If any act embodies the place to which country music has evolved in the new century, it is Rascal Flatts. Since their inception a decade ago in 1999, the trio has helped change the face of popular music. Their trademark sound--Gary LeVox's powerfully emotive lead vocals coupled with the soaring harmonies of Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney, set amid world-class arrangements and production, have made the band the standard bearers for cutting-edge country. Drawing on Nashville's best tunesmiths and their own enviable songwriting skills, they have released, in songs like "These Days," "Bless The Broken Road," "What Hurts The Most" and "Take Me There," some of the most important and successful music to come out of Nashville in recent years. Along the way, they have placed 10 #1 singles and 20 Top Tens, seen every one of their studio albums go multi-platinum, with total sales approaching 19 million, been the ACM and CMA top vocal group every year since 2003, and won multiple American Music Awards and People's Choice Awards.
They have made such growth their mission since their beginnings in 1999, following a conversation between Jay and Joe Don, who were band mates working with Chely Wright.
"Man," said Jay, "you've got to come hear my cousin Gary sing." Jay and Gary had begun attracting a following at the Fiddle and Steel Guitar Bar in Nashville's Printers Alley.
"Somewhere around the 13th of January in 1999," Joe Don says, "Jay called me and said, 'Dude, our guitar player can't make it. Any way you could come sit in with us?' I said, 'Hell, yeah,' grabbed my guitar and amp and made it to the club by 8."
All three were blown away by their collective sound, and they began playing as a trio, up to seven hours a night. Soon label executives had caught the buzz and were dropping by to see them. They cut some demos and by late that year they had been signed to Lyric Street. That began a string of hits that made the band one of country's most successful acts. Songs like "Prayin' For Daylight," "Mayberry," "Fast Cars and Freedom," "My Wish" and "Stand," and albums like Melt, Feels Like Today, Me And My Gang and Still Feels Good took them into the music world's stratosphere.
Along the way, their "Bless The Broken Road" was Grammy nominated for Country Song of the Year and Vocal Performance, became 2006's top-selling physical and digital artist in all genres, scored four #1 country albums and three #1 overall, and hit the Top 10 Billboard pop singles chart twice, among many other milestones.
"There's never been a method to our madness," says Joe Don. "We just cut the best songs we can, and through the years we get better at what we do."
They continue to carry the country banner into arenas and stadiums, humbled by how far their star has risen with a profound impact on the concert stage. In good economic times and bad, their tours have been marked by sellouts and venue attendance records, as their state-of-the-art production, high energy approach and hit-filled set list thrill audiences year in and year out.
The guys have performed for millions of fans in the last few years and recently wrapped their "Bob That Head Tour." They will kick off a new summer tour in June 2009- "Rascal Flatts American Living Unstoppable Tour." J. C. Penney Company, Inc. is an official sponsor of the tour and will promote American Living, the retailer's affordable, all-American lifestyle brand developed exclusively for the JCPenney customer by Polo Ralph Lauren's Global Brand Concepts. The fully integrated two-year sponsorship will kick off June 5, with the tour hitting approximately 60 cities across the nation each year.
"As a kid, you stand in front of your mirror and only dream about being able to sell out arenas and stadiums," says Gary. "And to be able to play a place like Wrigley Field and sell it out, you can't even dream that big. The feeling is awesome."
"We know how difficult it can be for people to lay down money to go to a concert," says Jay, "and I thank them profusely from the stage every night. Our main focus will always be to give them every penny's worth of entertainment value we can."
Their approach grows out of their own histories as music fans.
"When I saw Garth Brooks years ago," says Joe Don, "it was like going to a tractor pull at the fair--the sheer spectacle of it. I was so mesmerized. That's how I want people who come to our shows to be."
The three are committed family men who take seriously their role in the community. They are known for their charitable efforts, which have included raising millions of dollars for charities including the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and for their work on the celebrity cabinet board of the American Red Cross.
At the core, though, is the three-way friendship and musical partnership dedicated to making records they would want to listen to and putting on shows they would want to attend. It is that approach that has brought so much pleasure to so many fans and given them such an enviable position in the musical world.
"It's just beyond measure," says Gary. "We get to touch people's lives through music. There's no greater gift in the world and we love it today more than when we got the record deal in '99. We're planning to be around for a long time."