Although the members of Eli Young Band are now based in Nashville, they met in Denton, while attending the University of North Texas.
Ahead of appearances back in Texas (Dallas, Mar 13 and the Austin Rodeo, Mar 17), we recently talked to the band’s guitarist, James Young, about his career and the back story to this successful country music foursome.
How did Eli Young Band first get started?
We were all music majors starting out at North Texas. Jon and I sat next to each other in theory class and, once we got to meet each other, he would help me study for exams. Needless to say, I think he got a better grade than I did. I didn’t stick with it for long and switched to another degree, which is the route we all took there toward the end.
We had all grown up playing in garage bands and missed it. We would play wherever we could, without getting in trouble with the noise. Eventually, Jon and Chris moved out of the dorms and rented a house in Denton. We made up a jam room, and that’s where we would practice. We all met Mike a year later, and the rest is history.
What do you love about what you do?
I am blessed by the fact that what I love to do is also what provides for me and my family. We have also gotten to tour the world and be a part of a lot of awesome things, all in the name of music. I think, to a degree, we all wanted a career in music – so yes, we took it very seriously. But we also had a lot of fun in those early days and didn’t expect anything to come our way on a silver platter. It just happened organically over many years.
What is your most memorable gig?
That’s a tough one because there have been so many! As far as venues go, I’d have to say Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado is one that stands out – along with the overseas shows we did for the military. Those will always be my favorites. Touring stadiums with Kenny Chesney is still my favorite tour we have done. You never knew what celebrity, athlete or music star was going to be side stage watching the show.
You’ve had some impressive songs and awards over the years. Talk about your recent single, “Break It In.”
We didn’t write that one, but it really hit home—on a few levels—the moment I heard it. First, we’re entering our 20th year together as a band, so it feels like we are just breaking this thing in and entering another chapter! We’re also all dads now, and I had just finished showing my son how to put on a ball glove and play catch when I heard the song. So, that first line had me right away.
The band’s been together for two decades, what’s the most significant thing you’ve learned?
It doesn’t come easy, but perseverance and staying the course pays off! Also, listening and following the advice of the people outside the band that you have trusted to steer your career forward. We’ve cherished our fans from day one, and the newer fans that may just be finding out about us, we appreciate them too. We couldn’t do what we do if no one showed up to hear us play!
What is the most important thing you would want your fans to know about EYB?
We love what we do, and that dream was all made a reality when the fans started listening to our music and coming to the shows. We never take that for granted.
What do you do in your spare time?
Spare time is few and far between these days, due to kiddos. I get to be a kid again, which is fun. Our family loves the outdoors, so usually we are outside on the trampoline or zip lining, swimming, etc. I love DIY stuff too, so I am always trying to tackle stuff around the house that needs improving or make projects up to do.
What do you hope the future holds for you as a group?
Here’s to the next twenty years and more. We strive for longevity in this business, and we’ve been blessed.
Cover photo courtesy Cal Quinn
Bob Valleau is a freelance writer living in McKinney, Texas.