The Eli Young Band have seen a lot of things happen since meeting each other in college some time ago: Number one hits, major label deals, career-defining album releases, marriage, fatherhood. Still, the main thing that matters is that they've hung in there all this time...together.
"We’re the same four dudes," singer Mike Eli asserts. "We’re just living different; we’re in different places in our lives."
Guitarist James Young agrees, explaining that the journey the band has taken has allowed them the unique ability to mature together, all the way up to their latest release, the highly anticipated "10,000 Towns," which hit the streets March 4. "We all grew up together, and I think we all grew up recording together too, from the first record to where we are now. This new record, it really feels more reflective and kinda looking back on the past, to where we are right now.
"We’re just in such a great place and we’re all very blessed with the success we’ve been given. I think that really comes across in our newer music."
The band certainly are no overnight success, having launched their career with a careful determination more than 10 years ago following graduation. Having all been through school together, the four friends made a joint decision to go ahead and continue the musical momentum they'd started in the Texas music scene.
As bassist Jon Jones explains: "Breaking up wasn’t an option. But when we were all about to graduate college ... that was the only time when it was like, 'Are we going to dedicate ourselves to go and do this, or is this the time to use our degrees we’ve worked so hard for? And we all made the decision together to follow this."
"We wonder how solo artists make it, especially in those early years" Young notes. "With us being a band, we’ve always had the four of us to kind of keep each other in check."
That decision served all four musicians very well, as their dedication to their shared vision pinnacled in 2008 with the defining release "Life at Best," a stellar set which spawned the two No. 1 hits "Crazy Girl" and "Even if it Breaks Your Heart."
The band are no less collaborative on their latest album, which they explain is special in part due to the amount and method of personal songwriting they contributed. "This is the first record all four of us have sat down collectively and wrote together, being it with ourselves or other artists," Young notes. "So that’s something really cool, I think, about this new record: the four of us being on one song."
"Yeah we just did a lot more writing, the four of us together, on this record than ever before," Eli agrees. "It wasn’t necessarily that we never really pushed for that in the past, but I think that songwriting-wise, it was really important that we stepped it up and made sure that all of our songs were good. Because we were getting sent the best songs in Nashville for this record, and so as songwriters, it’s one of those things where you step up your game and the four of us were really trying to make sure that if we were gonna be sent the best songs in Nashville, we gotta make sure that we write some of ‘em!"
"You’d think it’d be really natural for four guys in a band to write songs every day together, like in the back of the bus or whatever," drummer Chris Thompson says. "But the way our days are scheduled nowadays, finding either alone time or downtime or whatever is almost impossible. So it really is something we have to focus on -- actually sitting down and writing together. So that’s why it’s taken so many years for us to actually sit down and do it."
Songwriting isn't the only area the EYB experienced growth in during the process of making the new record. "There was a lot of leaps in certain directions," muses Thompson. "I think musically on this record we were challenged in a lot of ways -- we had a new producer, and he really pushed us to get the best stuff out of his that he could get. And we’re also credited as producers on this record -- co-producers -- and that was a new thing for us. I think as a band you truly kind of self-produce anyways, because these are songs that we’re recording in the studio that we want to love, and they’re songs that we’re gonna go out and play live. [So] we want to make sure that there’s an arrangement that we love."
"I think there were some cool freedoms that we had with this record," Eli adds. "We got in the studio and understood that we had chosen the best songs that we could to make this record truly special. And then we took those songs and broke them down and said 'how can we make this even better than it is now?'"
The band also -- understandably -- felt a little pressure to follow of the success of "Life at Best," but as Eli explains, it was a challenge they were more than up to. "It was a good pressure," he defines."There was a lot of room to grow between that record and this next record. So, every album that we’ve put out, and I feel like every year that we’re together, we’re taking these steps. And we haven’t gone backwards, which is good with us."
"I think one thing that probably surprised all of us on this record was how dedicated we all were to making the best record, making it the best that we possibly could," states Thompson. "Not that we haven’t have done that in the past, but I think that all of us were really challenged in a lot of ways, and we felt that it was important to be the best that we could be. And I think that we can all feel proud that we did that."