On balancing family and music, the long road to success, and the much anticipated new album.
By Fresno Flyer Staff
Eli Young Band continues to evolve musically in fresh and exciting ways. Their new single, “Skin & Bones,” is currently spinning on Sirius XM’s The Highway. With a trio of platinum and multi-platinum #1 hits like “Drunk Last Night,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and “Crazy Girl” under their belts, their last album 10,000 TOWNS ranked #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, landed a coveted Top 5 spot on the Billboard 200 and claimed the #1 spot on the iTunes Country Albums chart.
Eli Young Band will be performing at the Rodeo Grounds in Clovis on April 28th as part of the events surrounding the 2017 Wrangler Gold Tour. Jon Jones of Eli Young Band, talked to The Fresno Flyer about the new album set to release this summer, where they’ve been, where they’re going, and a request to any openers who cover one of their songs.
I’ve noticed that you guys have some fairs and festivals on the tour this year all across your schedule, has that been a big part of the tours over the years?
JJ: It has been. This is when the festival/fair season starts ramping up. It’s a lot of fun, it’s been a really fun way for us to see the country and get a taste for not just the landscape but also the people. I think you get a really good cross section who come out to a lot of the fairs.
Is the energy real different between being in an outside venue/festival versus being in a club?
JJ: It is. And I think this is going to be a really fun year for us because we were trying to mix it up quite a bit. So we might play a festival or fair one day and then we’ll play a club the next day, and then like a little theater the next, so it really keeps it interesting for us.
You guys actually have a show tonight (4/14) in Wichita Falls, TX so are you on the road now?
JJ: We are. I am in the bus, in the back of the bus, right now. We only live a few hours from Wichita Falls so it’s kind of a backyard show for us tonight.
So is tonight the kickoff to the tour?
JJ: We’ve [actually] got just 2 shows this weekend and then [we go] back home. The best thing about the way we’re touring this year is that I don’t think we’ll be out more than a week or two ever. We’ll stay out probably once or twice for more than a week, but I’ve got a 4-month-old daughter at home and we all have young kids, so we’ve kind of scaled back. We tour kind of all year, it never really stops but we fly home almost every week. So it’s kind of a different way of touring than what a lot of artists do.
Yea sounds like you’re able to incorporate both being close to your families while still being able to do music and tour all year round. That’s pretty awesome.
JJ: Yea it [is]. When we were younger and we were just out of college there was no problem leaving home for 3 months, it was kind of nice but life is different now. I think we’ve done a good job of figuring out the ways in which we want to grow up and still kind of acting like kids on the road sometimes when we want to. I think if you’re going to choose music as your life you have got to be able to find a balance and still have a life.
Do you guys have any pre-show rituals, anything that helps you get ready for the stage or before you go on tour?
JJ: It doesn’t really help us get pumped up, but we do like to have a moment of calm… like we’ll clear the bus and make sure it’s just us for the last half hour or 45min before the set and just talk about anything we need to go through for the show, listen to some music… nothing too intense, we like for it to be a little down time, a little private time.
I read in an interview some years back that when you guys were first getting started you played some really long sets that were mostly cover songs and hardly any original music… do you guys ever come across other bands who are covering you now?
JJ: Haha yea. We have had a lot of bands, especially around Texas and wherever there are cover bands that cover other regional acts that are from around there… but they’ll open up for us and talk about the songs they love of ours that are the ones they cover. It’s such a great form of flattery, but I have yet to hear any of them try to play it live before us. That would be a fun thing, I think that if you can cover one of our songs and you’re opening up for us you should have to play it, just for fun.
That would be so nerve-wracking, I’m sure.
JJ: [laughs] Probably.
Is there anything from those early years that you guys have held on to as far as your writing style or writing methods that you’re still using today?
JJ: Actually, on this record that ‘Skin & Bones’ is the current single for and will be out this summer. I think a lot of this upcoming record we went back to our roots in the sounds we were going for in the studio of wanting it to be less layering, less experimenting and just back to bass, drums, guitar, a little bit of organ.. you know, the foundation of where we started. The stuff that we were really into when we were younger that helped us build a big fan base. I feel like in terms of songwriting we’ve come a really long way as far as getting better at it but… I know that there are some fantastic songwriters out there who have a method that works for them every time, we just continue to try every little thing and see what works.
That’s really great. Fans really tend to rally up bigger than usual when they hear one of their favorite bands went back to their roots again. So that’s awesome to hear that you guys did that with the album coming out this summer.
JJ: Thank you, we’ll see if it holds true. Until it’s in the fan’s hands… they will really let us know how we’ve done. I’m excited for that process.
What’s one of the biggest things you know now about doing music that you wish you would have known then?
JJ: Oh man. It’s a long, long road and just to slow down and enjoy it sometimes. I love the way we’ve done it, meaning I love our missteps and successes. I think we’ve learned to embrace both and realize that there’s going to be a handful of both. I have a lot of respect for people that go on American Idol and win and then can maintain a successful career without the background of hitting the road and having to play night after night in clubs and really grind your teeth doing it the way we did it. Because it’s tough, I think if you go at it slowly you learn a lot of things along the way that you really can’t learn any other way. I’m glad we did it the slow way, but it takes a long time. It definitely takes a long time.
What is something that bands have available to them today that you would have loved to have when you guys were getting started?
JJ: Digital recording. You can make a really good sounding record if you want to take the time you could do it on the road or you could do it during the day before the show. Back when we were starting you’d demo a song with a little 4-track recorder and that was it. Now the technology is so much better. And cell phones, the fact that I can FaceTime and be so connected at home… I wish I would have had that.
This next question is for a bass player specifically… what’s your stance on playing with a pick?
JJ: I used to be totally against it. It’s changed over the years, I think it has a time and a place. I think on the last record, or maybe the one before was the first time I actually used a pick in the studio and it felt so foreign. I started violin first when I was really young, then guitar, then bass and I’ve been on bass since high school, it’s been my focus for a long long time and yeah, I was definitely a purist, fingers only. But there is something about the texture of playing with a pick the way it stands out and cuts through the music a little bit differently where I’m not against it. I don’t think you should always play with a pick, but I do think it has a time and a place. And oh, I would’ve shot myself in my younger years if I knew I would say that one day.
There are 4 stops through California on the tour, Santa Ynez, Riverside, Turlock, and of course Clovis. However, San Francisco and LA don’t get any dates. Was this strategy or preference?
JJ: That’s just the way that we’re touring this year. Because we are flying in and out quite a bit and not stringing weeks and weeks together at a time that we’ll anchor out of one show and then do a couple of shows around that and then fly home. Buses will move on and then we’ll fly back in and do a few more shows. I think it’s just the manner in which we’re touring this year.
Skin & Bones was the track released in February and you guys are starting to talk about the new album coming out in the summer, but there’s no date picked out for that?
JJ: There is a date that we haven’t announced yet, but it should be announced soon… It’s just that weird period where they’ve got a plan for rolling everything out. This is where the band just kind of sits back and realize how little control we have over our careers [laughs] The record has been done almost a year now, it’s been that frustrating part [of waiting for] everything to line up, but we’re almost there.
**UPDATE** Eli Young Band’s new album ‘Fingerprints’ is available June 16, 2017.
For tickets to upcoming shows and news about the release of Eli Young Band’s newest album visit www.EliYoungBand.com.