EYB is a four-piece band out of Denton, Texas, although none of the members is actually named Eli Young. The group’s brand is actually a conjunction of two guys’ names: lead singer Mike Eli and guitarist James Young. But if you were to meet them at a concert, it’s a good bet that they wouldn’t take offense at being addressed incorrectly.
“Just by the nature of the fact that our name is the Eli Young Band, everybody automatically assumes that Mike’s name is Eli Young,” notes bass player Jon Jones. “I guess we set ourselves up in a way for that, so Mike’s always quick to correct people that his name is Mike Eli and we are a band.”
It’s actually a pretty good time to be a band in country music. Five of the Top 20 singles on the Billboard chart are by bands: Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, The Band Perry, Rascal Flatts and the Zac Brown Band. And Sugarland, which is now a duo, originally started as a three-person group.
Country wasn’t always so supportive of bands. Thirty years ago this month, Alabama earned its first No. 1 single with “Tennessee River.” Prior to that, Nashville had been kind of hands-off on the topic, in great part because label executives were fearful of groups that break up right when they start to succeed.
For the Eli Young Band, that’s unlikely to happen. The group, which also includes drummer Chris Thompson, celebrates its 10th anniversary this fall. The guys were already friends before they started playing together, and they’re all invested in success after working for little or no money for a long, long time. Their most recent album, Jet Black And Jealous, was their first to hit the Top 10, and they’ve done most of the work on their next album with producers Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke — the same team that works with Miranda Lambert.
“Our goal is to beat the last record,” Jon says. “Everybody has their own opinion, but I think the record’s gonna exceed our expectations. We’re really excited about it. I don’t think anybody is more excited than us to get back and hear the final product.”