Eli Young Band just goes with the flow

Published on March 29th, 2021

By Jim Dail

Chris Thompson of the Eli Young Band is relaxing in Connecticut, looking out at the snow and thinking about the evening’s show.

 “Touring is great and we love it because you get that instant gratification and verification and people are cheering, hopefully,” he said. “But it does take you away from home.”

The band will perform on Saturday, March 19 at Spotlight Casino in Coachella.

The band formed when Mike Eli and James Young met at the University of North Texas and began a duo. When Thompson and Jon Jones joined, the band was complete and their first album was released in 2002. But it was their 2011 album, Life at Best, that provided the first taste of chart-topping success.

 “When the band started in 2000, we didn’t have anything to compare it to in terms of whether or not a song could be a big hit for us,” he said. “We had a good feeling about all the songs and we thought ‘Crazy Girl’ was a good song. It took it about a whole year to get to number one. We sort kind of sat back and watched it. The highest we charted before was the Top Ten, but this was like watching a NASCAR race and your favorite driver is in the lead the last six laps. It just slowly went from the 40s then the 30 then 20s then Top Ten then up the Top Ten spot by spot!”

There was one way that the band figured out there was something to the song.

“The one significant thing to us is we’d been playing it in the set and the crowd was getting louder and louder,” he said. “We couldn’t hear ourselves start the song!”

As the band has found success, they have also learned how to deal with all the extras that come along with it.

“I think a band can take 10 years to develop it all, and then after that suddenly more people get involved and have fingers in the pot,” he said. “Then you hear other opinions that weren’t there before. You have to tighten up and listen to just a couple people.”

For the Eli Young Band, success is great but not if it costs musical integrity.

“If you are going to be an artist and have a career, the music has to come from the heart,” he said. “I’ve never been one to go for the trendy thing. If it takes years to get another hit, that’s fine because we are going to do what we want to do.”

So when it came time to follow up the first big success, nothing really changed.

“We put out “10,000 Towns” and it had another number one record and had some more success so things were feeling right,” he said. “That’s when we kind of figured out who to listen to.”

The group has offered a little taste of what’s to come.

“We had that whole trial thing, and we put out a 4-song EP, a demo experimentation thing and got a feel working with a new producer,” he said. “We didn’t do a whole record and then we put out a song with Andy Grammer, ‘Honey I’m Good.’ We thought it would work country, and it did its thing. So, a few months ago, we went back into the studio and finished the new record.”

The band hopes the album will be ready for summer. But then again, like a fine bottle of wine, Thompson points out they just want to make something they are happy with and that is true to them.

“We are a band that records our ways and, it’s about at times just trying something different,” he said. “We end up doing that just to kind of have it on our menu. When we cut the new record, we just wanted to get back to our roots and all sit in a room and chug out the songs.”

Of course, not everything is perfect.

“It is nice when the wind blows the same way, but there are bumps in the road and arguments which we have to deal with,” he said. “The nice thing is we can go back, look back at what we like about what we’ve done and continue.”

Then again, it’s hard to argue with three top five records, including one chart-topper, and three Top Ten hits, two of them going to Number One on the Billboard Country charts.

“We are all in really good places,” he said. “Life is fun for us.”By Ji


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