Hello again avid readers. I would like to start off by congratulating last weeks winner, Jessica Tulachka. I hope you have as much fun at the Mall of America with your kids as I usually do whenever I go. For the rest of you, don’t you worry, you have another opportunity to obtain the four pack of tickets to two attractions at MoA. Just answer my question correctly and you will be put into the drawing. Good luck.
For those of you who have been reading the Featured Artist of the Weekend articles from the beginning, first of all thank you very much. Second, send me your suggestions for artists to cover. I want this to be an interactive experience. I love learning about these artists and their back stories, and I want you to learn about your favorites as well. Lastly, and finally abouton to the actual article, in my article on Alabama I mentioned how I always saw them as the boy band of 80’s and 90’s country music because of their ability to harmonize. When Rascal Flatts hit the scene in 1999, in my head at least it felt to me like there was a passing of the torch so to speak. I know Alabama is still making music, but they aren’t quite as popular as Rascal Flatts. Rascal Flatts has, in my mind, become the new boy band of country music. As I stated before, I mean that in a positive way. Their vocal cohesiveness and ability to be perfectly in sync is why I feel that way.
Gary Wayne Vernon Jr. was born on July 10th 1970 in Columbus Ohio. You may know him better as Gary LeVox, the lead singer of Rascal Flatts. LeVox’s first musical performance was the ripe old age of eight. He was performing in a play at his church. After graduating from Olentangy High School in Lewis Center Ohio, LeVox attended and graduated from the Ohio State University. After his graduation, his second cousin, Jay DeMarcus convinced him to move to Nashville, Tennessee in 1997.
Jay DeMarcus (born Stanley Wayne DeMarcus Jr. on April 26th 1971 in Columbus Ohio), graduated from Tree of Life Christian School in Columbus, and attended Lee College in Cleveland, Tennessee from 1990 to 1992. During this time he traveled and played keyboard for the Christian New Harvest. In 1993, he co-founded another Christian group, East to West, and moved with them to Nashville, Tennessee. After four years, the group disbanded, so he called his second cousin LeVox. When LeVox arrived, he provided harmonies on an album for Michael English which DeMarcus was producing. The cousins engineered the album together, and became part of English’s back-up band. DeMarcus, being the multi-tasker he is, was also the bandleader for Chely Wright’s band. It was there he met the man who would become the third member of Rascal Flatts, Joe Don Rooney.
Rooney was born on September 13th, 1975 in Baxter Springs, Oklahoma, but was raised in Pitcher Oklahoma. He was in his first band, Uncle Thumbtak, by age 18. After relocating to Nashville, Rooney’s abilities on the guitar, bass and mandolin, got the attention of Chely Wright, so she picked him up to be in her band. One night, DeMarcus and LaVoxhad a gig at the Printer’s Alley nightclub. Their regular guitarist was unable to make it, so knowing of Rooney’s skills, DeMarcus invited Rooney to join them. The trio had amazing chemistry, but LaVox was initially skeptical of Rooney joining the group that night.
“I said, ‘You can’t leave me here by myself all night.’ He said ‘I gotta get up early, and build freakin’ pools and I guarantee you he doesn’t know anything we’re gonna do tonight.’” LaVox recalled in an interview with Billy Dukes of tasteofcountry.com.
Singer Mia Mason heard the group that night, and suggested to producers Mark Bright, and Marty Williams that they check out the trio. Bright and Williams presented Doug Howard, A&R at Lyric Street Records, a three track demo. Howard stated that they were “just incredible”. The day after Howard heard the demos, the band went into Lyric Street and played a few songs. According to Howard in an interview with HitQuarters: “The vocals and harmonies, it was all there—I was just blown away. The lead singer has such a unique and compelling voice.” The band signed with Lyric Street not long after.
A year or so later, the band, now called Rascal Flatts, made its debut with the single “Prayin’ for Daylight”. The single reached number three on the Billboard country charts, and the other three singles also reached the top ten. “This Everyday Love” hit number nine, “While You Loved Me” hit number seven, and “I’m Moving On” reached number 4 and was named Song of the Year by the academy of country music in 2002. The self-titled album topped out at number three on the country albums chart and is certified double platinum.
In my opinion, modern country has gotten away from the country roots from which they stem. For example, if you listen to Hank Williams and compare it to a modern artist like Thomas Rhett, they can barely even be considered the same genre. The same goes for rock, rap, and pop, but I feel like country has strayed further. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m not saying it’s a good thing. I’m just pointing out something I noticed. You may be wondering why this little diatribe is in a career review of Rascal Flatts. Well some people say that Garth Brooks was the start of the more poppy sound of modern country, and he may have started it, but I feel like Rascal Flatts took it further. Yes Alabama had amazing vocal harmonies as well, but their songs were distinctly country, while Rascal Flatts has a more pop feel to the instrumentals, vocals, and lyrical content, causing their demographic to be a lot younger than most country acts. Again, not saying any of this is a bad thing, it’s just something I noticed. Anyway, back to what you came to read.
Rascal Flatts released their second album, entitled “Melt” in 2002. They were more involved with this album by co-producing it. The first single, “These Days”, reached number one on the country charts. “Mayberry”, another single from “Melt” also reached number one, while “Love You Out Loud” reached number three and “I Melt” reached number two. The album hit the top of the country albums chart and is certified triple platinum.
In 2004, Rascal Flatts released their third album to more critical acclaim. “Feels Like Today” reached number one on the country albums chart and Billboard 200 chart, while all four singles reached the top ten. “Bless the Broken Road” and “Fast Cars and Freedom” both hit number one, while “Skin (Sarabeth)” hit number two and “Feels Like Today” peaked at number nine. The album is one of only two Rascal Flatts albums to be certified five time platinum.
It takes a true artist to create a song that is not only pleasing to the ear, but also tells a compelling story, and Rascal Flatts nailed that combo with “Skin (Sarahbeth)” If you haven’t heard it before, deffinetly check it out. I won’t spoil anything for you, but it is definitely my favorite song by Rascal Flatts.
The first single off of their fourth studio album “Me and My Gang”, “What Hurts the Most”, was a cover of the 2003 Mark Willis track of the same name. “What Hurts The most hit number one on the Hot Country Songs chart as well as the Adult Contemporary chart. “My Wish”, and “Stand” both also reached number one, while the title track peaked at number six. The parent album reached number one on both the Top Country Albums chart, and the Billboard 200 chart. It also became their second album to be certified five times platinum. The album also had the highest debut of 2006 with 722,000 units in the month of April, spent 15 weeks at number one, and was the second highest selling album of the year. The huge success helped Rascal Flatts become the highest selling artist out of every genre of music, an accomplishment that hadn’t been achieved by a country act in fifteen years.
Their fifth album, “Still Feels Good”, wasn’t quite the monumental success of “Me and My Gang”, but did fairly well. It featured two number one singles, “Take Me There” and “Here”, as well as two singles that reached number two, “Winner at a Loosing Game”, and “Every Day”. The album did reach number one on the country albums and Billboard 200 charts, but was only certified double platinum. Now I know double platinum is nothing to shake a stick at, but considering their previous two albums were five times platinum, it’s a huge decrease in sales. It’s like comparing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to “Bad”. The latter was certified nine times platinum, which is insanely successful, but “Thriller” is one of the top selling albums of all time. After the recent change in RIAA certification policies to include streaming (more details at http://cubradio.com/blog/details.cfm?clientid=35&id=205899#.VuBEJ_krKM8 ), “Thriller” is now 32x platinum. That is insanely hard….no it’s impossible to follow up. Rascal Flatts had to follow up two consecutive five times platinum albums, and did a decent job, but the “Still Feels Good” single “Bob That Head” became their first single to miss the top ten.
In 2008, they released their first greatest hits album. Enough said about that. I’m not a fan of the easy money grab.
The first single from their sixth studio album, “Unstoppable, was “Here Comes Goodbye”. The track became the group’s tenth number one single, while “Summer Nights” reached number two, and “Unstoppable” peaked at number seven. “Why” barley broke the top twenty reaching number 18. The album hit number one on both the country album and Billboard 200 charts, but was only certified platinum.
After ten years of collaboration and recording with Lyric Street, the studio closed its doors, leaving Rascal Flatts to sign with a new studio. It didn’t take long for the group and Big Machine Records to strike a deal. By November, Rascal Flatts had their seventh album on store shelves. The first single with Big Machine was “Why Wait”. The track wasn’t quite as successful as previous lead off singles reaching number one on the country songs chart, but only number 48 on the Hot 100 chart. Again, a country song making that chart isn’t exactly a regular occurrence, but when they had reached number one in several previous tracks, this could be seen as a slight downfall. The other two singles also reached the top five on the country songs chart. “I Won’t Let Go” reached number two and “Easy” reached number three. The album itself also reached number three while being certified platinum in the U.S. and gold in Canada.
In 2012, Rascal Flatts released their eighth studio album, “Changed”. It’s first single, “Banjo”, became the trio’s twelfth number one single. The second single, “Come Wake Me Up”, broke the top ten as well reaching number eight. The title track didn’t quite fair as well, only reaching number 25. The album did fair a lot better than the previous, reaching number one on the country albums chart, and number three on the Billboard 200 chart.
2012 was a big year for the trio for another reason as well. That was the year they received the 2,480th start on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They received theirs a week after fellow Oklahoman, Vince Gill. 2012 also saw the group open a restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona, and expanded to other locations in 2013 and 2014. 2013 was a big year as well, seeing the trio co-headline Super Bowl XLVII with Journey.
In May, 2014, the trio released their ninth studio album, “Rewind”. The titular single was part of a controversy involving the trio. Rascal Flatts performed at the Academy of Country Music Awards show. After the show, they admitted they were lip-syncing the song because LaVox had lost his voice. The song didn’t fair very well on the charts either, only reaching number twenty two. “Payback” didn’t break the top twenty either, only reaching number twenty one. The other two singles didn’t do much better either, with “Riot” reaching number twenty, and “I Like the Sound of That” reaching number fifteen.
Rascal Flatts has taken their fame well. They have helped support music education in U.S. public schools with a PSA entitled “Little Kids Rock”. They also are involved with the Make A Wish Foundation. They helped raise over one million dollars for the foundation.
Although their sales and chart success has been on the decline, I think Racal Flatts has another huge album hidden in them somewhere. I believe there is another “Skin (Sarabeth)” in there somewhere. They have been doing their thing for fifteen years, and have twelve number one singles to their credit, but I think they could make that into thirty years and twenty four number one singles. Well LaVox, DeMarcus, and Rooney, prove me right.
Are you ready for the question? What song did I say was my favorite Rascal Flatts song? To answer, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will have until Sunday night at 11:59 pm to answer. On Monday, I will randomly select a winner out of everyone that gets the answer correct. Make sure the subject line says “Featured artist question of the week” so I can easily spot it. In the email also include your name and a phone number. Good luck!