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Interview with Chris Thompson of Eli Young Band

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Eli Young Band

West Palm Beach. Drummer Chris Thompson of Eli Young Band, called in to chat with OFC! EYB kicked off their 2012 tour on the Pepsi Stage of the South Florida Fair where The Band Perry played one year prior. In the interview, Chris talks about latest album LIFE AT BEST that has put the Eli Young Band on the fast track as a Nashville favorite. Chris describes the Tonight Show experience, the making of the video "Even If It Breaks Your Heart," his perspective about election year and more!

Check out a sneak peek preview of OFC insider interview with EYB drummer Chris Thompson! And read the full interview here on OFC!

Eli Young Band will be headliner band at 2012 Milwaukee Summerfest!

Chris Thompson

Eli Young Band is on tour with Rascal Flatts this summer! GET TICKETS on Ticketmaster

Download LIFE AT BEST on iTunes

Chris Thompson drummer for Eli Young Band. Check out the sneak preview of Chris chatting about the Tonight Show experience!


Photos and interview by Sally Rosen - OFC Contributor, song property of the band

Special thanks to Alana Dresner - OFC Contributor

Mobile users can view the video on

Interview took place on Tuesday, January 23, 2012


OFC: 2011 was an amazing year for Eli Young Band. “Crazy Girl” was certified platinum and named Billboard’s #1 Country Song of the Year. How did you feel when you heard the news?
Chris: It’s funny, we started promoting “Crazy Girl” in February of 2011 and basically we just hit the ground running. We were on the road Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then maybe we’d be home Sunday to do laundry, reload the suitcase, and head back out. So, the whole year went by very quickly and we were all over the place, all over the country promoting our song, and also maintaining our regular tour schedule. It seemed like right around November or December, our tour schedule and promotion schedule kind of started to slow down and accolades started rolling in. I guess it was the fruit of our labor for the past year. We started getting the news that the song was going number one, and the song had gone platinum, and the billboard news and all of that all kind of in the same wave of information. I think we got all of that info within about a week or two periods so they were probably the best week or two of our careers because we were really excited. It just felt like we were breaking through to a new level of success in our careers.

What was the highlight for you personally in 2011?
I got married in September, and that was definitely the highest point of the year. There were a lot of really, really fantastic things that happened with us in 2011, but the happiest, for me, was the day I got married; wonderful honeymoon and all that. I think some of the cool stuff we did with the band was getting to be on David Letterman and Jay Leno, having a song that was so big we could play both shows. We did our first performance on an awards show. We played at the ACA, American Country Awards, and that was our first taste of being on a stage with cameras pointing in your face and something like 10 billion people watching.

I caught your performance of “Crazy Girl” on The Tonight Show—that was great! As a road warrior touring band out of Texas who has built your nationwide success one fan at a time, what was the stage experience like?
It was our second time to do The Tonight Show—we had done a couple of other shows before, so I think that time around doing that specific performance for The Tonight Show was probably the easiest one for us yet because we finally got a little more comfortable being in front of cameras and being on the television stages. A lot of those jitters that you get went away. It’s become really easy to get on stage in front of 20,000 people or 2,000 people or 15,000, whatever the number is. It’s pretty comfortable because we did a lot, fortunately. We felt really at home on stage in front of a live audience. It’s a totally different animal when you’re on television and you know that people are getting an up close view and you’re trying to sound better. With iconic shows in American television history and shows that we all grew up watching, there’s a little more pressure to do a good job.

Do you have to perform to the camera in a sense versus performing out to the audience? Is it a different type of direction?
Absolutely, and I think “direction” was the key word there. The director kind of doesn’t tell you what to do but suggests or lets you know that this camera is this way, and you’ve seen some pre-production stuff where you know and are aware of those cameras. Then they put us up on stage where we have the audience in front of us. There’s a whole different dynamic when there’s cameras around. (I can’t really understand what he says at the end here).


On the subject of Leno, Janet Jackson was on earlier in the show. Did you and the band get to meet Janet back in the green room by chance?
There were two security guards standing outside her dressing room, but we did get to meet Larry the Cable Guy, and he was incredibly nice to us and hung out with us for a little bit. But, no Janet Jackson.


Eli Young Band has had a skyrocketing 2011 already into 2012, who has been the biggest “wow” musician or celebrity that you’ve met or performed with while in the music business?
Well, at the ACA awards, our dressing room was right next to Alabama’s dressing room, and just to have some interaction with those guys was really gratifying. Their career is one that we always look up to and they’re a band and we’re a band, so we’ve always felt some sort of connection with them even though we hadn’t met them personally. Also, a number of years ago, we went on a tour with the Dave Matthews Band, and those guys were so humble for people at their level. That really left a big impression on us to see these guys that we had listened to since we were kids and looked up to as musicians and you get to meet them and have one-on-one time with them and you realize that they’re just like you and I. They’re just totally down to earth—it was really a great lesson to learn early on.


New video “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” just premiered on CMT. How was that experience of making the video and the premiere?
It’s always a lot of fun. We got to do a video for “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” which was Brian Lazzaro who conducted the “Crazy Girl” video too, so we established a good relationship with him and we felt very comfortable working with him. I think the video really captures the four of us in the band—it captures our personalities well, and more importantly, I think it captures the spirit of the song. When we first saw the final edit of the video, I think most of us commented that we got chills at the end of it because it really gives you that sense of hope and positivity that we were going for with the song and with the video.

Do you have plans for more videos or some surprises for some of the songs off the album?
We’ll keep making videos until country radio and Country Music Television. We would love to do as many as we can. I think at some point, we might go off the grid a little bit. We’ve always been a grassroots band and have done online media stuff ourselves and we were talking the other day about maybe making some videos just for fun. We’ll see what that turns into.

In your bio, it notes that the band has rock influences – Tom Petty, The Eagles, you mentioned Dave Matthews Band, you were on tour with them. Do you see yourselves as a country crossover band?
We’ve always seen ourselves as a country band. I think our influences really come out in our playing, just because naturally, they’re our influences. Mike, our singer’s, voice is very tailored towards country, and I think that our songwriting falls well into the category of country. So, people can enjoy the music and also enjoy rock music or pop music or whatever, and that’s great. As far as aiming to be something more than a band of country music, I don’t think that we’re going in that direction, at least not purposely.

Eli Young Band is signed with Republic National which spawned out of Big Machine label which Taylor Swift came from. When did you sign on with Republic National? Were you unsigned before that?
We were on Universal South. There was a point where Universal South was merging with Show Dog and the folks from New York came to us and said, “Hey, would you like to be a part of the folks that you’re working with right now, Scott Bruschetta has this imprint in Nashville, and he’s interested.” So we had sort of known Scott and met the staff, and it was sort of the same corporate umbrella—they just moved us to Republic National, which I think was a fantastic move. It was probably early to mid-2010 when that was going on.

Has signing with the label been a big boost for your career?
Yeah, I mean with our first label we had done well. Obviously with this label now, they have such a fantastic radio staff and radio production staff. “Crazy Girl” went to number one and it sold over a million copies, so I think it’s hard to argue that we’re not having success.

Taylor Swift or Martina McBride—if you had to go on tour with a pop country diva, who would you pick and why?
That’s such a tough call. We were just hanging out with Martina McBride in Memphis a couple days ago for St. Jude. Martina really has the best sense of humor, and she’s truly a delight to be around. I think I’d go with Taylor Swift just because Martina is a powerhouse vocalist, so that’s kind of the focus of the show. Taylor Swift has more of a big production, and that’s kind of what we signed ourselves getting into for our live shows.

Election year is coming up, and it’s not uncommon to see bands and artists expressing their political views and endorsing and campaigning for candidates. What do you think about musicians who use their popularity to extend their political agenda?
It’s America—we’re all welcome to have our own opinions and make our own decisions. I think musicians need to understand that they are entertainers and that there’s a time and a place to discuss politics. I just think a show is not the best place to bring up political views. I’ve seen a lot of my heroes on stage and they’ll take up half an hour of a show talking about their political views, and I think that there’s other ways to bring awareness to issues—a concert is not really the format in my opinion.


What do you think about Spotify and Pandora. Are these apps helping band or are they just another web tool that are circumventing the artist royalties?
I really don’t know that we really know the big impact of all that because it’s all fairly new, but I know just from my experience that we appreciate our music being played wherever it’s played. Especially Pandora, we’ve noticed a lot of people have come up to us and said, “Hey, we've heard your song played."

What is your best kept secret? What is one thing about EYB that most fans don’t know about but should?
We try to really keep open, so that’s kind of a tough question. We’re not really secretive people. I really don’t have a good answer for you—I wish there was something I could tell you. We really try to keep an open dialog with our fans.

Do you have any big tour plans on the horizon for 2012?
We do! We’ll be in Australia in March with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and then we have another string of shows coming up with Dierks Bentley. I think we’re going to do that with him for about a month. That tour will go all over the U.S. and then into Canada as well. We have a really big tour announcement coming about summer, so stay tuned!

Do you have a personal message that you’d like to impart to your fans?
If I did, it would probably pop up on Twitter or Facebook, so follow us on Twitter and Facebook! Keep watching, keep reading, keep looking!

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 22:06  

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