Eli Young Band’s Omaha native excited to perform in hometown
Growing up, Eli Young Band’s bassist Jon Jones spent his holidays at home in West Omaha with his family, always enjoying a white Christmas. This year, with a successful and ever-growing country music career, Jones is looking forward to visiting his hometown during the holidays and playing at Sokol Auditorium December 13.
Jones has fond memories of growing up in Omaha, spending time with his family and friends. He attended Westside High School and spent much of his free time practicing and performing with his rock band, Sunkissed. “My mother and grandmother both were music teachers, so I started playing the violin at a young age,” said Jones. “Freshman year of high school, I had to choose between sports or music. I chose music. I figured there was a slim chance that I would make a career as an athlete.”
After high school, Jones decided it was time to fly the coop and head south to Texas. As a freshman at North Texas State University, Jon began his friendship with band mates, drummer Chris Thompson and guitarist James Young. Vocalist Mike Eli joined the group the following year. “Jon fit into Texas real quick,” said James Young. “I met him when we were sharing a music class our freshman year in college. Truth be told, Jon was a little more “studied up” and he would help me on our music assignments.”
The four college students developed an instant friendship, and soon discovered they shared a love for making music. “We were friends in the beginning and that really helps along the way,” said Young. “We’ve been through a lot of shenanigans together.” Jones considers his bandmates to be family. “We’re like four brothers,” he said.
With a unique mix of edgy country and heartland rock, the band has put their stamp on the country music world. Along with their platinum record, Crazy Girl, countless sold out shows, and a recent Country Music Awards’ Vocal Group of the Year nomination (that Young says is nothing short of “amazing”), the group is hoping to continue their success with a new album coming out early next year. “Our songs definitely come through experience,” said Jones. “We’re still trying to figure out one good way to write a song. There is a certain amount of pressure this time around; it’s forced us to really dig deep because people are really going to hear this one (new album).”
As the band continues their “Drunk Last Night” tour, Jones is looking forward to his performance at Sokol Auditorium, where he remembers playing in the Battle of the Bands back in high school. “I love coming back home, seeing extended family that I don’t get to see a lot,” Jones said. “I get a little extra giddy. My band knows my attitude will change a little bit when we’re headed to Omaha. My visits are usually based on a performance somehow, but I try to get back every year.”
Jones has fond memories of his heartland holidays. He spent his winter season like many other kids; helping shovel the driveway and looking forward to Christmas morning with his family. “Everyone would come to Omaha, a lot of cousins…my grandmother would buy everyone something for Christmas,” said Jones. “One year I remember getting a VHS tape about trains, I believe it was called Riding the Rails.”
One particularly funny holiday memory sticks with Jones. “My sister and I got a bread warmer for my grandmother and the next year she re-gifted it to my mother. I guess it stayed in the family. She probably still has it…I’ll have to ask her about it.”
Beyond his memories of Christmas as a child, Jones is still fond of the local food and the feeling of community you get from Omaha. “Last time we were in town I had a craving for Big Fred’s Pizza, and one time I had to drive through and get Runza,” said Jones. “I miss everything being ten minutes away from everything. Dallas is really big and spread out. The guys (band members) and my wife have commented on how beautiful Omaha is. I also miss the seasons.”
With family and friends being an important part of Jones’ life, he says he and his college sweetheart and now wife, Sarah, plan to bring their son, Hudson, to Omaha as much as they can. “I still have friends in Omaha. Their kids do things together and we want our son to be a part of that. I want him to know where he came from…I would love to move back at some point.”
Young said the Omaha crowds have always been good to them and that the Midwest has always embraced the band, even before the launch of their first self-titled album and before their songs began playing on the radio. “We’re looking forward to the (Omaha) fans,” said Young. “With it being Jon’s hometown, family will come out. It’s a real cool vibe to be a part of that. And we’re looking forward to playing some of our new music and trying it out on the fans.”
A break in the tour will give the Eli Young Band some time off from life on the road to celebrate the holidays with their families. Jones is looking forward to spending Christmas with his wife and son at their home in Texas. “I just want Christmas to always be about family. It’s different for my son with me being on the road all the time, so it’s a time to just be about him.”
Even though Jones now calls Texas home, he doesn’t forget the great place where he was raised. “Jon always keeps love for Omaha,” said Young. “He wears his Nebraska hat quite a bit.”
The Eli Young Band will be performing at Sokol Auditorium with special guest Eric Paslay on Friday, December 13 at 8 p.m.