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Despite 12 years of hit after chart-topping hit, 22 million albums sold and dozens of accolades, the guys of Rascal Flatts are still having to defend their place in country music.
The superstar trio soared to the top of the charts with their latest CD, Changed, earlier this year. The new set of tunes, which already spawned two Top 20 singles, including the No. 1 hit, “Banjo,” is yet a another reminder of how much the band’s unique sound has widened the boundaries of the country genre.
“People would say, ‘Why are you guys in country music? You look like you’re in the Backstreet Boys.’ We took so much heat,” bassist Jay DeMarcus laments to Variety magazine. “We always said, ‘It’s not about hats and Wrangler Jeans. It’s about a state of mind. Country is in our souls.”
The band, which also includes lead vocalist Gary LeVox and guitarist Joe Don Rooney, burst onto the country music scene in 2000 with their hit, “Prayin’ for Daylight.” The threesome hoped their musicianship and tight harmonies would perk country fans’ ears.
“We were bringing a different twist to country music,” Jay continues. “We were so influenced not only by country music, but by the rock bands of the ’80s. Our focus was to bring in something different. Country music already had a George Strait and Alabama. We wanted to put some pop music in our show.”
Arguably one of the hardest-working bands in music, Rascal Flatts has spent part of every year since 2000 on the road. Jay says their recent, more intimate shows have made him start to fear the inevitable day when the threesome decide to go their separate ways.
“The band was really tucked in around behind us. We were forced to be closer than we ever are. We were firing on all cylinders, hitting every note,” he recalls. “I looked over my shoulder and I saw Gary and Joe Don and I had this thought, ‘Man, this is incredible. This is why I do this.’ And I had a moment of sadness; I can’t imagine the last night I’ll stand on stage with these guys, the day we call it quits.”
Thankfully, that day is still a long way off. The trio have plenty of work left to do, he insists, including hopefully nabbing the one goal that has eluded them so far — a CMA Entertainer of the Year nod.
“We’d love to capture (that),” he admits. “We want to try and find ways that make us worthy in voters’ minds to at least nominate us. That’s the next goal.”
The Flatts may not have an Entertainer of the Year trophy, yet, but they do have a newly-minted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “I don’t have enough words to express how humbled and grateful I am by this honor,” Jay shared at their ceremony earlier this week (quote via Country Weekly). Who would have thought 13 years ago when we played in a little barroom in Nashville, Tennessee, that we’d come from the barroom to the Walk of Fame. It just boggles your mind completely.”
Rascal Flatts continue their Changed tour, which also includes Little Big Town, Edens Edge and the Eli Young Band, with shows in Idaho and Wisconsin this week. See a complete list of their concert dates here.