Eli Young Band have come a long way since their garage band days, but the Texas natives have not forgotten their roots. On Sunday evening (Oct. 9) the band performed to a sold-out crowd at Nashville’s Exit/In for 500 hundred eager fans. In an interview with Sounds Like Nashville before the concert, they discussed their early days driving to Nashville from Texas and feeling like they didn’t quite belong.
“Being a band from Texas and playing Nashville for so many years was one of the most intimidating things you could do as a band,” Jon Jones admits, settling into a bench on their tour bus. “There were so many times we’d drive up with our van and trailer to do a show or showcase and I feel like we always left so deflated. This town seemed like a world away from where we were.”
Then in college and building their fan base the grassroots way in Texas, he says Nashville felt so foreign. Over the years, they eventually felt like part of the community in Music City and cite Exit/In as one of their favorite venues to play.
“This venue has such a great vibe to it. There are a lot of other places in town that really feel like a showcase room where it’s hard to get any kind of energy. It’s like writing in a cubical, it’s hard to be creative in,” he explains. “Here it always felt more like the places we played when we got started. Everybody’s crammed in on top of you. It’s always a lot of fun.”
Those attending Eli Yong Band’s show on Sunday sang along during every hit and listened intently during their new songs, which will be released on their forthcoming album. The band kicked off their performance with one of those new songs — a sexy, guitar driven track called “Fingerprints” that the band says has given new energy to their set. Afterward, they’d transport back in time to their 2008 single “Always the Love Songs” and “When It Rains” before an impressive cover of David Lee Murphy’s “Dust On the Bottle” that had the packed venue screaming along word for word.
“We appreciate you guys for coming out tonight,” frontman Mike Eli said five songs into their set. “Thank you for skipping the debate. That is all I have to say about that I promise.”
The night included two more new songs while the band shared their excitement for their upcoming record that they’ve been working on. Their latest single, “Saltwater Gospel,” was one of the evening’s highlights as a gospel choir backed the band during their performance of the song, transforming the venue into a church while they sang “Amen” in unison. Meanwhile, the anthemic and earworm of a new song, “Drive” left an impression with catchy whoa-oh-oh’s that brought to mind old-school EYB as the band sang of a late night joyride.
After telling the crowd that he hopes they will think of Eli Young Band and smile when recalling how they got drunk last night, the band fittingly launched into “Drunk Last Night.” While previous singles like “Crazy Girl,” “Dust” and “Guinevere” had the audience entranced, it was their No. 1 hit “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” that had the most screams. Prefacing the song, Eli explained how his parents took him to see Garth Brooks for the first time when he was 10 years old. It was in that moment that he decided music was what he wanted to do with his life.
“As you could imagine, they had two very different reactions,” Eli recalls. “Mom on one hand she said, ‘Son, you go out there and you follow your dream. If anybody can do it, you can.’ Dad on the other hand was not so graceful. He said, ‘Son, the last 10 years of your life I’ve been working three jobs for you to have an opportunity to go to college. You go to college and make something of yourself. I promise the good Lord right here, right now, if you do not go to college I will kick your ass.'”
So, Eli went to college and within the first week he met his future bandmates and they started Eli Young Band. Dedicating the song to “all you dreamers out there,” the entire venue erupted in a sing along proving a dream can take you much further than the garage.