'People would ask us, 'Where can I buy this music?' And they can get it right now,' Chris Thompson tells Billboard.
The Eli Young Band took a different path with their just-released EP, Turn It On, giving the fans new music quicker than ever.
"In the past, we would put out a record in the traditional way every year or so -- put out a single, then a few months later, the album comes out," says the band's Chris Thompson. "So by the time a record comes out, it's been a year or close to two before you get the music in their hands. But coming out with this EP was different, because we actually wrote these songs in November or so. We didn't go into the studio until January, and we just put it out. So it's been an immediate process, which has been really fun. Now, not only is the single out, but also the whole EP. We started playing the new songs live at the beginning of this year, and people would ask us, 'Where can I buy this music?' And they can get it right now. That makes it very exciting."
Thompson says Republic Nashville has definitely gotten behind the project in a big way. "Any time the label is that excited about a project, you've got to run with it. We started recording the songs to get demos. We believed in them and thought maybe they could go on a future record. So we went into the studio with that intention: to make nice-sounding demos of these songs. The label got wind that we were recording and wanted to come out and hear what we were working on. Jimmy Harnen said, 'I love this,' and a week later, he says, 'We're going to put out all four songs on an EP, and "Turn It On" is going to be the single. So we need a photo and video shoot, and away we go.'"
Knowing that Harnen and the label are totally on board makes for an adventure, says Thompson. "That passion is what make things work -- whether it be the songwriting or the recording side of it. When people feel that strongly about it, why not run with it? In a sense, the EP is kind of a backwards process for us in a lot of ways. When it was decided we were going to put out a four-song EP, the details of the release weren't discussed, so we didn't know if it was going to be part of an album, or if the next release was going to be another EP. Also, with the recording process, we had done demos on the bus on the computer with some of these songs, and 30 to 40 percent of what you're hearing on the EP came from James sitting on the bus with a guitar or Mike singing a vocal. It was an interesting process recording, as well."
The title track and lead single has been well-received at radio so far, currently sitting at No. 50 on the Country Airplay chart. "I don't think we've ever had a single out at radio that has had this much enthusiasm from the radio community," says Thompson. "We've gotten a lot of feedback, and it's been really positive and encouraging."
One slightly different sound for the band can be heard on the steamy "Drink You Up," a song Thompson says was given a boost from their producers. "That was a song that James and Mike wrote with Jeremy Stover and Ross Copperman, who ended up being the producers on the EP. They came out on the road with us, and we had come off the stage from doing our show, and Ross had already recorded a demo on his computer. The sound was really interesting and really different. That was the catalyst for us choosing them to produce the EP. We really liked the sound that they were hearing for us. Then, when we started working together, they work so quickly, and we get others' musical references. It was a great process all around."
The band is hitting the road in a major way this spring and also gearing up for next month's 50th annual Academy of Country Music Awards, which will be held in Arlington, Texas -- right in their backyard. "I used to live in Austin, but the other guys live right outside of Fort Worth, so it's in their backyard. It's very rare when you can go to an awards show and sleep in your own bed. That never happens, so it's a really cool thing. It's exciting for us Texans to get everyone together and show them how great Texas is and why we're always bragging about the state."