Eli Young Band Interview: Chris Thompson Reveals His Band’s Best and Worst ‘Drunk Last Night’ Tendencies
The Eli Young Band doesn’t believe that old adage that “you don’t mess with success.” Their upcoming studio album is being recorded in the heart of Nashville, as opposed to their getaway camp in Franklin, Tenn. They’ve changed producers and worked to build off of the success of ‘Life at Best’ (‘Crazy Girl,’ ‘Even if It Breaks Your Heart,’ ‘Say Goodnight’), instead of repeating it. The new single ‘Drunk Last Night‘ reflects the changes.
“I think there’s gonna be a different sound on this record,” drummer Chris Thompson told Taste of Country. “It’s gonna be the Eli Young Band, but I think there will be a different kind of energy, and we’re just digging deeper as musicians.”
The Texas group is about halfway done with the new album (produced by blues, rock and country veteran Justin Niebank) and have no timetable for its release. To promote ‘Drunk Last Night’ (available now at iTunes), they’ve asked fans via their Facebook page to send them pictures of their best “Drunk Last Night” texts or tweets.
Early results have been hilariously awful. “Thanks for letting me sleep in your bathtub,” one text begins. “I hope I wasn’t too rough practicing my ultimate fighting on your grandpa.”
“I think when you’re firing out a late night drunken text and it goes to someone like your mom,” Thompson says, “which I’ve done a time or two [laughs] … you get that response back: ‘What?’” The friendly and often smiling drummer was more than happy to share a little more drunken dirt on his bandmates before talking about the new album and their current tour with Kenny Chesney.
ToC: You guys have been together a long time, and have seen each other at your best and worst when it comes to having too much to drink. Who in the band gets serious or philosophical when under the influence?
Chris Thompson: I think on any given day it could be any one of us. It really has to do with what happened earlier that day [laughs].
If we’ve had like a really long, serious day full of meetings and we haven’t really had time to talk about stuff and process stuff as a group and all that, then sometimes around midnight, after we’ve went to dinner and had some drinks or whatever, somebody might get kinda deep and start talking business. But we’ve learned over the years it’s best to leave business for before happy hour.
Anyone prone to getting really emotional?
I hate to say it, I might be that guy [laughs]. “Can’t we all just get along?” and all that kind of stuff, that might be my alley in the band.
Who’s really unpredictable?
I think James is probably the most unpredictable. You never know which of many Jameses you might get after a few cocktails.
This next album comes after what could be called your career album. Does that bring more or less pressure?
We’ve always been a band that wants to make records that we love and we appreciate and we’re proud of. And I think that we did that with ‘Life at Best,’ and so I feel like the formula worked and can work on a larger level. There’s more pressure for radio, I think, but at the same time, we still wanna make cool records that we love and that will never change.
Is ‘Life at Best’ a template for this new album or did you start from scratch?
Actually, when we make records it’s almost like we’re purging music. It’s almost like we’re just getting music out and once it’s out then in a way we’re done with it. With this record, it’s kind of like moving on to the next thing as opposed to looking back at what we did with ‘Life at Best’ and seeing what worked and how can we make it better.
After you have breakout success like you had with ‘Life at Best,’ do you get more or less artistic input from people outside of the band like management, your label etc…?
[laughs] At this point, there are a lot of people involved with what we do and a lot of people, and rightfully so, claim ownership of the band … but I think the smartest of them know that we do what we do and we always come to the people that we trust for an opinion. Typically, the four of us make our own decisions and push in the direction the four of us feel like we need to push in. But I say definitely on this record, more than on any other record, there’s a lot of people that have opinions of what we’re doing. And we’ve learned at the end of the day, we just need to stand our own ground and as long as the four of us are together and on the same page about something — that’s just how it is.
What is the most surprising thing you learned about playing big stadiums?
[laughs] That it’s awesome [laughs]. I tell you what, it was surprising. The very first Kenny Chesney date that we played was at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. and we didn’t know what to expect. We played the Houston Rodeo in Houston to 70,000 people, but it’s a dome, and it was our own show and we got to have a long soundcheck. We hadn’t really played an NFL stadium like that you know, from the moment we walked on stage it was like every second being up there we didn’t know what to expect.
And it was awesome. We all walked off the stage feeling like on top of the world, and ever since then it’s been a blast. We’ve been loving this tour. The one thing we really had to adjust for is that the way the sound echoes in the room, you hit the bass drum once and that bass drum will last 12 seconds in that room, it will bounce around and around. So you need to tweak how you’re playing and make sure you’re not playing too many notes, [laughs] because it can get all mushed together.