X Ambassadors Want You To Make Your Own Hometown Scene

X Ambassadors Want You To Make Your Own Hometown Scene

If you live anywhere other than a major city, it’s likely that your music scene is a little less than stellar. Well, Sam Harris, front man of X Ambassadors, feels your pain, which is why the band is launching their own fest in their hometown of Ithaca, New York: the Cayuga Sound Festival.

The fest goes down on September 22 and 23 in Stewart Park and the guys (plus the Roots) are headlining. Other acts include K. Flay, the Knocks, Tei Shi, Margaret Glaspy, Jukebox the Ghost, Sammus and more. After announcing their plans to bring the music to Ithaca, Harris caught up with TIDAL and chatted a bit about hometown music scenes and how you can help yours thrive.

Why did you decide to throw a fest in your hometown?

It’s an opportunity for us to give back to our community, the one that incubated us, gave us a safe space to create and express ourselves and made us the band that we are today. Ithaca often gets overlooked by touring artists and musicians, but it’s a vibrant town with a huge appreciation for good music. And, personally, I know I would’ve loved to see a festival like this come to town when I was a kid, which is another big reason why it means so much to me.

What are some memorable shows you remember seeing in your hometown?

I saw The Roots play at Bailey Hall at Cornell University when I was, like, thirteen and they were fucking incredible. They were a huge band for me growing up, and they introduced me to so many other artists like D’Angelo, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, whom I also love. Another memorable show for me was when I saw the Arcade Fire play in a tiny cafeteria, also on Cornell campus. There were only like one hundred people there; they were touring off their first album and not too many people knew who they were yet. It had snowed all day that day, and I remember watching them struggle with a keyboard that had gotten messed up in the weather. But they got through it and put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen to this day.

How did you choose the artists you picked for the fest? 

We wanted it to be a lineup as eclectic as our own tastes are, and as diverse as the world in which we live. That was our the primary goal. We’ve been lucky enough to have played with most of the artists on the bill before at various stages in our career, and have managed to become friendly with them. The Roots we’ve only gotten to know within the last year, but they’ve been big supporters of us. We did a showcase with them at SXSW and Casey and I actually got to play on stage with them, which was legit a dream come true for me. Then, after they asked us to play their Roots Picnic in New York last year, we decided to reach out to them about playing our festival in return. I still can’t believe they said yes… the fourteen-year-old me is dying right now.

What advice would you give to people who wish they had more of a music scene in their town?

MAKE IT! There were basically no other alternative rock bands playing in our town when we were kids, but we knew that our friends were all listening to the same stuff we were. So we put on our own shows and played the kind of music we wanted to hear. There is nothing that compares to live music; people genuinely want to see other people play live. To quote Field of Dreams (which I just recently watched for the first time… AMAZING): “If you build it, they will come.” Doing it ourselves was a lot of fun and gave us the motivation and encouragement to try playing shows outside of Ithaca.

What effect did growing up in Ithaca have on you as an artist?

It’s such an inclusive, accepting, and weird little town that I think we genuinely felt like we could do whatever wanted to and wouldn’t be judged for it. And the fact that it’s such a secluded place I think influenced us to try and make music that felt universal. It was our way of reaching out to the world beyond, saying, “HEY WE’RE HERE, TOO!”

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