The best way to understand Eli Young Band’s “Love Talking” might be to think about what it’s not.
It’s not a rehash of “Drunk Last Night,” the quartet’s platinum 2013 hit, with its day-after apology for saying the wrong thing during an alcohol-induced late-night call.
Likewise, “Love Talking” is not a replay of “Tequila Talkin’,” a 1995 Lonestar single in which the singer tries to pass off a lonely late-night call to an ex by blaming his lingering longing on a bottle of Jose Cuervo.
In fact, there’s no alcohol involved in “Love Talking,” and the guy in the song doesn’t try to dodge the reality, either. He recites the previous night’s unexpected confession — “When I said, ‘You’re the only one/I’m ever gonna need, ever gonna want’” — and instead of trying to wriggle out of the moment, he doubles down on the sentiment: “That was just the love talking.”
It wasn’t Mike Eli’s idea, but he definitely related to it when it was presented during a March 18, 2021 writing appointment conducted via Zoom in the midst of the tour-cancelling pandemic.
“This song was all about just getting it all out there,” Eli says. “I have an incredible relationship with my wife, coming off of 2020, which was probably a trying time for a lot of folks in their marriage. My wife and I came out stronger than we had ever been — because we have never, as long as we’ve been together, spent this much consecutive time together.”
Eli settled into the write in his home studio in Texas, logging in online with Jeffrey East from Los Angeles and Eric Arjes, who was working from a kitchen table at a relative’s home in Minneapolis. East had planned to bring an idea to the session, but it wasn’t quite where he wanted things to be that morning.
East admits, “Full disclosure: I had absolutely nothing.”
All of that changed a mere 10 minutes before he signed on. East clamped a capo on his guitar, hoping that changing the key might make the chords ring a little differently. It worked. He altered a standard I-V-IV-I chord pattern, changing the second triad from a major to a minor, a simple half-step trick that opened up a new sound.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” says East. “After years of playing guitar, I had never played that particular progression.”
Words and a melody came tumbling out. East freestyled an almost-completed framework for what became the first verse and pieces of the chorus, captured them on a smartphone voice memo and sent the file along to his co-writers. That small amount of preparation made the day a smooth one.
Significantly, while the song’s protagonist makes himself vulnerable by confessing his feelings, “Love Talking” never reveals the woman’s response.
“We didn’t even want to get a reaction,” Eli recalls. “It was all about the confession and just getting it all out there. You never really know whether or not she was OK with him professing his love. So maybe one day there will be a sequel.”
(“Love Talking Back,” perhaps?)
They created a fairly lengthy pre-chorus with a hilly, mysterious melody, and the chorus stood out by turning to more rhythmic pacing, punctuated by hints of the hook. When they needed a bridge, they reused the first couple of lines from the lengthy pre-chorus, then transitioned back into the chorus. It was all done in a matter of hours, and the response from the EYB team was quick, too: Everyone thought it was a potential single.
The following month, Eli and his bandmates — guitarist James Young, bassist Jon Jones and drummer Chris Thompson — entered Nashville’s Blackbird Studio with producers Arjes and Jimmy Robbins (Kelsea Ballerini, Maddie & Tae). SiriusXM senior director of music programming J.R. Schumann, whom EYB has known since he programmed local Texas radio, executive-produced along with Big Machine Label Group (BMLG) president/CEO Scott Borchetta.
Schumann “definitely spoke up about dynamics, and he spoke to the track growing,” recalls Robbins. “But he also gave plenty of space for everybody to do their thing.”
Arjes threaded parts of his demo, particularly some programmed percussion and keyboard pieces, into a foundation for EYB — and studio guitarist Derek Wells — to play over.
“We’re making a band record, so there’s relatively few people playing live,” Arjes says. “It’s a lot more fun if there’s bits of candy, as we say — keyboards and other production elements in there that just help inspire the band. It feels like you’re closer to the finished product.”
The opening instrumental riff, established originally on the demo, was introduced with a blend of piano and banjo, and it reappears several times through “Love Talking”: once as a burning guitar and again as a vocal in the closing moments. They also created a dreamy effect on the first “That was just the love” part in the chorus, stacking a ream of vocals with guitar and steel. The Eli Young Band’s performance was comparatively easy to capture.
“This was the band’s favorite song that Mike had written, I think, for this record, and so everybody had been living with the demo,” says Robbins. “When you have time to practice a song and live with it and jam it, you’re setting yourself up to succeed.”
Likewise, Eli’s lead vocals went smoothly, except for one specific section. On the demo, he had infused an off-the-cuff upward slide coming out of the bridge. But he had trouble trying to re-create that for the master.
“I sat there and did it over and over again,” Eli remembers. “It seems so minute and such a simple little thing, but finding where that note starts and ends, and the energy that happens, it was difficult.”
Young also took extra time to tackle a simple, but effective, guitar solo and to find tones that balance the mysteries in the storyline with a sense of optimism. “Guitar players are just like singers,” says Arjes. “We like to find our voice, find our tone, find our guitar sonics. We got to spend a couple days together and really help develop what that record ended up sounding like ’cause James is a big part of the identity of that song.”
BMLG’s Valory imprint released it to country radio via PlayMPE on Jan. 24 and stamped “Love Talking” with an appropriate Valentine’s Day add date. Its cheery disposition could be a perfect soundtrack element if the end of the pandemic is nigh.
“We could all use some positivity in our lives,” Eli suggests, “and I think this song delivers a lot of that.”