If you’re a modern country fan, you’ve heard of Eli Young Band. Breaking onto the scene with hits like “Crazy Girl” and “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” they just released their newest album since 2014 — Fingerprints. I recently had the chance to talk with bassist Jon Jones about the band and the new album, which features “Saltwater Gospel” and “Old Songs.” Be sure to check it out!
What makes this album so special for y’all?
I think it was time for a personal record for us. After 17 years we’ve figured out who we are as people and the music we’re best at making as a band. In our past few projects we were experimenting a little, trying new things, and in a lot of ways this album was a coming-back-home record for us. We actually recorded it over a year ago, so it’s been pretty fun for the four of us to dust it off and present it to the world.
What song off this album means the most to you guys?
“Old Songs,” because it speaks to why we love old songs. Every song carries a memory, whether it’s a song from your first wedding dance, the summer of your senior year, the first concert you went to, and so on. You attach a memory to a song, and no other song can really hold up to that. People say “I’ve always loved your old stuff,” and there’s a reason for that — not because the new stuff isn’t good, but because it can’t compete with memories old songs carry.
Talk to me about making the most popular song on this album, “Saltwater Gospel.”
That song was actually written by our co-producer — he sent that song to us and we jumped on it. On tour with Kenny Chesney, we fell in love with the lifestyle he conveys, you know the beach vibe, and we’d never had a beach song. This was right up our alley because it’s a beach song, but it’s not your typical drink-in-my-hand song, and that’s the way we like to do it so it was a no-brainer for us.
Who has been y’alls biggest musical influence?
That’s tough. I think about all the artists we’ve been on tour with and I think we try to take a little bit from everyone. It’s hard to top Dierks. The way he treats everyone, his personality, etc. has not changed from day one. Same thing with Kenny Chesney. With Kenny I think we learned that no matter how big you get, stay humble and never forget that the people around you are what make you. Also going on tour with Dave Matthews Band was a dream come true. We’ll never match how they play together and communicate on stage, but you just can’t help but be in awe. Our roots in Texas as well, guys like Pat Green, taught us to stay true to ourselves, so we’ve had a lot of good mentors.
Could you talk to me about how you guys have evolved as a band?
There’s a certain amount of growing up you have to do no matter what over the years. One thing is we’ve become much more professional about how we prepare for a show. For the most part we save the party for the after-party, not much pre-partying going on. It gets old, ya know? You want to put on the best show, that’s the most important part. Used to be playing for free beer, but now we’ve all settled down and started families, and our priorities have shifted a bit. When you’re in college ten years feels like forever, and now we’ve been going for seventeen years, and we feel like we’re just getting started.
Who has influenced your individual playing the most?
I really enjoy listening to bass players I don’t know — studio musicians that don’t get the credit. Starting out, it was the big bass nerd guys — Jaco Pistorius, Victor Wooten, all the major jazz and rock guys. Playing bass is all about playing very little, just finding the spots in the song where you can make your mark. The guys who can play well know where to fit in.
What are your tour plans for the future?
The nice thing about country music is that most shows are on the weekends. We’re big weekend warriors. We’re happy right now playing 3, 4 nights a week, and flying out in between shows just to try to spend as much time at home as possible. We’re not touring with anyone else this year, which is nice, since we get to play longer sets.
Anything else you’d like to say?
For everyone out there who likes our stuff, I think this record is one that people will enjoy. I hope we get it to some people who have never heard us before, and they like it, but ultimately I hope this is a record that all the fans we’ve made over the years will really be proud of.