CMT Insider Interview: Rascal Flatts (Part 2 of 2)

Touring, Studio Time Still Feels Good for Country Group

With Rascal Flatts having sold more CDs last year than any other act in music, the entire music industry will be watching closely as the trio releases their new album, Still Feels Good, on Tuesday (Sept. 25).

In the second part of Katie Cook’s interview for CMT Insider, the band members talk about the importance of touring, who obsesses the most in the studio and how Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are all responsible for the resurgence of country music.

Katie Cook: Let’s talk about the digital revolution with music. With everything being online now, it has affected sales and changed the landscape dramatically, especially when it comes to illegal downloads.

Joe Don Rooney: Well, it’s definitely interesting, you know. It’s become something where your live show is so much more important now. That’s really the only thing the artist has complete control of nowadays. You can’t download that. It’s something you’ve got to be there to see. We really take that to be the most important thing in the world right now.

Of course, making the albums are great, but putting your album out there once it’s on sale, you just can’t control the millions of people that are out there with computers. It’s so easy to download songs. If I was a kid growing up nowadays, I’d probably do the same thing. Kids just don’t know any better. … There’s not enough awareness out there yet for that. And, yes, there’s really not a lot we can do at this point except try and create awareness for that. … But you have to be kind of unique with your album launches anymore. You have to give different outlet chains different versions of the album sometimes in order to entice buyers to only go to Target — or only go to Wal-Mart — to buy the album. There are lots of different things you can still do, but it’s still quite a hurdle. It really is.

This fall is shaping up to be a very busy time for new country CD releases. Does it bother you that so many people in the music business outside of Nashville still don’t think of country as a major sales contender?

Jay DeMarcus: I think all they have to do is look at the numbers from last year. It speaks for itself — with the release of Carrie Underwood’s album and our album doing what it was able to do last year. I think that they can ignore it all they want to, but the numbers speak for themselves. I’m not really concerned so much with the industry, except in country music, as long as our fans keep coming to the shows and keep buying the records and we keep having success on country radio. …

We’ve got artists like Kenny that are amazing and Tim and Faith and Carrie Underwood. I think we’re at a great, great place for country music to where we’re starting to have a resurgence that we haven’t seen probably in 10 or 15 years. It’s really great to be a part of that. I think as long as we keep doing our jobs right, we keep selling records and we keep putting out great music, they’re going to have to take note of it. I think it’s just a matter of time.

When the three of you are in the studio, I want to know who obsesses over what.

DeMarcus: Everything. I love making records. That’s my favorite part of the whole process. And I love playing live, but certainly getting the music on a disc that’s going to live forever and be there forever, just every little detail drives me crazy. I worry about kick-drum sounds and snare sounds, if the background vocals are loud enough, if Gary’s vocals are perfect. And I mean everything. I pore over it, and I just obsess over it.

Does it drive you crazy?

Gary LeVox: Yeah, of course. It’s great to have a partner that is passionate because Jay’s hobby is music. Jay has incredible ideas, and it’s great to have that on your side. It helps take things to the next level. And then again, it can annoy the snot out of you when you’ve got to sit there and go …

DeMarcus: “I sang that 14 times!”

Rooney: “Can you do this for me? Just one more line … one more time.”

LeVox: “Can you sing ’A’ one more time?”

He sort of sounds like the real producer of the bunch.

Rooney: Definitely, but you’ve got Dann Huff, our producer, mixed in there. He’s the exact same breed. Between those two, it’s like mom and daddy … crackin’ the whip.

DeMarcus: Joe Don is very much the same way with his guitar, though. I mean, he really, really is.

LeVox: That’s right, Katie. Welcome to my world. Have I told you how much I love playing live?

DeMarcus: I wish I had a little more of Gary in me that can just go in there and do your job and kind of walk away from it. I don’t think you really take it home with you, do you?

LeVox: No.

DeMarcus: I mean, you can go and do your job and sort of leave it. He goes home, and he’s a daddy and a fine husband and everything. And I’m laying awake in bed going, “Do we have enough so-and-so?” But that’s what I’ve lived for all my life — and that’s what I’ve done, and that’s the core.

Rooney: It’s why we moved to town.

Read the first part of the CMT Insider interview with Rascal Flatts.