Eli Young Band’s Mike Eli: 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter

by Jim Casey

Texas troupe Eli Young Band—Mike Eli, James Young, Jon Jones, and Chris Thompson—has been making the Lone Star State proud for more than two decades with their rockin’ blend of country music. Since forming at the University of North Texas in 2000, Eli Young Band has produced four chart-topping singles, including “Crazy Girl,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” “Love Ain’t,” and “Drunk Last Night.”

In fact, ahead of the release of their sixth studio album, Love Talking, on June 3, the RIAA certified their 2011 No. 1 hit, “Crazy Girl,” as 4X Platinum for sales of 4 million units.

And speaking of Love Talking, the nine-song offering features seven tunes co-penned by EYB’s frontman Mike Eli. Additional songwriters include some of Nashville’s most well-known tunesmiths: Ashley Gorley, Shane McAnally, Laura Veltz, Jon Nite, and more.

“I found such a creative haven in songwriting over the past couple years of uncertainty, so we had more songs to pick from for this album than ever before,” says Mike Eli. “When it came time for us to really listen through and narrow it down, we all collectively realized that the songs raising their hands the most were the positive, optimistic ones. That big, uplifting energy is what we needed as a band in that moment—and we understood that our fans were probably needing it, too, so that’s the vibe we hope this album portrays to the world.”

On the heels of the new album’s release on June 3, Mike Eli revealed to Outsider the 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter.

1. ‘Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)’ – Alabama (written by Dave Loggins)

Mike Eli: My dad used to drive a big rig when I was a kid. And I remember taking my first trip with him one summer. This was one of the first cassettes he put in to listen to when we headed out of town. That was when the road life began to set in for me. Alabama was everything that I loved about country music at that time. I wanted to be in a band like those guys.

2. ‘The Rising’ – Bruce Springsteen

Mike Eli: We had just started the band when Bruce Springsteen released this song. It was pivotal in finding our own balance between roots rock and country. Personally, this was the sound I wanted for the band at the time. While we’ve evolved a bit since then, I truly believe that you can hear “The Rising” in a lot of the songs we write and record. 

3. ‘Another Way to Go’ – Radney Foster (written by Foster & Darrell Brown)

Mike Eli: Back in our early van and trailer days, we wore this whole album out. Radney has always been so unique as an artist, songwriter, and performer. I’ve been influenced by him as an artist as much as I have by this song itself. He pushed the limits of what was cool in country music. Not to mention seeing Radney Foster live and rocking this thing out still gives me chills and all the good memory vibes.  

4. ‘It Ain’t Easy Being Me’ – Chris Knight (written by Knight & Craig Wiseman)

Mike Eli: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always felt like an outsider or that I didn’t belong. I truly believe that songs like this can make folks feel like they are not alone. You don’t always have to walk the line of what’s acceptable. Being yourself is okay. And if people around you want you to be something else, then you should probably find new people to surround yourself with. Plus, Chris Knight is just the definition of cool.

5. ‘Standing Outside the Fire’ – Garth Brooks (written by Brooks & Jenny Yates)

Mike Eli: There’s just something about this song that has always moved me. Garth Brooks is the king of storytelling, whether it’s through a song or a music video. I can still picture the video for this song—it was so incredibly touching. And the song itself is so well written and just plain rocks. In addition to that, Garth is incredible live. Seeing his show as a kid and being blown away by his persona on stage will always be something that I strive to achieve as a performer.