In their own right, the Eli Young Band has had a decent amount of success in the country music business: platinum singles, a Grammy nomination, an Academy of Country Music award on their mantle.
It doesn’t hurt, though, when you go out on tour with some of the biggest names in country.
The Eli Young Band, who have toured with Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, are once again on the road, this time with Kenny Chesney. They will be making a stop Saturday at FedEx Field in Landover as part of the No Shoes Nation Tour.
Being on tour with Chesney can be described in one word: “Incredible,” lead singer Mike Eli said.
“This is one of the biggest tours out there,” Eli said. “We’ve been on a lot of great tours and played with a lot of great artists, but this is the tour of tours. To be able to have this opportunity is a very huge deal. In fact, that Kenny asked us to be on this tour is a huge compliment and a great opportunity. It’s one of those pinch-yourself moments.”
FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, holds well over 90,000 people. Still, Eli said the band has played bigger venues. They are from Texas, after all, where everything is bigger.
“Well, we played Cowboy Stadium not too long ago, which is a pretty big stadium,” Eli said. “That was a fun day, for sure. I think Cowboy Stadium is one of the biggest. We also had [a show] at the Houston Rodeo in Houston and there was about 60 to 65,000 people. Some of the biggest venues we’ve ever played have been on the Kenny Chesney tour.”
The band has two hit songs so far off their latest album, “Life at Best.” “Crazy Girl,” and “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” both have hit platinum status. Even though “Crazy Girl,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, Eli said the band is still hungry for more.
“I don’t know if we necessarily thought we made it,” Eli said. “It was definitely a big deal [having platinum songs]. I think if you ever get to the point where you think you’ve made it, I think there’s a sense of complacency that can take over. We’ve just never been that kind of band. We’ve had a lot of success in the past 15 years in a lot of ways, and the day that we can actually make a living at playing music was a great day, too, you know?
“Every little moment, … playing ‘The Tonight Show’ — we’ve played ‘The Tonight Show’ three times — those little moments make you feel like, ‘Hey, we’re actually accomplishing something.’ But, when it comes down to actually having that moment where you say, ‘Hey, we’ve made it,’ I don’t know if we’ve had that moment yet where we’ve said that to ourselves.”
Like a lot of bands, the foursome met in college while attending the University of North Texas. They started out playing local gigs while dreaming of playing on bigger stages.
“I think we had hoped for [success], but I don’t necessarily think … there’s this sense of reality that you have when you’re trying to make the music thing happen and I think that back then, we were realists,” Eli said. “We were keeping our heads in the game and back then we were just four dudes playing some songs that we liked in bars. I think we kept our heads wrapped around the goals at the time. I don’t know if we necessarily saw it coming, but we definitely hoped for it and wanted to work for it.”
As part of the No Shoes Nation Tour, members of the active military and their families will get a chance to have a meet and greet with the band and sit in for a special acoustic set. Being able to be a part of that is quite a big deal for the band, Eli said.
“Yeah, man. I think all four of us have family that has been in the armed forces,” Eli said. “I have two brothers in the Marines, and to see what their families have gone through and to be a part of that has been incredibly eye opening. It’s tough for them. If my band can do something to bring a little joy to the family that has been through hell and back, by God, we’re going to do it. We’ve always put a huge priority on making sure that we do stuff like this for the military and for military families because it’s important to us and I know, for us, the hardest part of this job is being away from our families. As tough as that is, it’s nothing compared to them being away from their families because when they leave, they’re gone for a long time.
“I get to play music for a living. I’m not out there defending our country. Any time we can do something like this, to bring some joy or to make a cool moment out of it for them and their families, it’s really the least we can do.”
Eli said he hopes audiences get their money’s worth during their concerts, but at the same time, he hopes they walk away feeling like they’ve been a part of something special.
“We try to make cool music and music that’s different,” Eli said. “I hope that when people walk away from our show, they feel like they’re not only being entertained, but hopefully they had a good time and really felt as if they were seeing something different and unique.”