The Eli Young Band
The Eli Young Band Enlarge
Making a relationship of any kind last for nearly 20 years is commendable.
But to achieve that kind of longevity with a band is even more praiseworthy.
The Eli Young Band, which performs Friday at Promenade Park, is closing in quickly on the milestone.
“We still like each other,” lead vocalist Mike Eli says, chuckling. “We prioritize our relationship and try to remember that we are friends first. The business is the good part that comes out of our relationship.
The Eli Young Band’s story started at the University of North Texas in 1999, when Eli and James Young met as roommates. Eventually they met Chris Thompson and Jon Jones. The men became brothers at Sigma Nu fraternity, and during that time used the garage of another brother to jam late at night.
Long before “Crazy Girl” became the most-played song on country radio in 2011, the Eli Young Band had established a strong following on the Texas red dirt scene.
“It was just a thriving scene, and we were a part of that,” Eli says. “With that underground following, we were able to play clubs all across the U.S.”
But with the exception of “Always the Love Songs,” which was a top-10 hit, the band was largely ignored by radio, despite its growing legion of fans.
Life changed on a trip to the airport for Eli and Young.
“Liz Rose is one of our really great friends. She had sent [‘Crazy Girl’] to our label at the time,” Eli says. “James and I were heading home to Texas, and we put her CD in the Rent-A-Car and pushed play on ‘Crazy Girl.’ By the second verse, we looked at each other and said this is the one.”
The multiplatinum success of the single catapulted the band into headliner status.
“It changed everything. Our name became well-known and the gig possibilities were endless. We were able to play a lot of shows that we would not have had the opportunity to play before. It opened up the road to having more songs on the radio,” Eli says.
“Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and “Drunk Last Night” followed as No. 1 hits. “Say Goodnight” and “Dust” received wide radio play.
But then, just like that, the hit-makers were once again shoved to the back of the line by the hot new groups in Nashville: Brothers Osborne, Old Dominion, LANCO, and Midland. It has been close to four years since the Eli Young Band has had a radio hit, despite still being adored by fans.
“Things change, regimes change. It’s not like we didn’t expect it to change. You can go out there and work hard, and not everything works for radio. We focus on making good music, music that means something to us, to our core fan base, and people who buy tickets to our show. That’s what matters to us,” Eli says. “We understand that songs can be big for us, with or without radio. But we are a band that believes that our music can be played on radio.”
Eli thinks that radio will embrace the group’s latest single, “Love Ain’t,” the first release from what will be the Eli Young Band’s next project. The single is about what love should look like in a relationship, and Eli and his pals found an unexpected collaborator in the Wounded Warrior Project. The gripping emotional video centered on military veteran Taylor Morris and his wife, Danielle. Morris became a quadruple amputee because of an explosion in Afghanistan. Danielle dropped everything in her life to be by his side through rehabilitation.
“Someone from Wounded Warrior came to us and said, ‘I don’t know if you know anything about Taylor and Danielle Morris, but you should see their story because we think it is the epitome of a love story.’ And they were right,” Eli says. “They are absolutely one of the most amazing couples, a couple we should strive to be like.”
The involvement with Wounded Warrior has been particularly meaningful for members of the group, each of whom has family members serving in the military or members who previously served. Eli has two brothers in the Marines who were deployed overseas.
“Sometimes society forgets about these people. But that’s why Wounded Warrior is so important, because the struggle never ends for [veterans],” Eli says.
There is not a huge rush for the band to complete its first album since the release of Fingerprints a year ago. Artists today often release multiple singles before a complete album. Singles can gain a lot of traction on streaming services. The industry is much different than when the Eli Young Band hit the scene.
Whatever path the group travels, it is reassuring to Eli that the ride will include the same four guys who met as teenagers on the University of North Texas campus.
“We treat ourselves like our family,” Eli says. “We have a job where we get to hang out with our best friends and tour around the world. That’s a good day.”
The Eli Young Band, with opener The Tacketts, perform at the Promenade Park stage on Friday night. Gates open at 6:15 p.m. Tickets are $10 and available at ticketmaster.com, Ticketmaster locations, and at the gate.
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