Interview: Eli Young Band Aims for ‘Fun’ on New Album ‘10,000 Towns’
By Kurt Wolff
They may not have visited that exact number of cities just yet, but after more than a dozen years together touring and recording, the members of the Eli Young Band have certainly earned the right to title their latest album 10,000 Towns.
Formed in Denton, Texas more than a dozen years back, the four longtime bandmates — lead vocalist Mike Eli, guitarist James Young, bassist Jon Jones, drummer Chris Thompson — have in recent years gained a new level of national visibility, thanks in large part to their platinum-selling hit songs “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and their ACM-winning “Crazy Girl.” Now they are set to take that success and reach even higher with 10,000 Towns, their fifth album overall and second for current label Republic Nashville.
And so far they’re off to a great start, thanks to the No. 1 success they achieved with the album’s lead single, “Drunk Last Night.”
“Sometimes you get a song, and you hear it and you just know, this has to be on the record,” said Young, during an interview the band gave recently in Nashville with Radio.com. “And eventually we had a good feeling that would become the first single.”
The album 10,000 Towns comes three years after their last release, Life At Best. A three-year gap may be a long time for their fans, but the bandmates were not in a huge hurry, because they wanted to make sure they got the songs — and the feeling of the record — right.
The album took about a year to record, which, as Jones explained, “allowed us to do some recording, step back, see what wasn’t gelling, what was missing, and just kinda do it at a nice slow pace.”
“We weren’t afraid to take our time with it,” echoed Young.
“It was a fun record to make,” said Eli, “but we also knew it was an incredibly important record for our career.”
Jones also explained that it was a lengthy process in part because the group “never stopped playing on the road.” They’ve identified as a touring band throughout their entire career, and the last couple years have been no different. Even if, as they did in 2013, some of those dates were playing in stadiums with Kenny Chesney.
“Every chance we had, we were up on the stage watching Chesney command an audience,” said Eli of that experience. “And he can command an audience, no matter how small or big. He knows how to speak to that person in the very back row.” So as Eli explained, when they’re on tour with someone of that caliber, he and his bandmates “try to be sponges, to soak it in.”
And they bring that feeling into the studio as well. “Every time you go into a studio and hit that record button for a new project, you’re always learning,” said Young — or, he added smiling, “hopefully always learning. We feel like we are every time we go in there.”
Even though they didn’t write the track “10,000 Towns” (that achievement belongs to Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins, Craig Wiseman), it’s clear that it resonated strongly with this band of road warriors. So it is not difficult to imagine them choosing it as the album title as well.
“It kind of goes back to who we are as a band,” Jones explained. “And as a family, [one] that has seen that many towns and had those experiences.”
Was there a specific theme they were after with 10,000 Towns? Certainly not just a single set of emotions, but as Jones explained, they did have one main objective, and that was to make a record that was “fun.”
“Looking at our past records, there were some songs that we didn’t wind up playing live much,” said Jones, as the tracks simply didn’t translate easily to the stage. “So we wanted to be a little heavier on the fun side.” That said, as he explained, an Eli Young Band record “wouldn’t be complete without a great breakup song, a great sappy love song, an angry song. So we feel there needed to be a little of all that. But fun was definitely the theme we wanted to be the heaviest.”
10,000 Towns track listing:
1. Drunk Last Night
2. 10,000 Towns
4. Angel Like You
5. Let’s Do Something Tonight
6. Your Last Broken Heart
7. What Does
8. A Lot Like Love
9. Just Add Moonlight
11. Prayer For the Road
10,000 Towns is in stores now. The Eli Young Band is currently on the road as part of Darius Rucker‘s True Believers Tour, and they will also also perform some dates this year with Jake Owen on his Days of Gold Tour.