“Hey, everybody, Rascal Flatts is in the house!”
That’s how Big Machine Records chief Scott Borchetta opened the party Wednesday (Aug. 3) at Nashville’s Hard Rock Cafe to celebrate the trio’s first year of achievements since it signed with his label.
When the crowd wasn’t sufficiently effusive at his announcement, Borchetta — always the cheerleader — shouted it again, this time eliciting what he deemed to be sufficient applause. Rascal Flatts is comprised of lead vocalist Gary LeVox, bassist-vocalist Jay DeMarcus and guitarist-vocalist Joe Don Rooney.
Borchetta spoke from a stage at the rear of which stood three large draped easels, a sure indication that significant presentations were pending.
The celebration, featuring an open bar and Mexican food, was staged in an upstairs room at the Hard Rock, where the walls were decorated with framed exhibits of stage costumes once worn by such luminaries as Kenny Chesney, Buck Owens, Conway Twitty and Bobbie Gentry.
Co-sponsored by ASCAP, the performance rights organization, the party was actually a multi-purpose event. Toasted as well were Jason Sellers and Steve Robson, the co-writers of Flatts’ most recent hit single, “I Won’t Let Go.”
Borchetta reminded partygoers that Big Machine had disclosed its signing of Flatts on July 29, 2010 and had simultaneously unveiled the group’s first single for the label, “Why Wait.” He noted that song went on to reach No. 1, as did Nothing Like This, the album it came from.
LeAnn Phelan, ASCAP’s senior creative director, praised both songwriters, noting that Sellers is “at that point that people are waiting to get the next Jason Sellers song.”
Darrell Franklin, executive vice president of BMG Chrysalis, Robson’s publishing company, read a letter of appreciation from the absentee composer who was with his family in London. He said Robson has had eight Rascal Flatts cuts so far, six of which were singles.
Troy Tomlinson, president and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, with which Sellers is affiliated, praised Sellers’ work ethic.
“I couldn’t ask for a songwriter to be more driven,” he said.
Tomlinson also pointed out that the members of Rascal Flatts have now been Sony/ATV writers for 12 years.
Next, Borchetta returned to the stage to declare, “Nothing Like This has just gone platinum” (a designation by the Recording Industry Association of America that 1 million units of an album or single have been shipped to retailers).
With that, the drapes were whipped off the easels to reveal three “platinum plaques,” one for each Flatts member.
By this time, several of the speakers had lauded the musical contributions of Flatts’ producer, Dann Huff. When Huff came forward to accept his various awards, DeMarcus asked from the sidelines if he could “share some of the superlatives” being showered on him.
In response, Huff assured the crowd that, “Yes, Rascal Flatts played and did sing on the record.”
LeVox told the crowd the trio had spent the early part of the day at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital discussing fundraising possibilities. Rascal Flatts have already donated more than $3 million to that facility.
Turning to Sellers, LeVox referred to the quality of “I Won’t Let Go” and noted, “The sign of a great song is what it means to so many different people.”
Told that Sellers had pitched a song to Huff while the party was in progress, LeVox retorted, “Hopefully, the song you pitched to Dann was for us and not Carrie Underwood.”
As the awards presentations droned on, the noise from conversations in the room intensified, prompting DeMarcus to shout, “I wish some of you people in the back would listen!”
Rooney also tipped his hat to Sellers, saying, “Here’s to your future, because this day is all about you.”
The ever-whimsical DeMarcus was less diplomatic.
“The first couple of songs he brought to us sucked,” he declared with a grin.
But DeMarcus’ final words to the crowd were serious
“We’ve got more passion and more energy in our music than we’ve had for a long time,” he said.View photos from the party.