It all begins when the lights go down. For Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus, it has been that way since they were playing for a handful of people in a club in Nashville's Printers Alley. These days, of course, they play for thousands of screaming fans a night, drawn by state-of-the-art production and sound, and by spectacular vocal harmonies in service to an ever-expanding catalogue of hits. In between, it was the magic of those performances that catapulted Rascal Flatts into the front ranks of entertainers in all genres.
By any measure, Rascal Flatts is in elite territory. They are the reigning 2006 CMA, ACM and CMT Vocal Group of the Year. In 2005 they added Billboard and R&R Artist of the Year trophies as well. The trio also picked up its first three Grammy nominations in 2005, and their "Bless The Broken Road" received the Grammy for Country Song of the Year. Rascal Flatts was the most played artist on country radio in 2005, spending ten weeks at #1 on the radio singles charts. Rascal Flatts also ended 2005 with the best selling country album of the year for Feels Like Today and so far in 2006 they have sold more albums than any music act- all genres- with the sales of Me And My Gang and Feels Like Today. Rascal Flatts has sold over 13 million albums.
As for the touring--the hub on which their wheel of success turns--2006's "Me And My Gang Tour" wraps as their highest attended tour ever with over One Million fans in 74 cities.
The album for which the tour is named--Me And My Gang--represents yet another sonic step forward. Recorded largely in the spring and summer of 2005, the project was delayed by public demand for a 4th single from their Feels Like Today CD, the highly acclaimed "Skin (Sarabeth)."
Me And My Gang debuted in the #1 position on the Soundscan Top 200 albums chart, making it the highest debut of the year for 2006 in all genres, with first week sales of 721,747 units sold. Since the inception of Soundscan, only four other country artists (Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Dixie Chicks and Tim McGraw) have scanned 700,000 units or more in their first week of release. In addition, across all genres only 24 acts have debuted at over 700,000 units in the first week of release. With the stellar debut of Rascal Flatts Me And My Gang, the group joins the ranks of Eminem, 50 Cent, U2 and Coldplay. The CD has sold 3.3 million copies.
The band also wraps 2006 as the only male or group to have a # 1 single at AC and Country in the 45 year history of Billboard- with "What Hurts The Most," which may end the year as the most played song on radio.
Me And My Gang finds Rascal Flatts again drawing on many of Nashville's finest writers, including Jeffrey Steele, Neil Thrasher, Tony Mullins, Wendell Mobley, Jason Sellers and Monty Powell. The group has also co-written three of the CD's songs, with Joe Don contributing "Cool Thing," Jay "To Make Her Love Me" and all three "Pieces." They continue to up their level of musical involvement, with Jay playing bass throughout and Joe Don playing every guitar part on the record.
Led off by the Jeffrey Steele/Steve Robson-penned smash, "What Hurts The Most," Me and My Gang finds the trio yet again reaching new heights. "Working with Dan Huff (producer) brought us to a new level," says LeVox. "Collectively we feel this is the strongest album we've done to date," says Rooney. "Lyrically, melodically and emotionally this record took us to another place. We are excited to bring this new music to the fans."
Those fans have watched the rise to superstardom of the group that got its start well over a decade ago in Columbus, Ohio, where second cousins Gary and Jay learned to love music during frequent family jam sessions. Jay took his voice and instrumental skills (he plays guitar, bass, keyboards, mandolin, and others) to Nashville in 1992, earning his first record deal as part of a Christian group called East to West. In 1997, he finally convinced a reluctant Gary to leave behind his job with the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and follow his musical dreams as well.
Jay met Joe Don when both landed jobs in Chely Wright's band. Joe Don had grown up in tiny Picher, Oklahoma, gleaning influences from his brothers and sisters, whose tastes ran the gamut of musical styles. As he and Jay worked in Wright's band, Jay and Gary were working in a Printer's Alley club with a part-time guitarist. When he couldn't make it one night, Jay invited Joe Don to sit in. A few bars into the first song they sang, they knew they had something special. They recorded some demos, which caught the favorable attention of Lyric Street Senior VP of A&R Doug Howard.
With their first album out, they hit the road hard, gaining thousands of new fans and opening for the likes of Alan Jackson, Jo Dee Messina, and Toby Keith. Their star rose dramatically from the outset and reached dizzying heights with the release of "I'm Movin' On." The milestones kept coming. They played the Grand Ole Opry, appeared on the soundtrack of We Were Soldiers, and recorded "Walk The Llama Llama," a song penned by Sting for The Emperor's New Groove soundtrack. Along the way, they were the subjects of two one-hour live television concerts and were given the 2001 CMA Horizon Award and ACM's New Vocal Group of the Year.
The hit songs and relentless work ethic drove them inexorably toward platinum status and a host of awards and milestones. Their debut CD was one of only three million-selling debuts in half a decade, and it spawned four top-ten singles. They toured with Brooks & Dunn and Kenny Chesney, headlined their own tours: CMT "Most Wanted Live Tour," 2003 "I Melt" and 2004 & 2005's "Here's To You Tour."
They view all their successes as spurs to further creative excellence. "When we started our career," says DeMarcus "there's no way we could have dreamed this. We've surpassed our goals in just three albums. We are humbled by country radio for playing our songs and for the support of Lyric Street Records and our amazing fans."
As they have grown musically, they have continued to reach personal milestones. Gary is married, with two daughters, Brittany, 6, and Brooklyn, 2. Jay married a former Miss Tennessee in 2004, and Joe Don recently wed Tiffany Falon. Their growth as people is reflected in the ever-increasing depth of their music, and they are enjoying both the effort and the rewards.