The Eli Young Band have come a long way in the last decade — from scraping by in college bars in Denton, Texas, to their first gold-certified single, “Crazy Girl.” They’re far from slowing down, but on their new album, Life at Best, the band can finally say they’re living their wildest dreams.
Produced by Mike Wrucke and Frank Liddell, the team famous for capturing Miranda Lambert’s sound, Life at Best delivers a new sense of maturity while still bringing all the energy loved by the band’s growing legion of fans. “Crazy Girl” is included on the album, as well as a diverse group of songs that range from passionate ballads to inspirational rockers. And since all of the success surrounding “Crazy Girl” happened before the record even came out, the band members are especially fired up about the project.
The four bandmates — singer Mike Eli, guitarist James Young, bassist Jon Jones and drummer Chris Thompson — stopped by the CMT offices recently to reflect on the “Crazy Girl” phenomenon, discuss their favorite parts of Life at Best and explain why getting older just means you can sing mushier songs.
CMT: Has the success of “Crazy Girl” been really surprising?
Mike Eli: We had a feeling that “Crazy Girl” was gonna be a cool song for us. Mainly our fans were reacting in a huge way to the song. But the fact that it’s gone gold before the album release is huge. We never expected that.
James Young: And we’re seeing a much bigger impact than with “Always the Love Songs” as far as going into new markets that we’ve never been in and just having amazing crowds of people. And also with people going back, like finding “Crazy Girl” and starting to get into our back catalog. So we’re just really thankful that all that’s going on.
What have girls been telling you about that song?
Chris Thompson: On Twitter and Facebook, we get a lot of females posting like, “If I ever find the guy that will sing ’Crazy Girl’ to me, that’s the guy I’m going to marry.”
Young: That’s the most common statement on Twitter, “If a guy ever sang this to me, I’d be his in a heartbeat.”
Jon Jones: So, if you’re looking for a song to sing … (laughs)
How excited are you about Life at Best?
Jones: Extremely. I think this is the record we’re most proud of. It’s been a long time coming, a long time since Jet Black and Jealous [released in 2008] and actually a long time since we recorded all these songs. So we’re super stoked that it’s coming out.
How good of a feeling is it to still be here doing what you love?
Eli: Oh, it’s great. Our dream has always been to make a living with music. Luckily, we get to live that dream. So it feels great to know that our career has continued to make these small baby steps, and as long as we’re building a strong foundation of fans that will stick with us and continue to buy our records, it feels awesome.
Young: I think we had a lot to prove when we started out, and we’ve finally got them convinced that we’re not going anywhere any time soon.
Eli: So you either play our music, or we keep knocking on your door. (laughs)
You’ve said this record is your favorite one. Is that just a product of experience?
Eli: I definitely think that over time you get better at what you do, and I think with this record, we learned from some of our mistakes in the past with recording. … And we really love that we got to put so many songs on this record.
Thompson: Going into it, we had more songs to pick from than we’ve ever had. So that was a fun — and frustrating — process to go through.
What can you tell me about “Say Goodnight”? What’s the idea behind that song?
Eli: We actually didn’t write “Say Goodnight.” It was John Paul White, who’s part of the Civil Wars. We really just fell in love with that melody and the whole idea of it. We’re older than we were when we made that first record. Back then, when you’re 18, you kind of think in one direction — ’Where’s the nearest bar, and do they have a drink special.’ (laughs) So as time goes on, your priorities change and you want to sing about different things. Some of us recently got married and some of us are getting married, so we kind of think differently. I think that 10 years ago that sentiment may not have been our first priority.
Jones: We would have looked foolish singing that song 10 years ago. It’s a love song, but I guess it’s a more passionate song than we’ve had on a record before. We’ve grown into it.
Is it a little more mushy?
Eli: Yeah, and we’ve had mushy love songs before, even on our first record, but to us, it kind of feels more like a relationship that is long term, and we definitely weren’t thinking long term relationships when we were 18. And, it’s my wife’s favorite song, so …