Rascal Flatts: The CMT Insider Interview

Superstar Group Leading Tour With Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, Edens Edge

Editor’s note: Watch the Rascal Flatts interview during the new episode of CMT Insider airing Saturday and Sunday (July 21-22) at 11 a.m. ET/PT.

The stars lined up for Rascal Flatts’ Changed tour in more ways than one. They’re traveling this summer with fellow groups Little Big Town, the Eli Young Band and new trio Edens Edge.

When CMT Insider host Katie Cook asked how long they’ve aimed for an all-band tour, bassist Jay DeMarcus replied, “It’s been something we’ve batted around for a few years. It’s hard to get all of the schedules to line up and mix in. One band could do it this time. Another band couldn’t do it that time. So finally the stars aligned and everybody’s schedules lined up.”

During the backstage interview, DeMarcus added, “It’s so much fun to have vocal groups out on the road because we get to see them do their thing, and at the end of the night, we come back and we all do a big thing together for the encore with ’American Band.’ So it’s a lot of fun to not have solo acts out this year. No offense to the ones we’ve had on before.”

However, lead guitarist Joe Don Rooney joked, “We’re thinking about going back to that because the catering bill has been unbelievable.”

Lead singer Gary LeVox joined DeMarcus and Rooney to chat with CMT Insider about life on tour, early bedtimes and the “ultimate payoff” from playing live.

CMT: What’s a typical day out on the road like for you guys?

Rooney: We try to play some golf in whatever city we can, if weather permits and if it’s not too hot.

LeVox: We usually have a lot of friends in all these places, so we’ll hang out with them. And we’ll go to the local brewery and try to get the Eli Young Band out of there.

What have you learned about Little Big Town on this tour?

LeVox: What great singers they are live. I mean, they are really fantastic. Every single night, they just step up there — their blend and their passion. Phillip [Sweet] is just one of the nicest people on the planet. He’s absolutely an animal on stage. He lives to perform live, and so that’s probably the biggest thing.

Album sales are down across the board in all musical genres, so how important are ticket sales now to artists?

DeMarcus: Probably more important than ever, I would say.

LeVox: Yeah, for sure. Without a doubt. You can see the difference where people don’t have the money to go spend the money on an album. They’d rather save up, come as a family and come to a show live. … Everybody needs a release from life. They need one night off.

DeMarcus: That’s what I’ve been saying forever. Everybody needs one night off, Gary.

Rooney: Especially us.

Is the tour going smoothly so far? Anything unpredictable?

DeMarcus: I think for the first couple of weeks, it took us a little bit. … When you put a new show out, you always have a few kinks that you need to iron out, and you need to dial your show in. You figure out over a couple of weeks what songs work well together and what songs may not have the impact you thought they would at that spot in the show. There’s really an art form to putting together a set list that flows evenly and that takes you on a ride and doesn’t feel disjointed. For us, it’s a constant work in progress of trying to figure out the best way to present the show each night. … We’ve gotten it down now to where we feel really good about how well the show flows together.

LeVox: When you’re rehearsing, the only thing that we have to go off of is us saying, “That felt pretty good.” All of a sudden, you get in front of a bunch of people and think, “I don’t think that works.” So your first true test is usually opening night.

The new single is “Come Wake Me Up.” Let’s talk about this theme. I know sleeping can be a big issue out on the road. First of all, do any of you have insomnia?

DeMarcus: From time to time, I battle it. It’s weird because when you’ve been on the road for as long we have, you become so accustomed to sleeping on a bus and the sound and the hum of the engine and the generator and everything. So I sleep better on the road than I do at home. Sometimes when it’s dead quiet at home, I have trouble falling asleep, so the only time I get any sound rest is when we’re on the road.

Are you morning people?

DeMarcus: Absolutely not.

LeVox: I am when I’m home, being a big hunter. Once deer season starts, I’m clicking pretty good. But being a dad when I’m home …

DeMarcus: Your schedule flips so much.

That’s what I wonder about with artists. How do you go from being home with the kids — probably waking up at 6:30 in the morning — then out here, it’s nocturnal?

LeVox: You just do it, you know? A lot of times when we’re home, we’re going to bed at 9 or 10. And we don’t even go on stage until 9:30 every night when we’re on the road. So you got to switch hats and go get it.

I love to watch the fans watching you guys. I see how much they light up just being so close. What do you see when you look out there? Can you really focus on all the individuals?

DeMarcus: It’s really better than any drug you could ever be on. It’s really a huge high to be on that stage. When you first start out in the music business and hope that you have a couple hits, the ultimate payoff is to be standing in front of all those people who are singing it back to you at the top of their lungs. And you know by the way they’re singing it back that it’s affected their life in some way. That’s the ultimate reward as an artist for me.