KEEPING IT ROLLIN'

After some life-changing events, the guys in Rascal Flatts are back with a commitment to staying on top.

That line from "Feels Like Today," the title cut and debut hit from the just-released Rascal Flatts CD, couldn't be truer for the group's Gary Levox, Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus. As hectic as their schedules have been lately - including making time for a new baby and a new bride - life for them is anything but frozen in time. But if life could be stopped for just a moment, this wouldn't be a bad time to take a snapshot of a career that amazes even the three guys living it.

"The first line in my thank-yous in the new album's notes is 'Thank God for blessing us far beyond what we deserve,'" proclaims Jay during a break in a rehearsal for a CMT special shot in Atlanta to coincide with the release of their album and the launch of their headlining Here's to You fall tour.

"We are very fortunate to have accomplished what we have in this business. We don't take it for granted," he adds. "Although there are times we all sit there and go, 'My goodness, we never would have dreamed it would be like this!' But who would have?"

The guys are the reigning ACM and CMA Vocal Group of the Year and were recently nominated for the same CMA award again this year. Their first two albums, Rascal Flatts and Melt, are platinum and double platinum, respectively. And their string of hits includes chart-toppers "These Days" and "Mayberry" plus other Top 10s like "Love You Out Loud," "I Melt," and "I'm Movin' On."

No doubt about it, Rascal Flatts is in overdrive. But as the guys have found out, staying on top is at least as challenging as getting there. That's true, in part, because of the pressures they put on themselves.

"The recording of this album was harder and took longer than the others," explains Gary. "And it was just for the passion of the album, makin' sure it was perfect. It was settin' our goals and standards higher."

"Our career has definitely exceeded our expectations," declares Jay. "But we never knew how hard it would actually be to maintain the momentum - to do all the things you have to do to keep this machine rollin'."

And rollin' is exactly what the guys are doing, hitting the road as hard as ever - and squeezing in special projects when they can. Whether it's going to Asbury Park, N.J., to shoot the video for their current hit, or sitting on the bus outside the Georgia International Convention Center, waiting for the set to be completed before a run-through of their CMT show, the guys do what it takes to make things work.

Sometimes that involves personal sacrifice - like spending the afternoon with nearly 100 college girls! Of course, it was all for the good of their TV special.

"We rolled up on this bus at the University of Georgia," grins Joe Don, "and we were told the girls at Tri Delta wanted to throw a little tea party for us. When we pulled up, they were screamin' their heads off."

"They thought we were Lonestar at first," deadpans Jay. "But once they found out some of the songs we had recorded, they were still excited."

While singing for a bunch of college girls might not be considered one of the tougher parts of their careers, the guys don't have to think long about what is - being separated from loved ones. It's especially difficult for Gary and Jay, who've recently been through some major life events. For Gary, it was the birth of Brooklyn, the second daughter for him and his wife, Tara.

"It's even harder now for me to get on the bus to leave," confesses Gary. "Especially when they're both sick like they are now, and I've gotta be out here working."

In Jay's case he's not leaving behind a new child, but a new bride, Allison.

"It's been almost four months now, and people said it wouldn't last!" he chuckles. But he turns serious when asked if married life is all he hoped it would be.

"I gotta be honest and tell you, I really don't know," he proclaims. "I haven't been home all summer long. But I'm so thankful for her in my life. She's definitely a godsend, but I'll let you know how it is when I get to spend some more time with her!"

For Joe Don, there are no wedding rings or little feet around the house, but he is still seriously involved. "Tiffany Fallon is her name," he declares of the pretty brunette who had a very sexy role in Toby Keith's "Who's Your Daddy?" video. "She's just wonderful. I love her to death. We make great friends together, and that's the most important thing. Things are going really well."

Of course, there is one dark cloud in Joe Don's world. He recently bought his dream home on an exclusive Nashville-area golf course - and he never has time to play!

"They're closed on Monday," he exclaims. "And we're almost always home on a Monday." But Joe Don's not complaining too loudly. After all, his time on the road playing the music he loves is one of the reasons he has that new home.

And it always comes back to the music - for all of the guys.

"If we did not have a record deal," admits Joe Don, "we'd still be in Nashville hittin' the clubs and playin' music.

"Because we love it." CW

To see Rascal Flatt's new video, "It Feels Like Today" please click below.
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To hear Rascal Flatt's new song, click the title: "It Feels Like Today"

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