Last month, the Eli Young Band released their latest collection of songs, ‘Life at Best.’ Fans and peers gravitated toward the new music from one of country music’s hottest bands, and gave the group their charting position debut at No. 3 on Billboard and No. 1 on iTunes. The album’s current single, ‘Crazy Girl,’ continues to make its way up the country singles chart and has already become their first gold single. ‘Crazy Girl’ has been the Eli Young Band’s fastest-rising single to date and has averaged sales of 25,000 downloads a week, every week, since its release.
This fall, the Eli Young Band will be linking up with Dierks Bentley on his Country and Cold Cans Tour, also featuring Jerrod Niemann. The tour will criss-cross the country for close to two months, hitting some of the larger markets for country music. Taste of Country was able to snag some time with EYB’s drummer, Chris Thompson, before taking his walk down the aisle with bride-to-be Candace, to talk about the new album, their new single and life as one of music’s hottest touring bands around.
‘Life at Best’ has been a huge success straight out of the box. Did you have any idea the songs on the album would have the impact it has on your fan base?
There’s a lot of passion in this record. This is one of the most autobiographical records from the songwriting standpoint that we’ve ever put out. Some songs on ‘Life at Best’ were written before we put out our independent record, ‘Level.’ They are songs that were written around 2003 or 2004, all the way up to the time that we were actually in the studio. We were finishing songs there. There’s a huge span of time that’s represented on ‘Life at Best,’ and for that reason, it really feels like it kind of tells the story of the band.
Musically, I feel like we are at our best in the studio. We were finally achieving the sound and the musical ideas that we had been trying to find through all of our studio records. From a fan standpoint and almost a business standpoint, it almost feels like everything is coming to a head … all cylinders are firing off at the same time. The fans that have been with us since 2000 to the fans that found us with ‘Always the Love Songs’ or the people who are just now finding ‘Crazy Girl’ and becoming fans of the band. It seems they are all staying with us and getting behind this record. It’s a really, really exciting time for us.
Looking ahead to the next album, do you feel any pressure that you have to top ‘Life at Best’?
Not really. We’re all writers, and we also have a lot of friends that we believe in that are excellent songwriters. When we started recording ‘Life at Best,’ we started picking through 40 or 50 songs. We still have other songs that we could go out and record today that we believe in and that we love. I guess the pressure’s relieved by knowing that ‘Life at Best’ has afforded us the opportunity to record another record and to keep on going down this path that we started years ago.
Compare the music on ‘Life at Best’ to some of your previously released albums.
I think this record we can compare easily to our ‘Level’ record, which is our second record. It was our first real go at it in a real studio with a producer. There’s sort of an attitude on that record that I think can be found on ‘Life at Best,’ too. That record we kept fairly bare bones. We wanted a lot of that stripped down rock to come through, but still have some strong melodies and lyrics that people can relate to. I think all that can be found on ‘Life at Best.’ That’s really what we were going for, more than pushing some studio tricks and some things like that that we tried on ‘Jet Black and Jealous.’ This record may be almost a step back for us … back to our roots.
The recording process was quite unique, as you basically lived in the studio while recording. Did that help keep it a comfortable atmosphere?
We recorded at Dark Horse Studios in Franklin, Tenn., which is about an hour outside of Nashville. It’s basically a studio made of cabins out in the countryside, so you go out there and you live there. You wake up in the morning, get your cup of coffee and walk into the studio. When you’re done at the studio, you walk into your cabin and hang out [laughs]! It makes for a really, really comfortable environment. [Our producer] Mike Wrucke knows how to push us and definitely get the best out of us. He’s an old friend of ours, and he’s a pleasure to work with. So there is that comfort level, too.
‘Crazy Girl’ has been an incredible single for you guys. Did you have any idea it would have the amount of success it has?
‘Crazy Girl’ has moved up the charts faster than any single we’ve ever put out before, and it’s sold more copies than anything we’ve put out before [laughs]! It’s become our first gold single, which is a cool milestone. It’s one of those things that I don’t think any of us have ever thought about having before. It’s just one of those things that you hear other artists get. It’s kind of like white noise. Then all of a sudden the label calls and says this thing is going to go gold. We were like, “Woah!” [laughs].
The song was co-written by Lee Brice. Some artists before have said that having an artist as a writer is almost a turn-off because they think the song wasn’t “good enough” for that artist to cut. Did you guys have any of those feelings prior to cutting the song?
Lee Brice has been a friend of ours for a while. John, our bass player, actually wrote another song on ‘Life at Best’ with Lee and another writer named Kyle Jacobs. The song’s called ‘I Love You.’ So we’ve all written with Lee and have gotten to know him really well. When you start making a record, publishers start sending you songs of their artists. We’re songwriters, so we’re critical of the songs, but every now and then you get that gem. We all liked it. I think when you have a song that can play on a simple theme like love, which has been written about time and time again, but it has that nice little twist to it — that’s what really makes a song great. We all identified with that when we heard the song from the get-go. Having a relationship with Lee definitely helped because if we’re going to cut an outside song, we like it to be by somebody that we know or have a relationship with, as opposed to some guy we’ve never met. We actually had to convince Lee to let us cut ‘Crazy Girl.’ When we got sent his demo of it, he was working on his record. He was planning on putting it on his record. We called him and said, “Hey man, we’ve got to cut this song … we love this song.” He graciously let us take it and cut it. I don’t think he’s very upset about it or anything [laughs]!
You guys are definitely road warriors who are always touring. How do you balance having a personal life with being gone as much as you are?
It’s funny … I think that every conversation any of us has with any family member always starts with, “Well where are you today? What city are you in now?” We’ve been a touring act for the better part of a decade. I think we just love playing live. We get out there, and there’s an energy of getting in front of a live audience that knows your songs and sing your songs. It’s always been fun for us. We always say that we make records to go out and play live. Fortunately, this record and every record that we’ve put out in the past has afforded us the opportunity to get out and continue touring. It seems like ‘Crazy Girl’ and the rest of ‘Life at Best’ is getting us out to these cities that we’ve never been able to travel to before. We’re playing further and further away from home which is exciting for us, but it also means that we have less and less time at home. Our personal lives have to be managed properly. It gets hard, but I think fortunately our families understand what we do. We really couldn’t have done it without the support of our families early on. They’ve always been there and have supported us. I think they get it, and they’re happy for us, even if our relationship is kind of streamlined down to some phone calls here and there.
This story from TasteofCountry.com.