By Annie Reuter
The Eli Young Band originally had no intention to release any new material this month. But the four members of the Texas-based group were recently in the studio working on music to follow up their 2014 release 10,000 Towns, and their label Republic Nashville immediately loved what they heard.
Now four of those brand-new songs are included on the group’s new EP Turn It On, which drops tomorrow (March 10).
“We felt like we were onto something as far as the next step as the Eli Young Band,” frontman Mike Eli tells Radio.com, sitting in his tour bus with his bandmates during a stop in Nashville, Tenn. for the 2015 Country Radio Seminar.
“We just recorded these songs in January, so it’s a fast turnaround,” Eli continued. “The label came in and heard what we were doing and really liked it and wanted to release the single and get it out as quick as possible. They really fast-tracked it, faster than anything we’ve ever done.”
We’re speaking on the Eli Young Band’s tour bus, which is parked outside Nashville honky tonk The Stage. Fittingly, current single and title track “Turn It On” was written on this very same bus by Eli, bandmate James Young and cowriters Rodney Clawson and Matt Dragstrem.
“I was actually sitting right here,” Eli says from the left window-seat booth on the bus. “It started off as this jangly Fleetwood Mac-sounding thing, and melodically it was somewhere vocally that I hadn’t gone before.” Eli calls the song “fun” and says that writing it on the bus helped give it that feel. “We knew it was going to be this fun tune to play live.”
The band all agree that they enjoy playing more upbeat music during their live show. So much so that they’ve been consciously trying to write and select songs that will work in a live setting. Eli says they’ve been testing out the new songs like “Turn It On” and “Drink You Up” on the road, and each song has been well-received.
“It’s always fun to see a song when nobody knows it, and [then] see the progression [once it reaches] radio and gets to where they start to sing it back to you,” Chris Thompson adds. “It’s an awesome feeling.”
“Drink You Up” has a distinct dance vibe, to which Thompson jokes, “Mike’s real into EDM.” While the beats are pretty much nonstop on “Drink You Up,” EYB’s serious side is showcased on the heartbreaking “Your Place Or Mine.” The song tells of two former lovers’ inability to move on from each other despite trying their best. “Giving into you isn’t such a crime/ What’s the harm in stealing one more night,” Eli sings.
While the four Eli Young Band bandmates are all happily married, Eli says they often draw from their past, “Your Place or Mine” being no exception.
“It’s fun to channel the old days in some songs,” Eli says. “We’ve all been in that relationship.”
Eli says that song in particular was “really fun to write, and there are some really cool lyrical moments that we were really happy with as we were writing it. The song draws from the old school music of the Eli Young Band, which is neat to incorporate into the evolution of where we’re going.”
Eli wrote the song with bandmate Jon Jones and songwriters Ross Copperman and Jeremy Stover. Of the track, he says he and Jones each ended up marrying a woman like the one in the song, and Jones agrees.
“My wife and I are married 14 years now,” Jones adds. “We dated through college, and then we took a break. Then there was a point before we got back together that we went through a ‘Your Place Or Mine’ kind of thing, where maybe we were getting back together because it was familiar. Even though it is a really sad song, maybe it does have a happy ending.”
He adds: “There’s something about the lyrics in that song, it’s a sentiment. Some of those feelings, especially of loss and heartbreak and the uncertainty after being in a relationship, those feelings are so powerful that it’s really easy to go back there, even if it’s years ago and it’s not your current situation. It’s that power of music, how a song can take you back somewhere.”
All four bandmates say they are excited to release their new music, noting that this is the first time in a long time that the songs are so fresh and new for both them and their audiences.
“Our last record [10,000 Towns] took painfully long, longer than it ever has before, and that I think put us in a great position to get us excited about this,” Jones says.
Eli is most excited for fans to hear “Plastic,” a song that talks of a woman’s natural beauty. He says he’s truly happy with how it turned out.
“As a songwriter you want to be a part of songs that you feel tread new territory, and I was really happy with the outcome of that song and being able to say what it says in the way it did,” he explains. “I think it could have been one of those songs that could go the other way, and I was really proud of a lot of those lyrics.”
The Eli Young Band’s Turn It On EP drops on Tuesday, March 10.