From left, James Young, Mike Eli, Jon Jones and Chris Thompson savor life as a “garage band that hits the road.”

David McClister

Mike Eli and his Eli Young Band buds had reason to celebrate the release of their third album in March.

The lead-off single “Drunk Last Night” topped Billboard’s hot country charts earlier this year, propelling the “10,000 Towns” debut to follow suit.

“Being a band for so long, every record has been kind of these baby steps,” Texas native Eli said during a concert stop in Memphis, Tennessee, last month. “But having a No. 1 song when it was released as well as the album at No. 1 was a good week for us.”

The 14-year-old quartet — frontman Eli, guitarist James Young, bass guitarist Jon Jones and drummer Chris Thompson — immediately followed up the success with the album’s second single, “Dust,” which is poised to break into the top 20.

We caught up with Young to chat about the music and those 10,000 towns, including a stop in our town tonight.

Here are excerpts from that conversation.

Organic rise: “Everything that we’ve done has been … the more organic, hit-the-ground-running-on-the-road kind of approach. We never ran out and spent huge marketing budgets with our label. It’s always been more organic.

“With (2011’s) ‘Life At Best’ having success with ‘Even If It Breaks Your Heart’ and ‘Crazy Girl’ going No. 1, it gave us some ammunition on this next record to be able to take a bigger approach with it. We have always been that garage band that hits the road.”

They make the rules: “We’ve been really lucky to have the success that we’ve had so that we can call the shots and really make music that we feel completely defines us rather than have to try stuff that is really working for other acts.

“We don’t have to follow. We can go out there and be ourselves and not feel like we have to conform. We just want to be ourselves.”

10,000 towns, but who’s counting: “We’ve always wanted our albums to say something about who we are. We’ve been a band for 14 years and we’ve played a lot of shows. We’ve been down the road for a long time. ‘10,000 Towns’ we felt defines that side of us. We are a band that goes and hits the road and that is who we are.”

Don’t ask him to pick favorites: “What’s our favorite town? That’s tough. We love to travel.”

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642.

I cover music for the Arizona Daily Star.