The Eli Young Band has one big problem: Just like there's no Hootie and no Blowfish, there's no Eli Young. There's Mike Eli and James Young. There's Chris Thompson and Jon Jones, but no Eli Young.
It was Mike Eli, who grew up just outside of Houston, and James Young, from Irving, who started off as Eli Young in 1998. Thompson and Jones joined the duo later, making it the quartet we see today. Eli admits being in the music business is tough, but if the biggest problem the band has is that people don't quite understand its name, that's fine.
"A lot of people mistake Eli Young as one person. Eventually when we get to a certain point [of recognition], people will understand that Eli Young is the band, not a person. Once they begin to get to know the music, they'll get it," he says. "And there are other things to worry about. It's not that big a deal."
Eli Young Band
Those "other things to worry about" include touring constantly, getting their new CD on the charts and fitting into the stew that is Texas music, all while not getting bored singing the same set list every show.
"The great thing about this job is that we are doing something that we absolutely love to do," says Eli. "There are songs that are just now becoming popular that we've been playing forÉyears, and yeah, it can get oldÉbut you get to do different things with it every night. 'When It Rains' is a big song for us right now; if you see us play it tonight and then you see us play it two weeks from now, [you'll see it's a little different].
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"That's how we keep ourselves from going stir-crazy, by changing things up a bit. We try to keep the enthusiasm for a song. There's nothing better than looking out into an audience and seeing them sing your songs back to you. Sometimes even louder and more enthusiastically than we're singing it. Really, how can you get bored with an audience that is so into your music?
"And yeah, it's hard to be on the road so much, but it's just what we want to do. 'Small Town Kid' is a huge song for us; whether or not I'm going to be able to sing it with an incredible amount of passion when I'm 35 years old, that's a completely different thing. I can tell you that 30 or 40 years from now, I'll still want to be performing. Forty years from now, when we have families and we've given 99 percent of our time to our career, by that time I'm sure we'll be ready to go on vacation for a little while, but we'd [never give up] performing altogether."
Eli Young's newest CD, Live at the Jolly Fox, is set to be released mid-November. Jolly Fox is a collection of their trademark sound that they call "a little bit country and a helluva lot of guitar-driven rock and roll." So, is it Texas rock? Is it roots rock? Country-alt? What label does Eli think fits?
"Our music, a lot of people feel, is completely different than the majority of the bands that are touring in this scene. A lot of our music doesn't necessarily blend in with a lot of the other artists here in Texas. But that's the great thing about being here, that that doesn't matter." The Eli Young Band performs Saturday, October 21, at Ziegenbock Music Festival at the Sam Houston Race Park, 7575 N. Sam Houston Parkway West. Admission is free. Call 281-807-8700 for more info. For more info about the band, visit www.eliyoung.net.