By Sam Moore
Eli Young Band has a lot going on right now: a new song release, a new album coming out soon, and preparations for a big New Year’s Eve show at Billy Bobs Texas. And after years of playing together, they are still just as close as ever.
In advance of the show this Saturday night, I had a chance to visit with Jon Jones. With Jon on bass guitar, Chris Thompson on drums, lead guitarist James Young, and lead singer/guitarist Mike Eli, the North Texas group has produces a trio of platinum and multi-platinum #1 hits, such as “Drunk Last Night,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” and “Crazy Girl.” Their last album, 10,000 TOWNS, hit the top of the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. Their latest release is “Saltwater Gospel.”
“It’s the kind of song that you can close your eyes, listen to the music, and put yourself in a scene,” Jones said. “It does not so much tell a story as it creates an emotion, standing in front of the ocean and feeling one inch tall. I think we can all hit the reset button. For me, the mountains as much as the ocean, you go and get lost.”
The band members first met more than a dozen years ago, as members of the same fraternity at University of North Texas, in Denton. Jones calls it their very humble beginnings. They enjoyed playing music for people, and they did it for fun. Now that they are older, Jones says they have their bills to pay. But it is still as much fun now as it was then. It has become a way of life.
As the band’s music has evolved over the years, Jones believes their upcoming album brings everything full circle.
“A lot of the album will be getting back to basics, with the recordings and the sounds we were looking for,” he said. “The stuff that worked a long time ago was working for a reason. And we had fun with that.”
This is good news for their longtime friends. Jones says they all feel good when they perform in north Texas. They can look out at the audience and see a lot of familiar faces – people who have followed them from the beginning, as well as those who have joined the journey along the way.
Billy Bob’s is a good example of how that has evolved. Jones said when they first started playing, they would go to Billy Bob’s, look at the size of the world’s largest honkytonk, and become intimidated. They would try to figure out what steps they would need to take in order to play there and fill the place up. Obviously, they have succeeded. This will be at least their third NYE show in Fort Worth over the past several years.
“My son was born on New Year’s,” Jones commented. “If we can’t play close to home, then we don’t play.”
The guys are all committed to family life. They all still live in the Dallas metropolitan area. They do not spend a lot of time in Nashville, only for business purposes. When they travel to concerts, they typically fly because it would take too long to get from Dallas to New York, for example, by tour bus. It limits the number of shows they do, but it is worth it to be home with the family.
They learned several years ago that you can tour and still keep family a priority. They traveled one summer with Rascal Flatts and Little Big Town. They all brought family with them.
Jones said, “The door to their bus would open, an inflatable swimming pool would fall out, followed by all those kids. It was like that all summer. It was inspiring. And that is the way we are.”
“Sometimes,” Jones said, “you think you are going to be pretty tired when you prepare to go to New York, or Canada, for example. Then, when you get on stage and you see all the fans, it is very exciting and energizing.”
At the moment, with the new album due out soon, the band is taking a break from writing, though it will likely pick up again soon. But Jones has advice for aspiring songwriters in Texas.
“Write more often, collaborate more. And most important, trust yourself.”
So what can the audience expect Saturday night at Billy Bob’s? The new songs will certainly be there. But Jones promises more.
“We are dusting off some of the old stuff,” he said. “We have a couple of days to go over it and get ready. We will be putting on a show.”
For ticket information to the New Year’s Eve show, visit http://billybobstexas.com/music/eli-young-band-green-river-ordinance
For more information on Eli Young band, visit www.eliyoungband.com
Green River Ordinance will open the evening.
Posted by: Sam Moore
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