Eli Young Band: Taking Flight

In the Dec. 29 issue of Country Weekly, the members of the Eli Young Band talk about their quick rise in the country music world and their new album, Jet Black and Jealous. Here are a few online-only outtakes from our chat with lead singer Mike Eli, guitarist James Young, bass player Jon Jones and drummer Chris Thompson:

On Career Progress

MIKE
I never would have survived the last eight years of my life if the four of us weren’t always thinking that something cool was right around the corner, whether it was getting a new cool gig or getting a new van. Two years into what we were doing, we were still traveling in a couple of trucks and caravanning to the shows. Then I traded in my truck for our first van. Now five vans later. . .
JON
And hopefully the next single [“Always the Love Songs”] will be a mega-hit.
JAMES
And then the next single.

On the Release of Jet Black and Jealous

JON
It’s something we have to keep in perspective, what a big goal it has been and how much work has really gone into it. We’re doing so much that it’s hard to keep in perspective what a cool juncture this is for us.
JAMES
We’ve always felt like what we’ve written and the kind of music we make will appeal to a bunch of people, so we’re excited about having an outlet that will bring it to people.
MIKE
We’ve had some of these songs for a while now, so we’ve been itching to get this record out for a long time.
CHRIS
Some of them we’ve been playing live for two years.
MIKE
A lot of our current fans know these songs, they’ve been hearing them live for two years and they haven’t had an album. They’ve been living off of YouTube and board tapes that make it somehow to the Internet.
JAMES
We’re pretty much a band built on word of mouth, so we embrace all that.
MIKE
Until it’s a bad show. Then we want every tape destroyed!

On Opening for the Dave Matthews Band Last Summer

JAMES
Dave was really cool. He brought us out onstage every night and joked around with us. Got the crowd pumped up to see us. It was a very cool experience for us.
JON
Instead of thinking, “We’re playing in front of a rock crowd,” we think, “We’re playing in front of a lot of new fans that haven’t been exposed to us before. So if we can only play 45 minutes, what’s the best 45 minutes to let them know who we are, as opposed to an hour and a half when we can let them know a lot more about us?”
JON
We were with them the last show before [Dave Matthews Band saxophonist LeRoi Moore] passed away [August 19]. The day after we played in Dallas, Dave flew to L.A., which was where he was in the hospital. I’m really glad we weren’t on tour, because it would have felt like we were in the way. They’ve got such a tight-knit family; for having 80-some people, everybody’s really close. It was a really heartbreaking day for us when we all heard about it. It’s a band we’ve loved for so long, and he was an original member. That really hits home with us.

On Touring

MIKE
We make records to play shows. It seems like there’s artists out there who will make a record and they’re good with going out and playing 20 shows a year or less. We do this because we want to go play shows. We’re still young and we enjoy being out on the road. We enjoy the audience, we enjoy the lifestyle.
JON
And we still enjoy spending time with each other. We still have our sanity and our friendships intact. Right, guys?
CHRIS
I’ll see you in hell!

On the Ambiguous Meaning of Their Album Title

MIKE
This album is a pretty emotional album. When we were talking about different album names, we felt like Jet Black and Jealous was the perfect title for the record. A lot of the record is just open to interpretation. A lot of the music we grew up with, it wasn’t so cut and dried.
JAMES
A lot of the songs we write and pick aren’t hit-you-over-the-head obvious. We want people to take what they want from it by listening to the song. It’s awesome to hear fans’ interpretations of different songs.

On Shooting Their “When It Rains” Video

MIKE
It was a warehouse just outside of Nashville. They filled it full of water. It was a little more work than we thought it was going to be, but it was fun to make. [The directors] captured our vision. We didn’t want a video that looked like everything else. We wanted it to be different and reflect the way that song is. It’s a very different song.
JAMES
We were there from sunup to sundown. It was a really cool experience to see the whole vision come together.
JON
There was a video crew filming the shooting, so you also have those cameras. CMT had a crew out there. There were also photographers. But the camera loves me.

On Promoting Themselves to Radio Stations

JAMES
It’s a whole different world, and it’s a world that we didn’t know a whole lot about when we started. We’ve been versed in it pretty good in the last three or four months.
CHRIS
It’s definitely been a trial by fire.
MIKE
We just have to remind ourselves to go in there and be ourselves and give them who we are. If we try to be someone we’re not, they’re going to see right through that. If we went in there and we were being true to ourselves and our music and they don’t like it, that’s all we can do. It’s hard to make that happen. Everybody’s looking to you like, “All right, don’t mess this up.”
JAMES
That’s all right, dude, because we’re the best band ever.

For more on Eli Young, check out the Dec. 29 issue of Country Weekly.

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