Lyrics for our Lives

When second cousins Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus of Ohio met up with Joe Don Rooney from Oklahoma for a little impromptu session of talent blending, they knew they had something special, musically and sonically.
They all had separate musical projects at the time. DeMarcus was the bandleader of Chely Wright’s band, which included Rooney on guitar. DeMarcus and LeVox were working in a Nashville Printer’s Alley nightclub and when their part-time guitarist could not make it one night, DeMarcus invited Rooney to join them. To the group’s recollection, a bond was formed instantly.
The big question was whether anyone else would see what they saw, hear what they heard. They got the biggest “yes” ever — one even they didn’t see coming — in the form of nearly 20 years of hit records, millions of album sales, millions of people attending their concerts and more awards than they have mantel space to accommodate. And these guys are far from finished.
They came up with the name of Rascal Flatts when a piano player friend told them it was the name of his high school garage band. They couldn’t come up with anything better so they went with it.
“We knew right away we had something special, even if we were the only ones who ever got to hear it,” said DeMarcus about those early days.
It turns out, they weren’t the only ones listening. They quickly earned a record deal with Disney Music Group’s Lyric Street Records and their talent, drive and great song selection did the rest.
In early 2000, the group made its debut with the single “Prayin’ for Daylight,” a song that had been on a three-song demo that led to their signing with Lyric Street. The song, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard country charts, was quickly followed by three other Top Ten singles: “This Everyday Love,” “While You Loved Me,” and “I’m Movin’ On.” The prophetic “I’m Movin’ On” helped the band move on to greater success when it was awarded Song of the Year by the Academy of Country Music in 2002.
Melt was the title of their second album, released in 2002, and unlike the first, was co-produced by the band. Its first single, “These Days,” became their first No. 1 single on the country charts. The album included two more top ten hits, “Love You Out Loud” and “I Melt” and the band’s second number-one single, “Mayberry.” The music video for “I Melt” featured Rooney partial nude, and as a result, the video was banned from the Great American Country network. However, when Country Music Television compiled its list of country’s sexiest men, Rooney was named one of the top finalists.
During the next 10 years, Rascal Flatts released seven albums for Lyric Street Records before that label folded in 2010. Rascal Flatts then moved to the independent Big Machine Records, releasing Nothing Like This. Their ninth studio album, Changed, was released in April 2012 followed by Rewind in 2014.
Rascal Flatts’ studio albums have accounted for 26 single releases. All of these have charted within the top 20 or higher on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including 12 that reached No. 1.
Rascal Flatts has sold over 22.5 million albums and more than 28 million digital downloads while delivering 14 No. 1 singles to the top of the charts.
They are the most awarded country group of the past decade, earning more than 40 trophies from the American Country Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards, American Music Awards, Country Music Awards, People’s Choice Awards and more. As one of the hottest-selling acts on tour in any genre, they’ve sold over 7 million concert tickets, and counting.
Their list of hits constitutes one of the greatest bodies of work in modern country music with songs like “These Days,” “Bless the Broken Road,” “What Hurts The Most,” “My Wish,” “Take Me There” and “Here Comes Goodbye” as just the tip of an ever-expanding iceberg.
Their live performances are state-of-the art, house-rocking extravaganzas as anyone who attended their concert here in Laughlin will remember. Simply being part of the blending of harmonies with LeVox leading the way, DeMarcus’s musicianship and Rooney’s mad shredding skills, isn’t something one easily forgets.
Of all Rascal Flatts’ awards and accolades, it’s their induction into the Grand Ole Opry that warms their collective hearts the most.
“It’s one of our proudest moments in the world, being part of the Opry family,” says LeVox. “We’ve been part of a lot of great things, but this is joining a wonderful family that will live on forever. It’s mind-blowing.”
But their achievements are far from over. During the 2014 Academy of Country Music’s Award Show, Rascal Flatts and Steve Buchanan received the Jim Reeves International Award which is presented to artists for outstanding contributions to the acceptance of country music throughout the world.
Rewind, released in 2014, contained the hit single, “I Like the Sound of That,” and the single with the same name, became a Top 5 hit on the Country Airplay chart.
That year, Rascal Flatts was selected as one of 30 artists to perform on “Forever Country”, a mash-up track of Take Me Home, Country Roads, On the Road Again and I Will Always Love You which celebrated 50 years of the CMA Awards.
The guys were also involved in the We Love Disney project, a compilation of today’s superstars from the worlds of pop, rock, R&B, and country lending their own unique interpretations of classic Disney songs. On the album, produced by David Foster, Rascal Flatts performs “Let It Go,” with Lucy Hale.
But it isn’t Rascal Flatts’ first rodeo performing songs for Disney projects. In 2006, the group charted in the top 10 of the Hot 100 with a cover of Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is a Highway,” which they recorded for the Pixar film Cars.
Although “Life Is a Highway” was not released to country radio, several country stations began playing the song, causing it to chart within the top 20 of Hot Country Songs.
And just like those cars in the cartoon, the guys keep motoring with new music in their setlist. After all the years and miles on the bus, it would be easy to forget what prompted them to start the journey in the first place. But these guys are friends first and foremost, always keeping their eye on the point of it all — making music that touches the soul of the listener, while having a hell of a good time doing it.
If nothing else, LeVox, DeMarcus and Rooney have used that time and life experience to get them closer to their core, continuing to record music that means something to them. But more importantly they choose music — like they always have — because it means something to their fans.
Back to Us, their 10th LP is both a return to form and a proclamation of everything the trio has come to represent over almost two decades — the precision musicianship, sharp vocals and songs that have shaped lives, loves and the country music genre itself.
When it came to this latest project released this year, they decided to focus on their roots, letting DeMarcus take the primary production reigns, anchored by Rooney’s world class guitar work. And not only did they pick the best songs and work with the best songwriters, they had a hand in writing many of the tracks themselves. That approach is just one of the reasons the music of Rascal Flatts has become a part of the story — nuptials, graduations, family road trips — of so many.
Back to Us is loaded with moments that weave themselves forever into the fabric of the lives of their fans. “I Know You Won’t,” with its piano-based ballad will conjure up John Lennon’s “Imagine.” It’s also a reminder of how LeVox’s voice is not only one of the best in the country genre, but beyond.
The songs are as poignant at a prom as they are through the ear buds of someone out for a run or a job interview, proving that Rascal Flatts has a way of transcending generations. Back To Us is the follow-up to Rewind, the band’s fourth album for Big Machine Records
Rascal Flatts is heavily involved with various charities, but one close to their collective hearts is working with the Make A Wish Foundation and former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow’s foundation “Night to Shine” experience, which hosts proms around the world for special needs students. It’s something they look forward to doing as they support Back to Us, and even put a memento on the record itself — that striking chorus on “Our Night to Shine” features participants from the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.
Since “Life Is a Highway” seems to be the trio’s theme song, fans will no doubt get to taste some of this new music along with those favorite memorable hits when the guys make a stop at Harrah’s Laughlin’s Rio Vista Outdoor Amphitheater on Saturday, Nov. 3.
It’s good to know Rascal Flatts is still together, still singing and playing with the same, immovable passion. Fans can find comfort in that.


RASCAL FLATTS

Rio Vista Amphitheater at Harrah’s

Saturday, Nov. 3 (8 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info