What happens when you travel all the way to Worthy Farm to play Glastonbury Festival for the first time, and your monitor gear breaks right before you’re about to go on stage?
True ‘Renegade’ Sam Harris tells all, proving exactly why X Ambassadors are a band we’ll be falling even more in love with as we see more and more of them in 2017.
You guys hustled hard to get where you are. What continues to motivate you?
Sam: I think we all still feel that we have a lot further to go professionally and that, as we continue to grow and evolve as human beings, we want our sound to do the same. Creativity is the biggest motivating factor for us. There are also so many things we haven’t accomplished yet, places we haven’t played– those things make us work harder too.
How does it feel to be playing Glastonbury 2016?
Sam: It really is a dream come true for me. I remember reading NME as a kid, living in Ithaca, NY, feeling so jealous of all the bands that got to play there and feeling so far away from it all… And when we got invited to play this year, I felt like we’d won. Unfortunately, our monitor gear broke right before we were supposed to go onstage, so we didn’t get to play a real set. But I went out anyways and played Renegades on acoustic guitar for the 10,000 people who had showed up for us. It was a bittersweet moment, but a moment nonetheless.
What’s your best live memory of 2016 so far?
Sam: We played a hometown show in Ithaca at the end of our VHS 2.0 tour, which was really something. The mayor declared that day officially “X Ambassadors Day”, so now every year we’re gonna try and come back on May 14th and play there.
Can we expect to see more of you in the UK?
Sam: Absolutely. We try to make it overseas as much as we can and I think you’ll be seeing/hearing a lot more of us in 2017.
There’s a festival anthem vibe to your sound. What are your favourite mass sing-a-long festival anthems?
Sam: I love “Common People” by Pulp, “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes, and “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen.
If you were organising your own festival, who would you choose to headline and why?
Sam: Springsteen because he is still so incredible to watch, and he’s so generous with his fans. And his fans are pretty amazing to watch as well– there’s so much interaction between them and the band.
What’s the story behind ‘Unsteady’?
Sam: It’s a song about the desire to still feel safe and secure even when your world feels like it’s crumbling all around you. What I love most about Unsteady is that people apply that message to their own lives and their own experiences– I wrote the song about my parents’ divorce, but I’ve had people come up to me and say “Hey, this song really helped me with a bad breakup,” or “Hey, your song was the one my spouse and I walked down the aisle to!”
There’s so much genuine raw emotion on the album. Are there any songs you find difficult to perform live?
Sam: Low Life has been a pretty emotional one for me lately, and sometimes it’s hard for me to hold it together when I hear the crowd sing along to Unsteady. But I’ve never been unable to perform them, being overwhelmed with emotion.
Will you be going back to your roots for the next album, or are you finding inspiration on the road?
Sam: I’d love to go back to Ithaca to do some writing for this next record. We’ve written a bunch on the road, just like when we wrote VHS; I think the road is good for us creatively, but I’m definitely looking forward to being in one place for more than a day or two and trying to write songs there.
What does success truly mean to you?
Sam: Being happy, but never satisfied.
What advice do you have for anyone trying to make a career out of music?
Sam: Treat it like a career. Put the work in– nothing’s gonna happen if you just sit around on your ass. And also, never stop. I heard a quote recently about the music industry that was so perfect; imagine there’s this big red button that, if things ever get too hard or too frustrating or you feel like you’ll never make it as a musician, you can push that button and have a normal, happy life doing something else. The quote was: “If you want to make a career out of music, NEVER PUSH THE RED BUTTON.”