If you haven’t heard of the X Ambassadors, you are missing out. In the last couple of months, the indie rock band has had several hits including "Renegades" and "Unsteady" that have put them in the spotlight. But one member of the band has really caught our attention.
Not only is Casey Harris the keyboardist for the X Ambassadors, but he is an ambassador for musicians conquering disability in the image-conscious world of alternative rock. Despite having to confront ignorance and prejudice in his early days, Casey has never refused to let visual impairment deny him a career in music.
Casey graduated from the School of Piano Technology for the Blind in 2007 and worked as a professional piano tuner for five years before the band took off. X Ambassadors went on to earn a record deal with Interscope, the home of Lady Gaga, and support bands such as Muse and Imagine Dragons at arena shows.
Frustrated at being yelled at by New York cabbies and given short shrift by subway commuters, Casey wanted to send a message to the world with the band’s breakthrough song, "Renegades", a hymn to outsiders. The video focuses on two young people who are blind who engage in activities like weightlifting and hiking.
"The message of our music is ‘the extraordinary exists within the ordinary’. It celebrates the ordinary person and says no to discrimination and ignorance," says Casey, whose blindness is not immediately obvious to many. "People don’t know till I bust out my cane. I don’t look blind."
Casey’s message about discrimination is not the only one we have heard recently. During the Grammy Awards this past February, Stevie Wonder sent a message about disability awareness when he teased the audience about not being about to read braille. Stevie Wonder proclaimed: "We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability." Stevie Wonder is not alone in this awareness effort. Casey is also willing to take on Wonder’s campaigning mantle.
"It’s a heavy crown and I hope I’m worthy of it. I count myself among the disability community, and I have a public voice now. I want to use that voice to help other people. I’m doing my little part," Casey said.
We hope to see great things from this disability advocate and continue to hear great music from X Ambassadors. Good luck, Casey!