Since their musical debut in 2000, Rascal Flatts has over 22.5 million albums sold and over 28 million digital downloads and delivered 16 #1 singles to the top of the charts.
If the members of Rascal Flatts could push a button and rewind the last 14 years, Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney would have a chance to relive some of the most impressive accomplishments in Country music. The best-selling country vocal group of the past decade, Rascal Flatts has sold more than 22.5 million albums, scored 16 No. 1 singles, sold over 28 million digital downloads and earned more than 40 industry accolades, including six consecutive wins as the Country Music Association’s Vocal Group of the Year. Awards and statistics are impressive, but what means the most to the members of Rascal Flatts is that their music has become the soundtrack to so many lives. “My Wish” is played at graduations. “God Bless the Broken Road” has been heard at countless weddings. “I’m Movin’ On” has accompanied many difficult passages. “Life is a Highway” has blasted from the speakers during many road trips.
They continue to chronicle the joys and complexities of life on their ninth studio album. And though their latest collection is titled REWIND, living in the past is just not their style. Rooney, DeMarcus and LeVox forged ahead, enlisting famed rock producer Howard Benson (Hoobastank, Daughtry, Skillet) to create some of the most innovative music of their storied career. “Howard had never done a country project before, so neither one of us knew what to expect,” says Rooney, who credits Big Machine Label Group President/CEO Scott Borchetta with suggesting Benson. “It was a perfect match. We got to be in his world. We got to see how he does it and the players he likes to use in LA on the rock projects he’s done. Seeing the inside of his world and bringing our world into it, it’s like two completely unique worlds colliding and you hear that on these tracks like ‘Payback.’ You hear that on ‘Powerful Stuff,’ even on the ballad ‘I Have Never Been To Memphis.’ It has muscle to it in a way that I don’t think we ever put muscle into it before.”
“It was time to try something different,” adds LeVox. “We got with Howard and did six sides with him and it was fantastic. He just knocked it out of the park. Just the way that he records, it was just totally different.”
Even though they threw themselves into exploring new sonic territory with Benson, the trio was mindful to carefully navigate that tricky musical terrain between giving the fans something new and giving them what they’ve come to know and love. REWIND strikes that perfect balance between familiar and fresh. “We realized we needed to do something different to set us on a new musical path,” says DeMarcus. “Music has changed so much in the last few years and in order to stay relevant you have to change with it, but we also had to be true to ourselves. This is a combination of staying with what people know and love, the familiar Flatts, but also bridging the musical gap into today’s Country music and pushing the envelope a little bit. There is a delicate balance and I think we’ve done a pretty good job. There are songs on the record where people are going to say, ‘That’s vintage Flatts! That’s what I fell in love with’ and a whole new generation of country music listeners are going to go, ‘Wow! I didn’t expect this from them!’”
In addition to working with Benson, the guys also reunited with their longtime producer Dann Huff (Keith Urban, Taylor Swift) who helmed the poignant anthem “Life’s a Song” and Flatts’ cover of John Mayer’s “Wildfire.” The deluxe version of Rewind contains 17 tracks, among them six produced by Benson, two by Huff and Rascal Flatts with the band producing the remaining nine, spearheaded by DeMarcus in his home studio. “I’m honored and excited to have had the opportunity to go in with my guys and do the bulk of the record,” says DeMarcus. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this to happen and it happened at the perfect time. I am so proud and thrilled with what we’ve been able to make together.”
The title track has become the album’s first hit single, and was produced by the trio. “I spent a long day in meetings with publishers and toward the end of the day I heard the demo for ‘Rewind’ sitting in Sony’s office,” recalls DeMarcus. “When I heard the chorus, it was so hooky, I just had a gut feeling. I always use the goose bump factor. When a song gives me goose bumps and I can’t get it out of my brain, I have a good feeling about it. I took it to the guys and played it on the bus and I said, ‘I think I found a winner here for us guys.’ Immediately, they were both like, ‘Wow! We’ve got to cut that song.’ So we went in to cut it and Gary sang the snot out of it.”
“Rewind” was penned by Eric Paslay, Ashley Gorley and Chris DeStefano. “We just recorded the greatest songs that we could find and they came out of every corner,” says Rooney. “If you look at the liner notes and song credits of the writers, you’re going to see some different names. This album is so unique in that way. There are so many new writers and new faces on this album. There are different players we used on this album versus some of the past recordings and it freshened this up. It was a game changer. It’s like a menu. We added some flavors in there we haven’t touched on before and that’s why I’m proud of it. We challenged each other.”
One of the many standouts on the album is “I Have Never Been To Memphis,” a powerful song produced by Benson. “It’s a big ballad, and Howard was so worried about that song,” LeVox explains. “He was like, ‘Look man, I can do the up-tempo stuff, but don’t stick me with that ballad. I don’t know what to do with it.’ It was different for him, and different for us, and he nailed it. We got exactly what we wanted and more.”
“The Mechanic,” a poignant love song penned by The Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnston and Tony Lane, expresses a classic sentiment in a unique way. “You’re always trying to find a way to say something differently and ‘The Mechanic’ does that,” LeVox enthuses. “It talks about the woman in your life, and instead of saying ‘Hey, I love you and you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me,’ it puts it in a unique way saying, ‘When I’m broke down, you’re the mechanic.’ She’s the fixer. You can’t do anything without her. Whenever you are down, she’s the one that lifts you up. It’s saying that ‘I would be nothing without you,’ but it says it in such a cool and different way. We fell in love with it since the first time we heard it.”
Though Rascal Flatts has long been known for recording some of Country music’s most memorable ballads, Rewind features some of the most infectious up-tempo tunes in their repertoire. “Payback” combines country fiddles with an edgy intensity and playful lyric. “It’s one of those tongue and cheek songs that we’ve never really touched on before,” says Rooney. “Women are going to love because it the sentiment is all about a woman getting back at her man that has really pissed her off.”
REWIND takes listeners on a thrilling musical joyride complete with buoyant numbers like “DJ Tonight” and “I Like the Sound of That” as well as the haunting coming of age tune “Night of Our Lives.” “Honeysuckle Lazy” combines a country-as-cornbread lyric with a rockin’ track. “She Must Like Broken Hearts” is an upbeat tune penned by all three Flatts members about a woman who leaves a trail of broken hearts. “Compass” is a tender ballad written by Diane Warren that is featured in the film “Heaven is for Real.” Throughout each song LeVox’s vocals simmer with the passion and intensity that have long anchored the Rascal Flatts sound. Combined with DeMarcus and Rooney’s skilled musicianship and signature harmonies, it’s a recipe that has made Rascal Flatts one of the most successful groups in the history of Country music.
REWIND heralds a new chapter in that history. “The album may be titled REWIND, but we’re going forward,” says DeMarcus. “We’ve really taken some steps here musically. It was good for us to go through the process in working with Howard and to work by ourselves. It was important for us to experiment and to find out what we didn’t need to do. What we didn’t need to do was not be true to ourselves and who Rascal Flatts is musically. If we would have tried to chase a musical trend, our fans would have seen right through it. There’s a perfect balance of what people love about the Flatts being true to ourselves musically and keeping our musical integrity, and also moving forward and changing with the times. This new music makes a big statement for us. We feel like we’re on a verge of a renaissance because we recommitted to each other and found the love and passion that we had when we first started this band. Sometimes it was painful to get to this point, but all of the lessons we learned brought us to where we are with this album.”
One listen to REWIND and it’s obvious they’ve learned from years in the studio and on the road and have created a landmark album in an already impressive career. “We’ve been so blessed to have such an amazing career, but we’re really just starting to catch our stride now,” says LeVox. “We still have a lot of stories to tell. We’re just going to continue to use this platform that God has given us to be able to tell our story and other people’s stories through music. Our fans are truly our purpose and our platform is a blessing.”