Before leaving Nashville to perform “Unstoppable” on Wednesday’s (April 28) episode of American Idol, Rascal Flatts hit the greens at Vanderbilt Legends Club during a golf tournament benefitting the Tennessee chapter of the ALS Association.
In an interview with CMT Insider producer Terry Bumgarner, band members Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney talked golfing to raise money in the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor neuron disease.
The conversation also touched upon their friendship with American Idol judges Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi, the band’s upcoming appearance at the Kentucky Derby and the implications of the recent changes at their label, the Disney-owned Lyric Street Records.
Here’s an excerpt from Tuesday’s (April 27) interview.
Obviously, it was really important for you to be here as a part of this ALS tournament.
LeVox: Yeah, it’s a disease that has no warning. It can creep up anytime, and every hour and a-half in America, someone loses their life to it and someone else gets ALS, so we’re out here trying to raise 80 grand. That’s the goal for today and to put a stop to something that’s just so demoralizing to so many people. It’s just a privilege to be here and bring some awareness to it and try to raise some money for a great cause.
So who among you is the best golfer?
LeVox: Joe Don.
Rooney: No, it’s none of us. (laughs) It’s a tough sport, man. What hair I have left, I’ve ripped a lot of it out because of golf. But it’s one of those sports that keeps you coming back. It’s wonderful to tie in a charity golfing outing. People love to play golf, so people get out, especially when the weather is good. We had a tough winter, and it just seems like it’s going to turn around today.
Jay, most people can go out and play golf, but is it nerve-wracking to play at these tournaments where everybody is watching you?
DeMarcus: That’s why you’re gonna see me sneak off into the pro shop here before everybody tees off. … Yeah, it is, it is especially the first tee when you’re up there and people are watching to see if you’ve got any skills or not. You know what I’m talking about. But, yeah, we’re pretty good though. Honestly, we are.
LeVox: We just we play music so we can play golf. Really.
You’re leaving here early so you can go and rehearse for Idol. You’ve performed on the show more than once, right?
LeVox: Yeah, a couple of years ago we were on “Idol Gives Back,” and I think it’s a testament of the songs that we pick and record because some contestants pick to sing our songs. We’re really good friends with Ellen and Simon … .
DeMarcus: We have some compromising photos of Randy Jackson in a tutu that we’ve threatened to release, so that’s come in handy from time to time. (laughs)
LeVox: That’s really why they put us on the show — so we won’t show those. But Kara actually had a song on our last album. We’ve all written with Kara, and we’ve become good friends.
DeMarcus: And she has some compromising photos of us. So … .
LeVox: That’s right.
Rooney: Two-way street.
And it’s still a huge show to be on.
Rooney: Huge show. It’s amazing. Eight or nine seasons. … It’s amazing to have a run like that in any kind of business — period — and Idol has had a lot of talent come to the surface in the States. I think it’s a great show, and it’s a great way to showcase the wonderful talent that we have.
You’re singing the national anthem at the upcoming Kentucky Derby. Do you play the horses or know anything about horse racing?
LeVox: Well, yeah. We’re, we’re Americans. I mean, there’s nothing bigger in the world than the Kentucky Derby. And I know that the hat that my wife bought, if they had more events that entailed buying hats, I would quit music and sell hats. I would. … I’ve killed a lot of pheasants in my day. I should have saved everyone of them tail feathers and sold them all for about a grand apiece.
Rooney: I wish you’d brought your hat that you’re gonna wear. It’s pretty awesome.
LeVox: Well, thanks.
Rooney: You can’t even walk through the doorway with it.
LeVox: I know, it’s, it’s nice.
Rooney: It’s huge.
One last thing. What does Lyric Street’s closing mean to you and your fans?
DeMarcus: The press releases have been a little bit misleading in the fact that, yes, Lyric Street Records technically does not exist anymore, but we still have the same promotion and radio staff that we’ve had since day one. So for us as Rascal Flatts … we’re not going anywhere. We’re OK, and we’ve got one more record left with Disney. We’re working on a bunch of things right now that we’re really excited about, so it’s business as usual. We’re still working on our record, and we’ve got the same team in place. We’re very, very excited, although it was heartbreaking to see a lot of our great friends that we’ve developed such great relationships with over the past 10 years [leave the company]. It was heartbreaking, and we wish them all the best.