Interview: The Eli Young Band Come ‘Full Circle’ With ‘Fingerprints’ Album
When the Eli Young Band released their 10,000 Towns album in early 2014, they had no idea about the journey that was just ahead of them. That record, which includes the No. 1 single "Drunk Last Night," started the band -- Mike Eli, James Young, Jon Jones and Chris Thompson -- on the road to re-discovering the music they love to hear and the music they love to make, and to the realization that their friendship goes far beyond the scope of their career.
When the Eli Young Band returned to the studio to record their latest album, Fingerprints, the four bandmates realized they had emerged from some personal and professional struggles stronger, and they felt inspired to channel their discovery in their new set of tunes, out Friday (June 16) and available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.
Recently, The Boot sat down with the Eli Young Band to discuss the creation of Fingerprints, and how what they've experienced throughout the last 15 years brought them to this album.
Jon Jones: The first thing that comes to our mind in describing this record is, [it's] full circle for us. [We were] getting back to our roots and going into the studio and kind of finding ourselves again, and making it with who we’ve always been as a band, going back to what brought us together in the first place.
Chris Thompson: And also, what’s made our fans happy, too. We really had a conscious goal to make a record that not only we loved and enjoyed making, but that we felt like our audience would really enjoy as well.
Talk about the process of rediscovery, after releasing 10,000 Towns.
Mike Eli: Somewhere in the middle between 10,000 Towns and the Fingerprints record is -- that first half, we were writing a lot, and I think we were going into the studio and trying to find [and] trying to write these witty, smart songs, but we forgot, somewhere along the lines, at least for me, to bring the passion into the writing room. Somewhere along the lines, I figured that out, and that was kind of the start of writing Fingerprints.
There’s a lot of personal passion in these songs that, it’s not that it’s not always there, and I think that’s one of the reasons we’re so proud of this record, is that it feels so personal. I think that there’s a point in this album where we’re really looking to ourselves and trying to figure some things out, and kind of remembering who we are on a lot of this record.
We were going into the studio and trying to find [and] trying to write these witty, smart songs, but we forgot ... to bring the passion into the writing room.[/pullquotes]
With three years between albums, you must have had a wide variety of songs to choose from. How did you narrow them down to the 11 that ended up on Fingerprints, including what you have called one of your favorite songs, "Skin & Bones"?
Eli: We’re writing and writing and writing all these songs, and we put them in that bucket, and then we get sent some of the greatest, best songs in Nashville; we’re very lucky. It’s always been, the best song wins.
We’ve been really lucky to write or co-write nine of the songs off the record, including "Skin & Bones," which we wrote with Phil Barton and Lori McKenna, which is my favorite on the record. But we’re very lucky to write some really cool songs that we can be really, really proud of. "Skin & Bones" was definitely one of those songs that, when we finished that song, I think we all knew that we had something really special.
How has the Eli Young Band evolved since your debut album was released in 2002?
James Young: We started as friends first, and I don’t think a lot of people grasp that. But the music came later in our relationship. We all met in college; we’ve known each other half our lives. So the music, we weren’t drawn together -- well, ultimately we were drawn together by the music -- but we started as friends first.
We’ve all gone through the same stages, been in each other’s weddings and whatnot. So, that’s really the core of the Eli Young Band. And then the music comes after. The music comes because of that.
Your friendship was undoubtedly tested when your bus caught fire earlier this year. How did that change you, as individuals and as a band?
Jones: I think our bus burning down a few months ago is really influencing us going forward. They say bad things happen in threes, [but] it feels like it’s more than three. There were a lot of things, a lot of turmoil, a lot of things going on in our career behind the scenes all at that time, and it seemed to kind of all be capped off on our bus burning down.
There’s the analogy of the phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes-type of thing, but I feel like it’s pretty appropriate for us and where we’re going moving forward, that we needed that cleansing a little bit and purging, of not just all of our stuff on our bus and the clutter, but it was really kind of a point where we had to get rid of some of the clutter in our lives and in our relationships and how we were handling our business a little bit. And I feel so inspired now, going forward, and I think we all do, that everything is in a really, really great place, and it so, oddly, was really capped off and really brought to the forefront by our bus catching fire.
We started as friends first ... so, that’s really the core of the Eli Young Band. And then the music comes after. The music comes because of that.
Young: In the grand scheme of things, things are just things. And we had a lot of great memories on that bus, but at the end of the day, nobody was hurt, and you just keep moving on. And now we have a nice new bus, and it’s really -- the new bus is really nice, so we’re okay.
What are your future goals? What do you hope to still accomplish?
Jones: We’ve been on tour with some of the biggest acts, and so we’ve played some of the biggest places. We’re looking forward to playing some more of those places on our own and be[ing] the headliner.
Or to have the kind of staying power that some of our heroes in country music [have]. I think about some people -- like Kenny [Chesney]’s had, for such a career, that he’ll be able to play for as long as he wants to. [There's also] Tim McGraw, or bands like Alabama -- and some of these guys that just have these incredibly long biographies and stories.
I think keeping on and adding to that is the goal. And making some really great stories and keeping our friendship intact along the way.
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