Rascal Flatts are at the top of their game right now. The trio -- Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney -- outsold every other artist in 2006 and performed for more than 1 million fans. And although Kenny Chesney cut "Take Me There" first (and co-wrote the song), he gave it to Rascal Flatts. In turn, the group took the song to No. 1 and used it to launch their new album, Still Feels Good, which will be released Tuesday (Sept. 25).
Recording Chesney's song was a good move, says guitarist Joe Don Rooney.
"Luckily, we did get it and we were the ones who cut it because it's just been a perfect segue into this new album," he says. "It ties Me and My Gang and Still Feels Good together really well."
In this first part of a two-part interview with CMT Insider host Katie Cook, the group talks about new music, early struggles, writing songs with a country influence and why staying together still feels good.
Katie Cook: What attracted you to the song "Every Day"?
Jay DeMarcus: I think the simple message of that song is what attracted me to "Every Day." It's one of those simple yet profound lyrics. When you hear that chorus and he says, "Every day you save my life," it hits you like a ton of bricks. There are so many people that come in and out of your life that you feel that way about. So many people have stood behind me for so long. I immediately thought of my mom and how encouraging she was to me over the years, struggling in Nashville, and I wanted to give up and come back home and get an ordinary job somewhere. That song really moved me when I thought about those people that are in my life that I lean on so heavily. My wife, my family, it's just a really great song.
Let's talk about the bonus cuts. I understand it's a little different than anything else you've ever done.
Joe Don Rooney: Oh, the bonus tracks are fun. Jay's got a great studio at his house, and we just went to Jay's and camped out with our band guys on the road. They actually played in all the bonus tracks. We had a ball.
DeMarcus: The three of us got to produce them ourselves and do our own thing to them. People are always surprised to find this out, but the songs that we write, such as "Winner of a Losing Game" and things like that, tend to be more country than the other stuff that we cut from outside writers. So what's really cool is getting in the studio and kind of doing our own thing to these songs. We worked as hard on those bonus tracks as we did on the entire record. They ended up being something that I'm really proud of. I think we can stack it up against anything on the record. We're really proud of them.
Rooney: We have a special one on there. Jay's dad used to have a bar band in the late '70s. It was incredible -- a trio of guys, believe it or not, ironically enough. Jay actually put these real recordings together on CD for his dad a couple of years ago, and there was one song in particular that the lead singer in his dad's group wrote and used to sing back in the day called "I Can Almost." And it sounds like a George Jones kind of Motown country classic tune. I'm telling you, it's unbelievable. So Jay talked us into taking it to the studio and recording it. It was really cool to do this for his dad's history and for his dad's old band and for the lead singer, Roger.
DeMarcus: It was a really special moment. He wrote that song in '75 and held onto it all of these years. And we'd sit around on the bus listening to my dad's old tapes because, oddly enough, they're really great recordings for sitting in a barroom with just a couple of microphones. ... It was just on in the background, man, and I said, "That's a great song, man." And Gary said, "Why don't we go on and cut that one? I've always liked that song and I know Joe always has."
Gary, you co-wrote "Still Feels Good." Tell us where the inspiration came from.
Gary LeVox: "Still Feels Good" is about being together for so long and it still feels like the first day you ever met. It still feels good, waking up and seeing you every day. Some of the friends and dreams that we've had and seeing so many people going through divorce and getting tired of being together, it's kind of a reassuring thing to say and just tell her, "Baby, it still feels good." "That old T-shirt you still wear to bed that used to be mine when we first met" kind of thing.
Rooney: It's a great sentiment for your life for sure.
LeVox: It's easier to get divorced than it is to get married these days.
DeMarcus: I don't know about that.
LeVox: Most people do that. Most people go, "I give up, I quit."
Rooney: You've got a lot to lose nowadays, boys. ... No, it's funny though, because you could take that title, like we did with the album, and it means even more than just what the song means -- which is a lot. But it still feels good to us -- touring and being out seven years on the road and seeing the fans every night. It's amazing that it still feels brand new to us. It just could never get old.
Read the second part of the CMT Insider interview with Rascal Flatts.