassadors is fairly new to the scene, tell us a bit about how you guys got started?
SH: It all started years ago. Casey [keyboardist] and I are brothers and we grew up playing music with our mom. She’s a jazz singer and she’d do show tunes and what not. Casey and I would go on stage and join her for songs from Oliver Twist and what not. She and I would sing while Casey played piano. I met Noah, our guitar player, in kindergarten so we’ve known each other our entire lives. We started our first band in middle school and Casey ended up joining the band in high school. The three of us played in a couple different groups in high school. When we moved to New York, we met Adam in our first year in college. We’d play pretty casually in school, jam every once in a while. After we all graduated, we all were like “Hey, let’s try and make this thing really happen.” We went into the studio and recorded our first EP, put that out there, started touring a bit and here we are now.
LM: Awesome! That’s pretty cool that you guys have known each other for quite some time. What is it like working with family?
SH: It’s always hard. In a lot of ways it’s harder but in a lot of ways it’s easier. The comfort level allows things to move quicker and more fluidly and egos don’t get too involved. When they do, though, it can easily be shut down. We’ve all known each other for so long, we can just be like “Dude, stop being a fuckin’ asshole” and then it’s over. Then, in a lot of ways, because we know each other so well, tensions can rise. I love it, though, I couldn’t see myself playing with any other group of guys. It feels like family and it’s always felt like that. This has been a dream for me, Noah, and Casey since we were kids growing up in Ithaca. Seeing it start to come to fruition is really exciting and really scary at the same so it’s good to have family and friends around.
LM: We’re really excited for you guys, too! When Aaron (Lemonade VP) and I first saw you in Seattle last month at the Imagine Dragons concert, Aaron turned to me after your first song and said “These guys will be headlining their own tour in 12-18 months.”
SH: Yeah! And we’re doing it in April!
LM: I know! I was so excited when I saw that. I immediately called Aaron and said, “Yeah, you were right.” Congrats!
SH: We’re so excited about this tour. It’s a club tour and it’s our first headlining tour on our own and tickets have been selling really well! We’re a little bummed that we couldn’t get out to too many west coast states. We only have one show in LA which is a fly-in date for the label and a bunch of other people out there. We’ll be working our way back out to Tacoma, don’t you worry.
LM: We’ll be there for sure! We really enjoyed your set opening for Imagine Dragons and would love to see more of you guys. So you’ve worked with Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons and Alex Da Kidd among a few others, what was that like for you guys?
SH: Dan was the person who brought us the attention of Alex Da Kidd. Alex then signed us to his label, Kidd in a Korner with Interscope. We work mostly with Alex. We worked with Dan a little bit. He came into the studio and met everybody. He did a little bit of writing on the song “Stranger” from our first EP. He helped me with the chorus a little bit and gave his two cents on some mixing things. We mainly work with Alex. Dan and the rest of the dudes from Imagine Dragons are also like family to us now. We’ve done two pretty big tours with them in the past year. They are the greatest guys in the world. Everything that everyone says about them being the nicest people ever is totally true. It’s good for other, young bands touring with them to see that and realize that this rock star myth of being an asshole is a myth. It’s not going to get you as far as being really good, kind-hearted people.
LM: So going back to the tour, if you could tour with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
SH: Dead or alive? Oh man…It would have to be something like really crazy and out there. *chuckles* We all love The Band, with their song “The Wait.” Maybe them or maybe with The Rolling Stones. Any of those classic guys. For contemporary artists, we’re all big fans of this new R&B stuff that’s coming out. We love this guy, KWADS, a really awesome dude from England. His voice is just like butter, it’s incredible. It’s this deep, baritone voice with so much soul. Joe Cocker would be cool. I know you asked for one name, and I’m giving you like a million *laughs* Otis Redding would be awesome. Or maybe James Brown. Yeah! James Brown, that would be amazing. Anything with a big production would be so cool to be a part of. We’re having so much fun doing these huge arena tours with Imagine Dragons and even the big theater shows like with Panic! At The Disco that we just did this last run with. Just to see the theatrics of everything and see what people are doing. Seeing all those things gets us thinking about what we would do if we had a budget to afford that.
LM: I know you guys will get to that level. You guys are pretty unique and, in turn, your genre of music is very unique, you guys all play your own instruments and have managed to create your own sound, who or what influenced you guys?
SH: We have all been big alternative rock fans for a long time and big hip hop fans as well. We realized early on in our careers that being different is really important to us. Setting yourself apart from the rest makes things a lot harder, but at the end of the day, it’s better for you to think like that because you’re more inclined to find your own unique voice. From our experience, what we wanted to hear as kids was something different that stood out from all the rest. We’re always looking at what everyone else is doing and seeing how we can do something different or take aspects of what we like but putting more emphasis on a different aspect that hasn’t quite been tapped into. We grew up in a small town with not much going on. In high school and middle school we were kind of weird. I like the idea of embracing something that different and not normal because that was our childhood. Casey has been blind since birth and that had a huge impact on us growing up. Being so acutely aware of being different and being part of family that is different had a huge impact on me as a songwriter and Casey as a musician. Uniqueness is big for us.
LM: Well it’s working for you guys.
SH: Yeah, that’s all kind of why we lean toward the alternative side of things. We also grew up listening to the stuff on the radio. We all love catchy stuff. Like I said, we came from a small town and we have big dreams so we want to speak to as big of an audience as we possibly can. If we can slip something in there that no one has heard or experienced before, that they can get something out of, then it’s all for the better. There’s a lot of great music out there that doesn’t get enough exposure because it’s too left of center for radio.
LM: That’s exactly what Lemonade Magazine is here for. We strive to search out those artists and help get them the exposure they deserve. There’s nothing better than sharing great music with the world. Speaking of sharing music, do you guys have plans to release a full album soon?
SH: Yes, someday soon. *laughs* We just put out this new EP and we’re all so excited about it. It was a big step for us as a band. As a songwriter, I think it’s some of my best stuff. I’m more proud of it than anything else that I’ve put out recently. It all just happened so quickly and organically. Thematically, a lot of what is going on with this EP is everyday people and the things that we all experience, the emotions we don’t talk about. The big idea with The Reason is your dreams not working out. That was a big thing for me because I wanted to write about what meant a lot to me and what I’m most afraid of. I know a lot of people I went to high school and college with who had dreams to be artists, musicians or actors who are all very talented but one thing leads to another and things don’t work out. What’s that next chapter? It’s a really scary thing but it’s also not so bad. We listen to a lot hip hop and R&B as a band, a lot of which focus on “I start from nothing, I followed my dreams and this is where I am now, good for me” which is great and awesome to listen to and makes you feel good and optimistic, but what about those people whose dreams didn’t work out? Can they still feel optimistic about life? I believe that yes, they can. The full length will go a little more in depth on that. We want to talk about the stuff that everyday people go through. I have a rule that if it’s something that makes you feel uncomfortable to talk about, it’s a good thing to talk about, because it probably makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable. Talking about it helps because hearing someone else talk about helps. So, yeah, the album will focus more on material that deals with things that a lot of people don’t often talk about but are still prevalent issues.
LM: The music world needs that. We end up in this fantasy land where everything has happy endings. We need artists who will bring the realism back to light as well. I only have one more question for you, because we are Lemonade Magazine, we have to ask, what is your favorite kind of lemonade?
SH: Oh man…does an Arnold Palmer count?
LM: I’d say so, there’s lemonade in it.
SH: Yeah, that’s it but slip a little vodka in it. Wait, no, Southern Comfort lemonade!
LM: Perfect! Well, thanks so much for chatting with us! It was great, best of luck on your tour!
SH: Thanks for having me!
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