Eli Young Band Hit Their Stride, Look Back at Life Milestones in ‘Break It In’

Eli Young Band; Photo by Cal Quinn
Eli Young Band; Photo by Cal Quinn
Eli Young Band; Photo by Cal Quinn

When the Eli Young Band started thinking about ideas for the music video for their new song, “Break It In,” they found themselves delving into all the highlights in their past, both professional and personal. From winning their first awards to celebrating life milestones, like getting married and having kids, they wanted the video treatment for the song to look back over their near two decades as a band.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been that long!” bandmate James Young tells Country Now. “It was fun going back and digging through old photos. You know, most of those were [physical] photographs, because camera phones weren’t that great back in the day. We actually had to go into boxes, and dig through thousands of photos.”

A look back at their history together felt like the most appropriate approach to take for a visual treatment of the song. “Break It In” documents how the Eli Young Band feel about themselves, still hitting their stride and settling into who they are as a group.

“It just felt right to cut,” Young explains. “We still as a band — and where we are in our lives right now, having young kiddos and passing it down, teaching them how to throw a baseball and whatnot — we feel like it was us just getting broken in. We feel like we’re just breaking this thing in, too.”

Their last couple of singles have represented something of a resurgence for the Eli Young Band. After the earlier success of songs like “Crazy Girl” and “Even if it Breaks Your Heart,” they spent three years out of radio spotlight. Then, in 2018, “Love Ain’t” became their first No. 1 hit since 2013’s “Drunk Last Night.”

The band’s live show is their lifeblood, and Young says a radio hit injects a fun, palpable energy into their set. “It’s always fun to see…people, once they start hearing it and listening to it, singing along. By the time everybody’s heard it, everybody’s singing all the words back to you, and that’s just a great feeling,” he notes. “So it’s fun to watch the life cycle of a song, from when it first starts out at radio.”

Of course, they believed in “Love Ain’t” from the start — but the Eli Young Band have been in the music industry long enough to know that at country radio, there are no guarantees. “Yeah, we’re very blessed to have had that song. But it’s crazy in the music business: You never know what it’s gonna be from one day to the next. So we never expect anything, and we’re grateful for everything that comes our way,” he adds.

It’s no accident that “Love Ain’t” and “Break It In” are both such personal, special songs to the group: Over their tenure in country music, they’ve learned that charts can be fickle, and choosing songs based exclusively on their potential for radio success isn’t a sustainable long-term game plan. If you want your band to be around for twenty years, you’ve got to release the songs that you believe in and love the most.

“We’re not trying to chase the popular. We’ve seen a lot of trends and a lot of acts come and go, over the years we’ve been doing this. We hold steady to what we think is a great song,” Young says. In the case of the Eli Young Band, he adds, those songs have always been just a little quirky.

“From the beginning, early on, we always chose songs that were a little left of center, a little out of the box,” he points out. “I think that’s what’s made it constant to this day.”

Of course, over that time, they’ve changed, too. Like any artist, as they get older and accumulate more life experiences, the range of songs they can relate to has broadened. “There are more options open to us about stuff we’ll consider writing or cutting,” Young offers. “There’s definitely songs that we’re either writing or that get pitched to us, where we couldn’t have cut that 15 years ago. I think it gives you a little bit more subject matter to choose from.”

“We’re sooo much wiser now,” he adds with withering sarcasm, but can’t keep a straight face long before dissolving into a laugh. “Well, not really.”

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