“10,000 Towns is one of those albums where we had ample time to make sure the songs that we were picking were the right songs for where we are in our career,” Eli Young Band frontman Mike Eli tells me during a call from the road on his way to a gig in Erie, Pennsylvania with Darius Rucker.
The nationally acclaimed country band, whose roots are planted firmly in Texas, is hitting the road hard in the coming months to promote its second album release on a major label. 10,000 Towns comes out March 4.
“We’re still these four young kids out on the road dreaming about playing shows,” says Mike Eli. - -
The four college friends, who met at University of North Texas, have come a long way since first forming in 2000. After 14 years of hard work, Eli Young Band plays high-energy shows on large stages across the country for its quickly growing fan base of national — and international — enthusiasts. The Texas country rockers have won an Academy of Country Music Award for Song of the Year for “Crazy Girl,” and scored three No. 1 hits — including “Drunk Last Night,” the first single off the new record.
“After being out on the road and playing as many shows as we have, we’ve become better musicians, better songwriters and better entertainers,” Eli explains. And despite growing older, getting married, and starting families, the quartet’s roots haven’t changed: “We’re still these four young kids out on the road dreaming about playing shows.”
Playing an increasing number of live shows on the road — and enhancing the entertainment value of those performances — was a driving factor for the content of the new record. “It’s so important that these are the best shows we’ve ever played,” Eli says. “If the record was missing something, we were guided by what we need for the live show.” The result is the most up-tempo album of the band’s career. “It’s the best record we’ve ever made,” he says. “It’s the most fun record we’ve ever made, definitely.”
The band didn’t shy away from harnessing the talents of some of Music Row’s songwriting heavy-hitters for its latest release. Title track “10,000 Towns” (co-written by Craig Wiseman, one of Nashville’s most successful songwriters in recent years) captures the Eli Young Band’s experience of traveling around the country playing music.
In addition to tapping into Nashville talent, the band also had a hand in writing seven of the album’s 11 tracks. “Prayer for the Road,” for instance, was inspired by a tradition of the bandmates’ wives. “James and I were talking about how our wives write us these little notes and leave them in our bags and then we find them down the road, and that was where the song started,” Eli explains.
With help from drummer Chris Thompson, bassist Jon Jones, along with Kyle Jacobs and Billy Montana, the song came to life. “It’s my favorite song on the record, so I think that we came out of that writing session really feeling like we knocked it out of the park.”
With the new album, the members of Eli Young Band hope to not only spread the word about the band’s music, but also put a greater spotlight on Texas-bred music. “There are a lot of incredible musicians and songwriters in Texas and I’ve always hoped what we do will further other people’s careers,” Eli says. “Our goal is to open doors for bands like us that will fight that regional struggle.”
10,000 Towns hits store shelves on Tuesday, March 4. The Eli Young Bland will play the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo in Austin on March 10.