Mile High Feedback had the chance to talk with Mike Eli of Eli Young Band, and got an inside look at their summer of 2017, life on the road and the making and release of their latest album, Fingerprints.
Life on the road is anything but solitary. Touring with fellow band mates, road assistants, possibly managers and maybe even family members leaves little room for private and quiet conversations. This is something that Mike Eli, lead singer of the Eli Young Band, has been groomed an expert in navigating. Soundcheck is in full swing, drums banging different notes and shouts to and from the soundboard, Eli wanders about backstage to find a space to collect his thoughts and allow us to steal a glimpse into his life.
By Veronica Lee
Currently in Detroit Lakes, MN, for WE FEST Country Music Festival, the band is in full swing and mid-tour. Eli Young Band knows this part of the cycle very well; on the heels of releasing Fingerprints, their fourth major label album, life on the road is the new normal again. “It’s been a busy, busy summer for us, a little bit busier than normal. We’ve been out on the road a lot,” Mike tells. “We’ve been promoting the new record and that mixed in with festival season has made it a busy summer.” Primarily headlining shows with a few of the big summer festivals, such as WE FEST, has made for a lot of time away from home.
Gearing up for festivals require a different kind of energy, Eli confesses. “You get a mixture of some folks who aren’t necessarily always familiar (with your music),” and these big music festivals often last several days and are long weekends. “It’s a big party! Everybody’s out, sometimes they’ve taken the weekend off and are camping and kind of letting loose in a different way,” he describes. The dynamic is different, “It’s not like they’re going out on a Friday night to The Rose, for some folks this is their one time a year where they go out and listen to music.” However, the band definitely looks forward to playing their own headlining shows most and are ready and excited to be playing a big gig here in Denver at The Grizzly Rose this August.
Since the bands formation in the year 2000, when Mike Eli was college roommates with James Young at The University of Northern Texas, this is the life they’ve all dreamed of living. Eli explains, “We get to play music. Growing up, all four of us in the band, dreamed about playing music and that being our jobs. That whole idea of being able to provide for your family by just playing music is a pretty incredible thing.” And the band has done just that, made a lasting career not by writing and performing great music that is adored by their extensive fan base. They recognize that it has taken a team of people and a support system that believes in the project. “We’ve got a lot of folks that have been on our side helping us make it happen, everything that we’ve done has been built on the shoulders of our early fans and these folks that have stuck with us for so long.” In addition to fans, he includes management and publicist got behind Eli Young Band and believed in them from the beginning. Fingerprints, in many ways, is an ode and a thank you to the people that have been able to make their career as successful and lasting as it has. “One of the ideas why we went with Fingerprints was because they left their impression on us and helped up build this.” And, now with the music leaving its impression on fans and listeners, Fingerprints can take on an entirely different meaning.
Looking back; creating, writing, and recording the album Fingerprints feels like a look back in many ways and is a reclaiming of Eli Young Band. “Our priority was finding our sound again. We were doing a lot of experimentation with different directions,” Eli explains. “The EP and the project with Andy Grammer was a lot of fun, but when we got to the moment when we needed to buckle down and record, it was more about finding that earlier passion.” He references their big tracks like “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and “Crazy Girl”, and even earlier records like Level, as being the sound they were reimagining. “It was about finding those sounds and being that band again, I think that’s what this record was.” And with the success of the first two single releases off Fingerprints, they have proven they can do just that.
“Saltwater Gospel and Never Land showcased a bit of the extremes on the records,” Eli explains how they both felt deeply poignant and personal for the band. “Saltwater was a perfect first single, we like water and love the outdoors, so I think that song spoke to us in a very passionate way.” He gets lost in thought as he describes the awe of seeing the ocean and knows this is a deeply resonating feeling within the entire band.
“Never Land was one of those neat play on words,” and with these lyrics it’s easy to see how that story can unfold in a different way.
It feels like gravity just doesn’t exist/I’m faling for you, falling like I’ll never land
“We never go fully Peter Pan on the song but it’s more about falling in love and finding that feeling that is really hard to find.”
The band has now is in the middle of exploring a release of the deeply personal story Eli tells, Skin & Bones, a love story. “My wife and I have been together for so long, the influence of each other on each other, it’s crazy.” He describes how there comes a point when it’s difficult to decipher between where she begins and he ends, and he goes on to say what had inspired him to explore that deeper. “How much you’ve changed because of each other and how much of your life is one life, that was one of those ideas that I wanted to write for her but wanted to find the right way to write it.”
Every engine needs a spark, yeah/And she’s the fire that’s kept me goin,/She’s in my skin and bones
“I wanted people to feel like there was an honesty to it, because it’s not all roses and I feel like that song has that honesty in it and yet still endearing.”
What is most endearing, though, is how Eli explains some of the sacrifices that can come from living out ones dream. “You’ve got to weigh the good with the bad,” Eli tells, “I’m a dad, being away from home can sometimes be no fun.” Eli has a five-year-old, while James Young (the second half of the original Eli Young duo) also has a little one as well. There is a silver lining, though, “The kiddos have been able to come out on the road with us a little bit,” and that has been important. He laughs, though, as he explains that to most kids this may seem exciting or out of the ordinary, however traveling the world on a tour bus is pretty normal for this family. Prioritizing is the word that’s quick to come off the tongue when Mike speaks of music, road life, and family and how to balance it all. Yet, at the end of the day, these guys still feel pretty lucky. “Getting on stage and playing your music and having folks sing your songs back to you is a pretty good feeling, ya know? Being able to play music is a blessing.”
All images courtesy of Eli Young Band website.
Be sure to catch Eli Young Band at Grizzly Rose, August 18. Get your tickets HERE!
Find out more on Eli Young Band HERE!