Life is Country Music for Eli Young Band

Eli Young Band opening for Rascal Flatts
Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids
Oct. 6, 7p.m.
$25, $49.75, $64.75, (616) 742-6600

If James Young could tell his younger self anything, it would be to have a little more discretion with promotional photos. Well, that and when things get tough, to just hang in there. Luckily for us, hang in there he did because about 13 years and a lot of hard work later, the Eli Young Band has released five albums, two chart-topping singles, and one recently named "Song of the Year" by the Academy of Country Music Awards.

Comprised of James Young (guitar), Mike Eli (vocals and guitar), Jon Jones (bass) and Chris Thompson (drums), the band met in college and realized they were a melting pot of musical influences.

"We just wanted to write music that told a story and sing songs about real life. That is country music," Young said.

And write music they did. The band members wrote every song they recorded on their first three independent records and have written or co-written almost every song since. Hundreds of songs later, they still manage to pull inspiration from what they know best: themselves.

"Our music is kind of biographical," Young said. "We're all growing up. It will be interesting to see our next record with all of us married and starting to have kids."

The guys may have a lot to write about, but Young says it still takes a lot of work..

"Writing takes practice just like anything else," he said. "You can write hundreds of songs and find a good one every now and again. They're not all going to be gems. You just have to keep whittling away until you find something good."

Even though the band's most recent No. 1 song, "Even if it Breaks Your Heart", was penned by friends of the band (Will Hoge and Eric Paslay) the song sounds as if it was written only for them. It talks about following your dreams regardless of struggles, something they are too familiar with.

"That song was like a biography about the band," Young said. "We recorded that song not even thinking it would be a single. We just loved it so much. It kind of just told the story of who we were and where we came from. I think it's universal, whether it's music or any other dream you're following."