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After years of trying, Eli Young Band breaking out with hit songs

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'Changed Tour'

What: Country artists Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Eli Young Band and Eden's Edge perform.
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Memorial Coliseum, 4000 Parnell Ave.
Cost: Reserved tickets: $64.75; $49.75 and $25. Live Nation Special: Four tickets for $75 plus service fees. Parking: $4, main lot; $8, preferred lot. Buy tickets at Memorial Coliseum box office, online at www.Ticketmaster.com/acwmc or charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000.

Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 12:01 am

The Eli Young Band didn't write its hit song “Even if it Breaks Your Heart,” but bassist Jon Jones said the four band members “really, really identify with it. It's kind of been our mantra. To find a song that kind of felt like our anthem is great.”

The song, written by Will Hoge and Eric Paslay, could serve as an anthem for many wannabe musicians. It's about a kid who stands outside a local bar and listens to the music, dreaming of one day becoming a musician himself.

The band will perform at Memorial Coliseum on Friday night as part of Rascal Flatt's “Changed Tour 2012,” also featuring Little Big Town and Eden's Edge.

The Eli Young Band has been together 13 years, first playing regionally and gradually building a following until the band's breakout hit, “Crazy Girl,” in March 2011, followed by “Even if it Breaks Your Heart.” Now the band is nominated for the Country Music Association's Vocal Group of the Year award.

Jones, drummer Chris Thompson, lead singer Mike Eli and guitarist James Young met and formed a band when they were students at North Texas State University in Denton, Texas, in the late '90s. The four played their first show together in October 2000. All four got their degrees — none in music — although Jones said North Texas State is a highly regarded music school, akin to Indiana University.

“The culture in Denton is a great hotbed of music and creativity,” he said.

The band started playing beyond Denton into the Dallas-Fort Worth area and then on across Texas and into Oklahoma. It developed into a solid regional act before it ever signed a record deal, Jones said. The band slowly expanded its influence, “making fans one at a time, show to show,” he said, until the last few years when it “really exploded.”

“Crazy Girl,” was a big factor in that explosion. It was Billboard's Country Song of the year in 2011. Certified Platinum, it has sold nearly 2 million downloads.

Jones believes the song, written by Liz Rose and Lee Brice, is one many people can identify with — it's about a girl who has endearing qualities that make her loveable. He said a lot of couples use it as their first dance at their wedding.

“Even if it Breaks Your Heart” is up for Song of the Year at the upcoming CMA awards on Nov. 1. Even though the Eli Young Band performed the song, Jones said the Song of the Year award really goes to the songwriters. “I think it's got a really good chance,” he said.

As for the Eli Young Band winning Vocal Group of the Year, “I do not think we have a chance — but I voted for us,” Jones said. The band is up against some formidable competition: The Band Perry, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town (who they're touring with now) and the Zac Brown Band.

Jones said there's a chance the band will perform at the CMA awards. “It's such a rush to perform in front of all your peers,” he said.

Jones considers the Eli Young Band to be among the crop of new talent taking over the country music scene — a sort of changing of the guard. “It's really fun to be a part of it,” he said.

The band is getting ready to go into the studio and start working on new material. The members are talking about possibly doing a tour as a headliner next year, although he said it has been a great opportunity to go on tour with big acts.

Personally, he's got another big change coming in his life: His wife is due to have the couple's first child on Dec. 23. Having the baby come over the holidays when the band slows down the most is good timing, Jones said, adding, in his