In Advance of a Nov. 5 Show at House of Blues, X Ambassadors Singer Opens Up About Opening Up


  • Danny Scott Lane
X-Ambassadors lead singer Sam Harris says his favorite track to perform live from the band's new album ORION is “Wasteland.”

“It’s my Bruce Springsteen, U2 kind of moment,” he says via phone. The alternative rock band brings its highly personal songs to House of Blues at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5. “And I get to just relish in that sonic landscape. And I think that people connect with it. It’s a song about your hometown and the complicated relationship that I have with my hometown. [It's about] the love hate relationship that I have with it. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve written.”

With ORION, Harris aimed to open up more than he did on the band's previous effort, 2015’s VHS.

“It felt like an evolution,” says Harris. “And I think the biggest difference is that I wanted to go more personal and reveal more of my life. Who I am and where my head has been at over the last four years…And not only that but trusting ourselves a bit more. We took more of a creative control in terms of this record.”

The New York trio wanted to package ORION in a completely different way than it did VHS, which featured smash-hits like “Renegades” and “Unsteady.” With its new record, the trio wanted to convey a contemporary sound that VHS had missed.

“We made a whole album that was retro soul influenced cause that’s a big part of our DNA. And we wanted to do something very specific,” says Harris of VHS. “We ended up feeling like the retro soul approach wasn’t authentic to who we were. It was more us trying to show off. So instead of us doing that we refocused.”

With the help of producer Ricky Reed, the band was able to redefine itself.

Perhaps the most personal lyrical moment on ORION is the edgy, upbeat, bass-heavy “Hey Child.” The track chronicles the impact the whole band has felt through watching former member and founder Noah Feldshuh struggle with substance abuse.

“It was a difficult separation. I have a lot of love for this guy. It is someone I’ve known my whole life. And I wanted to tell our story. And the song is my way of reaching out and being like ‘Hey, you know, I know we’re not in the same space right now and I know you’re hurting, but I love you and everything’s gonna be alright,’” says Harris. “It was essentially an open letter to him. I haven’t heard back from him. I hope he’s doing alright.”

ORION also features “History,” which is a part of the band’s stripped-down mid-set break. The slower portion of X Ambassadors’ live show also features “American Oxygen” which Harris originally wrote for Rhianna before the band released its own take. “American Oxygen” is blended into a medley along with “Home,” a track the band recorded with Bebe Rexha and Cleveland native and Harris’ “homie” Machine Gun Kelly.

“People want to be with you in those quiet moments,” says Harris. “They wanna be with you more if you’ve given them an explosive beginning and then half way through the set it’s just an acoustic guitar and one vocal. They’ll be captivated if you do that. Then at the end you just gotta go balls to the walls.”

X Ambassadors, Bear Hands, Vérité, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $35.28-$52.78,

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