By Jay Tilles for Radio.com
In 2014 when the Radio.com editorial team got a call from Interscope Records telling us that we should check out this new band X Ambassadors, we added it to the “priority listen list.” Frankly, that list can sometimes get a little long. But then we heard that they were discovered by Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons. Ok… that moves the band up a few notches.
The song was “Jungle.” Wow. Ok, let’s keep listening.
As the story goes, Reynolds heard the band’s song “Unconsolable” on a Norfolk, Virginia radio station. Moved by the tune, he asked the Interscope to sign the band as soon as possible. Reynolds even co-wrote the song “Stranger” found on the band’s major label debut EP, Love Songs Drug Songs.
But the New York-based four piece really started to break with the release of the anthemic thundering track called “Jungle.” It was good: really good.
Then, in 2015, everything changed. Already riding high on two successful tours with Imagine Dragons, the band would rise to a whole new level with their first full-length album boasting the breakout cross-format radio smash, “Renegades.”
After all, “Renegades” was featured in a massive Jeep ad campaign, which gave the song an audience of millions; getting into people’s ears is one thing, but getting into their hearts isn’t quite so easy. But the song’s (and perhaps, the band’s) staying power was proven when it reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Rock Songs, Rock Airplay, and Adult Top 40 charts.
“Dude, it is the craziest thing,” frontman Sam Harris told Radio.com of the experience. “I mean, the song just kinda came about with myself and Alex da Kid. He and I are constantly writing stuff. We’re always going back and forth. Sometimes he’ll send me stuff and I’ll write it all on my own. Sometimes he has ideas that he brings to me. This is one of the latter.”
Now considered a go-to producer, Alex da Kid is most famous in the rock world for having worked with Imagine Dragons. But he really made his mark while working with Dr. Dre, Nicki Minaj, Eminem and Rihanna. Owning his own label under Interscope, Alex da Kid signed Imagine Dragons, who in turn signed X Ambassadors.
“He called me up and said, ‘I had an idea to write a song called ‘Renegades.’ Start writing,'” Harris recalled of the track’s origin.
With Reynolds’ and Alex da Kid’s song-writing pedigree combined with the band’s enthusiastic live performances, X Ambassadors are anything but renegades, where the charts are concerned. They’re part of the new mainstream.