We catch up with them after the Off The Rails Country Music Festival in Frisco, Texas
Mike Eli, James Young, Jon Jones and Chris Thompson form the Eli Young Band. This award winning band formed in Denton, Texas, while attending college at University of North Texas.
The band members met shortly after starting college and were friends before deciding to form the band.
“We started hanging out and jamming together,” says Mike, “and eventually James and I started playing acoustic shows at the R Bar in Denton and throughout the city. Our first show as a full band, Jon and Chris joined us for four songs at the R Bar in October of 2000.”
Sixteen years together have allowed them to produce five albums which charted eight times on the Billboard country charts. Three of their singles, “Crazy Girl,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” and “Drunk Last Night” have reached number one. “Crazy Girl” also garnered the top country song of 2011 according to Billboard Year-End.
It’s no fluke that they’ve continued to be successful, as they put a strong emphasis on togetherness. “[We focus on] brotherhood, we have to make sure our relationship is a priority. Sometimes in music it can be difficult to keep everything together. This family way of thinking helps you make it through the music business—and what life throws at you,” the band says.
When asked if they felt they would make it this far in music, Mike gives an extended laugh. “Absolutely not! We wanted it, but weren’t sure if it was realistic. The group was a fun way to feed our passion for making music while also working our way through college.”
Their increased success has led to them sharing the stage with such heavy hitters as Kenny Chesney. “By the time we were on tour with Chesney, we had played Chicago and Denver, and even touring with other people, we had played in front of large crowds. In Texas, everything is different, and live music is such a big thing. We had played large crowds before we signed a record deal. Playing with Chesney, playing the football stadiums, that was what was different. Trying to create an intimate show with that many people, some of the shows were 80,000 or 100,000 people, that was insane! I don’t know if we ever got used to that. We may need to do a few more to get the hang of it!”
Do they still find inspiration in other artists? “Absolutely, there are tons we look up to,” says the group. “Some artists have been incredibly great to us. Darius Rucker, Kenny Chesney… and there are a lot of Texas artists that opened huge doors for us, like Jack Ingram. We want to be a Texas band that opens doors for others that follow.”
Despite the success, the group refuses to part with their Texas roots. “We still live in Texas, Texas is home. When we’re working on music, we ask ourselves what our Texas fans would think of it, and if they’d dig it if we moved in a certain direction. Texas is the foundation.”
As the summer bears on, they’re happy to have released their very summery single, “Saltwater Gospel.” “Our new record is done,” says Mike. “The cool thing about this record is it kinda feels like some of the old school stuff like we were doing on the first few records. I think we have written the best songs that we have ever written for this record.”
Keep tabs on the group at EliYoungBand.com!
By Cryste Deshields