Interview: Eli Young Band Ready a ‘Statement Record’
When Mike Eli, James Young, Jon Jones and Chris Thompson formed the Eli Young Band in college, more than 15 years ago, their goal was mostly to play in bars in exchange for free beer and get the chance to talk to a few girls after their shows. So to have five studio albums, two EPs and multiple No. 1 songs — “Crazy Girl,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and “Drunk Last Night” — under their belts is already more than they ever dreamed of. However, with their upcoming new album, the Texas-bread quartet wants to go even further.
“We have made some records that we’ve been really proud of, written some songs and had some hits. We want to continue to be that band,” Young tells The Boot. “We want to continue to be the band that people expect to think outside the box, as well as try some things that people are scared of and make music that we can be proud of, our fans can be proud of.”
Adds Thompson, “I think that this is also a statement record, too. For the past couple records, we’ve tried a bunch of things; we’ve pushed ourselves intentionally at this point. We wanted to be the best that we could be and, through that process, have found where we really thrive in the studio. That was our goal with the whole record. I think this is a really good album for us say, ‘If you’ve always been wondering who we are and what we’re about over the past X number of albums, check out this record, and you’ll find out.'”
“Saltwater Gospel,” EYB’s debut single from their forthcoming project, is indicative of what fans can expect: a little blues, a little soul and a whole lot of fun.
“It was one of the first few songs we recorded, and one of the first few songs we put on hold right away, knowing we wanted to record for the record,” Young recalls. “It’s one of the few on the record that we didn’t write, but it’s one of those songs we knew right away that it felt like something we could do something really cool with.”
With lines like, “When I go down and sink my feet in the water / And I soak up that sun and I watch it set / Yeah, I can feel the power of the saltwater gospel / I’m as close to God as I can get,” “Saltwater Gospel” was also a perfect way to celebrate the summer season.
“We never had a ‘beach song’ before, and we’ve always said, ‘If we’re going to go down that road, it needs to be a really special one and have a point of view that’s different than your average beach song,'” explains Young. “We felt like this was the one that covered more than just ‘I’m out at the beach, drinking beer and having a good time.'”
Continues Jones, “One great thing about this record is, it’s more reminiscent of our older stuff, stuff where we come from, and the process of not over-thinking it and not over-layering it too much. I think that’s something that was a conscious effort on this whole record. What sets [“Saltwater Gospel”] apart, I think, is rhythmically, it has the same thing going through it the whole time, which is something different, and really appealing to us. I think it fits really well with the whole record.”
"We always put our relationship to each other at No. 1 … As long as that’s always No. 1, the business and career and Eli Young Band will survive."
The Eli Young Band hope to have their new disc out by the end of 2016, and as they prepare for its release, they’ve also go their eyes on drawing larger crowds to their shows.
“We’ve done a lot of touring and been with a lot of artists out there. A lot of our touring is playing the biggest places here, and the medium-sized theaters here, and tour everywhere and do really well — but we’ve never had the full-on, cross-country, arena-headlining Eli Young Band,” Young notes. “This could be the record that takes us to that point. We’re on the cusp of making that time of commitment touring, but that’s an expensive route to take. This record could be the record that delivers it if we work hard enough and the music speaks to everyone like it speaks to us.”
The country quartet is acutely aware of their responsibilities, both professional and personal, moving forward.
“It feels harder to find the happy medium, the happy balance, between your home life, your responsibility as the band, as well as fulfilling that need to be onstage,” Young admits. “Finding the happy balance between all three of those is somewhat impossible, but you’re always struggling to find it.”
Jones recently announced that he and his wife Sarah are expecting their second child later this year, motivating him to work harder than ever before.
“For a long time, we played for nobody, in our garage. And so that shifts into getting older, and you have a crew, and people who have families, and we have families. It’s a larger entity; there’s a little more responsibility,” he reflects. “There’s some ways where we have not grown up at all, and in some ways, we have grown up. It’s finding yourself in there somewhere, where it’s still fun, and you’re constantly re-defining why it is you’re out there. Especially when you start having children and get married, it’s no longer this selfish thing; you have more responsibilities in life.”
Adds Young, “We’re four brothers with very different personalities, and we appreciate each other, love each other, hate each other, all at the same time, different times. We always put our relationship to each other at No. 1, and then our business and career second. As long as that’s always No. 1, the business and career and Eli Young Band will survive.”
“Saltwater Gospel” is available for download on iTunes.