By Mikaela Bella.
There’s been a lot of talk about Back to Us echoing the nostalgia of early Rascal Flatts sounds and albums?
“I’m not saying this because it’s our latest album and it’s my job to plug it – but I’d put Back to Us right up there with any of the best we’ve ever made. Song for song, sound for sound, quality for quality I think it’s 100% what Rascal Flatts has to offer and I do believe it harkens back to our Rascal Flatts album (2000).
“This our tenth album and we had the plan in mind for all of us to get back together and work. In years past we’ve all just been so busy and didn’t have the time to huddle together in a studio environment to create as a trio. That meant we made some albums where two of us would be in a studio then one would have to come in later.
“We did the bulk of the work at Jay’s house so he could produce the project, but we spent a bit of time in other studios in Nashville. When we’d go to Jay’s house all three of us would show up and we’d make sure we had ample time, like 2-4 days, to all stay working on parts together. And that’s very much how we did our first self-titled album in 2000. We went back to how we were back then. There’s a good mix and match of up-tempos, mid-tempos and ballads on this album.”
You didn’t write as many songs as Jay (DeMarcus) or Gary (LeVox) on this album, but tell me about writing ‘Dance’?
“It was so much fun! I wrote it with two guys I’ve written a lot with in the past, Blair Dalya and Troy Verges. This was written on one of those random days, last year at this time on Music Row. It started with my idea of a groove hook – My baby loves to dance, dance, dance – and when I played it for the guys [Jay and Gary] they just loved it.
It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to write something up-tempo that’s got some meat on the bone. It’s a song to roll the windows down, crank it up and forget about life.
I have a 6-and-a-half year old daughter [Rocky] and a 2-and-a-half-year old daughter [Raquel] and my son [Jagger] turns 9 today. Rocky just goes crazy for that song, getting her feet moving.”
‘Roller Rink’ is another fun song – how well do you guys skate?
“Man, that song is so out of the box cool. It goes back to my teen years, down at a roller rink somewhere. Although we grew up in different places [Ohio and Oklahoma] we all grew up very similarly in the 80s and early 90s, and we talked about having what they called church group lock-ins. You’d stay up all night long, 8pm to 8am and it was a blast on the weekends. That song brings back the nostalgia. And in the States rollerskating is making a comeback. It’s really cool to see, so maybe this year or next year there could be a really funny video for the song to come out!”
All three of you wrote ‘Are You Happy Now’ – and asked Lauren Alaina to guest on it as a duet?
“The three of us wrote that song with another writer here in Nashville, Sean McConnell four years ago for our last album Rewind (2014). It just didn’t quite fit in that body of work. So this project came up, we’re midway through and our label suggested we do a collaboration. We remembered ‘Are You Happy Now’ and reimagined it as a duet. We had a list of female singers and Lauren Alaina was on top of that list to be honest. We knew she had that ability to step up and go toe to toe with Gary. There are not a whole lot of singers that can match up to him and she can and she does at the right time too. She sang the fire out of it. Gary actually had most of his vocal finished and then he had to go back in the booth and sing a little bit more and work extra hard to make it come to life because she really brought it. That song has had a long road of its’ own and we’re really proud of it on the album.”
You’ve inc ‘I Know You Won’t,’ previously cut by Carrie Underwood on her 2007 album Carnival Ride – what made you cut this song?
‘Gary just lives inside the song so well and is very vulnerable in the song, like he was on Rascal Flatts (2000) with ‘Prayin for Daylight’ and ‘I’m Moving On’. In 2005, before we had Me and My Gang we had that song pitched to us, before Carrie. I went back to Carrie’s cut to listen because I wasn’t familiar with it. Flash forward to this past January when one of our writers re-demoed the song and it is so powerful with just a piano and him singing, it brought a different life out of the song. 12 years after it was written! Jay and I were just blown away by it, thinking it has so much 70s Eagles and Joe Cocker. Rock, country, grit and a lot of angst and heart.”
Read the full story in Issue 86…