Mike Eli has experienced many an album release week during his 20+ year career as frontman of the multi-Platinum hitmakers Eli Young Band.

But this time, it feels different.

“I don’t know… there is just so much emotional baggage with this album,” Eli tells Taste of Country mere days before the June 3 release of EYB’s full length album, Love Talking. “I just feel such a connection to so many of these songs.”

It’s a tale that has been true for countless artists these days, as they begin to release projects that essentially came to be during some of the darkest days of the pandemic. But for Eli, it’s even more personal.

The singer wrote more than a hundred songs during the lockdown of 2020.

“The last two years have been such a roller coaster ride,” Eli says with a sigh and a verbal reminder that he ended up writing 7 of the 9 songs featured on Love Talking. “You really didn't know when you were going to hit that turn or when that tunnel was going to go dark, you know? I think that there were so many songs written during such a vulnerable time in all our lives. So yeah, the connection to this batch of songs is really strong.”

Eli quickly stops himself, as if he just revealed who his favorite kid is or something.

“Don't get me wrong…I've wanted every album to happen and take us to that next level,” stresses Eli, who is currently out on a headlining tour with his EYB bandmates. “But yeah, I don't think I've ever wanted it more than I do with this record.”

There are cuts on Love Talking that can literally take Eli back to the day that he created them, including “Tell Me It is.”

“I think I was at my most vulnerable point when I was working on that song,” he remembers of the song he wrote alongside Jon Nite and Jimmy Robbins. “Our industry had obviously come to a screeching halt, and there was a moment where I wanted to really be the husband that could say, ‘I’ve got this.’ But at that moment, I didn’t.”

He draws in a deep breath.

“The connection is really deep with that one.”

But make no mistake — Love Talking is no country music therapy session.

In fact, the same band — made up of Eli, Chris Thompson, Jon Jones and James Young – that has long given us songs like “Drunk Last Night,” “Crazy Girl” and “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” brings the feel-good again with cuts including “Break Up in a Bar,” “Lucky for Me” and the title track and current single “Love Talking.”  

And as a band, they have never felt better.

“I feel as if what we've accomplished as a band has been really incredible," Eli concludes. “We didn't set out to take over the world, but we did set out to have a career and we have been able to do it for a long time.”

See the Most Played Country Song from the Year You Were Born

Who had the most played country song during the year you were born? This list is a fascinating time capsule of prevalent trends from every decade in American history. Scroll through to find your birth year and then click to listen. Some of these songs have been lost through the years, many of them for good reason!

Men named Hank dominated early before stars like Freddie Hart, Ronnie Milsap, Willie Nelson Clint Black took over to close the 1980s. More recently it's been Tim Mcgraw, Rodney Atkins, Kane Brown and Morgan Wallen. Did the most-played country song from the year you were born become a favorite of yours later? All info comes from Billboard's country airplay charts.