Rascal Flatts hasn’t started their farewell tour yet, but members Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus are already getting sweetly sentimental about the end of their epic 20-year ride.
The multi-platinum-selling trio teased and joked their way through stories about their career during a Q&A Wednesday at the Country Radio Seminar, the annual national gathering in Nashville of industry professionals. But the wisecracking stopped when the bandmates thought ahead to their final concert, scheduled for Oct. 30 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
“It’s going to be really, really sad, and it’s going to be emotional,” DeMarcus, 48, told interviewer Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association.
“It will be so bittersweet to play that last note of the guitar, hear that last note ring out on [DeMarcus’] bass and hear Gary hit the stratosphere,” said Rooney, 44. “Bridgestone Arena is liable to just explode because of Gary’s voice that last night. It’s [going to be] so much beautifulness, so much love and so much appreciation for everything we’ve gotten to do … I don’t know how I’m gonna feel, but there’s a lot to be thankful for, for sure.”
The band announced the Rascal Flatts Farewell: Life is a Highway Tour last month; it kicks off June 11 in Indianapolis and features 36 stops. At the CRS event, DeMarcus shed more light on their decision to go their separate ways, putting to rest any speculation about acrimony.
“A lot of people have asked us on social media … is there something that happened?” he said. “Did we have a falling out? Have we fought with each other? Have we gotten to the point to where we can’t get along? And that’s really not the case. We love each other, probably more now than we ever did when we first started. We’ve just gotten to this point in the road to where it’s forking, and we’re entering into new seasons of our lives. We haven’t signed a pact to say we’re never going to work together ever again.”
Still, he added, that option is definitely not on the table right now. “There are no immediate plans to do any more Rascal Flatts shows past Oct. 30,” he said. “I want people to know that this is a decision that we didn’t reach lightly. It was a very tough decision … but it is something we feel is the best for the three of us at this point in our lives right now.”
Trahern gave each of the three artists the opportunity to talk about what they mean to each other, and none held back their emotions.
“The connection the three of us have together is something that no one else on this planet knows about,” Rooney said. “It’s incredible. It’’s so powerful and so special. It started in such an innocent way, just meeting in a [Nashville] club and singing for the first time together one night. … So the love and the connection was there immediately. … We knew we had something special, but I don’t think we truly knew the rocket ride that we were gonna be on.”
LeVox, 49, spoke movingly about how “our dreams were so small — like, just to hear yourself on the radio.” In fact, the band has racked up 17 No. 1 songs, seven platinum albums, 11 ACM awards and seven CMA awards.
“To have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and be members of the Opry, to sell out Madison Square Garden how many ever times?” LeVox reminisced. “Those things are just enormous. You know, what we’ve done is ordained and been a God thing. It’s been so much bigger than us.”
DeMarcus declared Rooney and LeVox “saved my life.” He recounted how he’d been knocking around Nashville, playing in different bands and thinking “my chance at being an artist had slipped through my fingers.”
“You guys,” he told his bandmates, “gave me renewed purpose … I needed both of you guys more than I even realized at that point in my life.”
Each of the trio was asked to pick just one Rascal Flatts song they could listen to every day for the rest of their lives. Their choices varied widely, but interestingly, all were covers.
Rooney picked a signature hit, “Life Is a Highway,” a cover of a Tom Cochrane song that they recorded for the 2006 Pixar film, Cars. “I just love the song,” Rooney said. “I loved it before we recorded it.”
LeVox selected “I Know You Won’t,” a ballad on their 2017 album, Back to Us, which first appeared on a Carrie Underwood album 10 years before. “It’s an amazingly written song,” he said, “and just a melody that’s timeless.”
DeMarcus chose “Bless the Broken Road,” a 2004 No. 1 hit that was originally recorded in 1994 by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
“We’ve had so many people that have gotten married to that song,” DeMarcus said. “But I kinda feel like that song is indicative of the paths that we all took to find the three of us, too. So I’ve always kind of thought that song had a dual meaning for us as Rascal Flatts. The broken roads in our lives certainly brought us to each other.”
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