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13 Jun 09 What Makes the Eli Young Band Go

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For those who know the Eli Young Band and its work, it comes as no surprise that the four young men who met in Denton were nominated this year for best new group by the Academy of Country Music. A recent performance at the House of Blues in Dallas proved that the band is going to be a hit with fans for years to come.

“Last year was a good year for us,” said lead singer Mike Eli. That is a bit of an understatement. Not only did they receive the ACM nomination, but their latest release – “Always the Love Songs” – has been moving up the country charts, and includes a Top 20 video. Their new CD, Jet Black & Jealous, is their first national release, and is selling well. Eli says the key to their success is simple.

“Texas is our foundation,” he commented. “If Texas were to go away, we would collapse.”

Eli said he and his band mates try not to preach with their songs and performances. But they do like to focus on the good things in their lives. They are very thankful, for example, that they are now able to make a living with their music. For years, they all worked second jobs to support their ability to perform and grow.

“There’s nothing like that feeling when you perform live,” said Eli. “We try to be honest and real, and we hope the fans appreciate that.”

James Young, Jon Jones and Chris Thompson all arrived at the University of North Texas in 1998, and played music together informally at a friend’s house that first year to recapture the spirit they’d felt in their respective high-school bands. In 1999, Eli enrolled and became quick friends with Young. They started performing as a duo, and in short order, the entire foursome began making music together, debuting live in October 2000. What followed was eight years of playing small clubs in Texas, gradually building their fan base.

Brian and Christine first saw EYB in Austin three or four years ago. This night, they traveled to Dallas to see their show. “We’ve been following them since they were small,” Brian commented. “We love all their songs.”

Troy, an Oklahoma resident, brought his young daughter to the show. “’Oklahoma Girl’ is obviously our favorite,” he said. “Their songs hit home with me. And as good as their CD’s are, they are even better live.”

Eli admits that their music is not what many would consider to be typical country. But he is thankful that they are not being pigeonholed.

“If you look back at Johnny Cash,” he said, “a lot of what he did would have been considered pop today. And for many people, that would have been blasphemous.”

What is Eli’s favorite song that they perform? “’Guinevere’ is my favorite without a doubt,” he bragged. “Every once in a while, you hear someone’s song and say ‘I wish I had written that.’ Well, that’s the song I’m glad I wrote.”

Eli traces his roots to his dad, who was a truck driver. Among his musical influences are Ronnie Milsap, Conway Twitty, and Rodney Crowell, his favorite.

Where does he hope he and his partners are in 30 years? “I hope we can be part of an idea that mainstream country music doesn’t have to fit in a certain box. And I really hope that we continue to make good music.”

For more information and tour dates, visit http://eliyoungband.com.

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