It’s been 15 years since Eli Young Band released their very first album. The group made up of Mike Eli, James Young, Jon Jones and Chris Thompson met while they were students at the University of North Texas and have been together since 2000. 17 years later and they’re still going strong, as they’re currently scheduled to release their sixth studio album on June 16th. With fans anxiously awaiting the release of Fingerprints and all of the hype surrounding it online, I sat down for a phone interview with Eli Young Band bassist Jon Jones to discuss the new album, the road that’s led them to this point, and what the future looks like for them.
“I think Fingerprints is gonna be an album that hopefully our fans who have been with us since the beginning will really enjoy,” Jones told me. “We went into the studio with the idea that we just needed to make a record that sounded like the records we were making when we first started the band. We feel like the last few projects – the EP and the song we did with Andy Grammar – we were kind of trying to expand things a little bit, trying different things in the studio…they were a lot of fun to make, but I feel like we kind of through that figured out that we do best at kind of getting back to basics, and that’s what this album is all about.”
If the first four tracks released so far are any indication of what the rest of the album will sound like, then I think fans have a lot to look forward to with the release of Fingerprints. Each song provides listeners with a different element of Eli Young Band that fans who have followed them since the beginning will not only appreciate, but really cling to. “Saltwater Gospel” was the first song released from the new album and was written by Ross Copperman, Nicole Galyon, and Ashley Gorley. The upbeat tune takes listeners to the beach with its breezy melody and uplifting lyrics about finding one’s own kind of heaven in the sand and surf.
“Saltwater Gospel” is the closest thing we’ve ever had to a beach song. We spent a year out with Kenny Chesney on tour, and you can’t leave that tour without wishing you could be a bit more a part of that culture; it’s so fun. So we had a blast doing that and this is kind of our spin on it,” Jones explained to me. “We never wanted a straight down the middle, beer in my hand, on the beach drinking song. It’s just not us necessarily, but this song just felt like the perfect beach song for us. And so that is one song in that way that kind of stands out on the record, a little bit different.”
While the first track on Fingerprints (“Saltwater Gospel”) is a refreshing but still a familiar sound for Eli Young Band, the next track on the album takes a bit of a darker turn. “Fingerprints” is the title track off the album and also a slightly heavier sound for the North Texas band than fans are used to. While the edginess of “Fingerprints” is certainly a different side to Eli Young Band, it also really works for them both lyrically and musically. The third track that follows is what’s being referred to as the sequel or follow up to the group’s smash hit “Drunk Last Night,” no doubt because of (lead singer) Mike Eli’s recent on stage anecdote before performing the song live. When I asked Jones whether or not the rumor about the song was true, he responded with a laugh, saying,
“Mike’s been saying that on stage, so let’s just say yes.” The bassist added to the story behind the song by explaining, “It wasn’t originally intended that way. It’s lyrically just the never again, you end up doing it, drinking may or may not have been involved or backstory to that song.”
The sixth track on the album, but second single released has already had some airplay at satellite radio, and it’s only a matter of time before mainstream picks it up and the song flies to the top of the charts like it should. “Skin and Bones” is without question one of the sweetest songs you will ever hear and was written by Mike Eli, Phil Barton, and Lori McKenna (Humble & Kind). With its incredibly touching lyrics and lulling melody, this song hits you right in your feelings and tugs on the heartstrings the way only a real country love song can. Fans will no doubt fall in love with “Skin and Bones” immediately and cling to it much in the same way they did with the band’s first number one single, “Crazy Girl.”
“It’s a song that Mike, our singer, was a big part of writing,” Jones told me when I asked about “Skin & Bones.” “It’s about his wife, but he calls it a love letter that he wishes he had written a long time ago to his wife. It’s about that moment where you’re with someone and you realize that you’re inseparable, and you don’t realize where that person ends and you begin. And you just realize that you don’t know where you’d be without that person. You wouldn’t be yourself.”
One song in particular that sticks out on the new album and has Jones and the band extra excited is the fourth track on Fingerprints entitled, “Old Songs.” Jones described the song as speaking to why people at shows always ask for the old songs. “It’s the idea that whatever songs we write right now that are new, it’s really hard for them to hold up against our old songs because you have this emotional attachment to a song; that’s why you love the song,” Jones explained to me. “It takes you back to that moment in time when that song had significance to you, which is usually a part of your adolescence or childhood where songs can really impact you. And some of that goes away with time, and it’s harder to incorporate more of those songs into your life, and I think it’s a really neat sentiment that I haven’t really heard explained in a song before.”
If there’s one thing Eli Young Band are known for, it’s their ability to deliver catchy tunes that will rip the emotions right out of you. Their talent for writing and choosing songs that resonate with their fans has been demonstrated with their previous releases and the slew of hits they’ve left behind them. Songs like “Crazy Girl,” “Even if it Breaks Your Heart,” and “Drunk Last Night” are all relatable on a level that touches the listener beneath the surface, thus sticking with you long after you’ve finished listening.
Produced by Ross Copperman and Jeremy Stover, Fingerprints is shaping up to be one of the best album releases of 2017. As the band have stated in other interviews, this album “celebrates commitment and faith in one another.” Aside from staying true to who they are as artists while making Fingerprints, Eli Young Band also kept their fans in mind, not wanting to disappoint them.
“We’ve always tried to make decisions keeping our original core fans in mind, always considering what they think about in something that we do because if you are part of the Texas country scene, that’s where your roots are. They take that very, very personally and really in a way want to have ownership for the success we’ve had, and they deserve a lot of credit for everything we’ve built,” Jones expressed to me.
While the goal may not have been to write an album full of radio singles, Fingerprints is definitely going to leave a lasting impression on its listeners. As Jones told me during our interview, “On this record the biggest thing we wanted was for the songs to be passionate. We didn’t want to just write songs that sounded like it was gonna be a good song for radio. We wanted to make a really good record with songs.