Look for Rascal Flatts to entertain Dallas Cowboys fans at AT&T Stadium Sunday (Oct. 19) in a special pre-game Carnival Live concert before the Cowboys take on the New York Giants.
Carnival has partnered with the National Football League to become the official cruise line of the Dallas Cowboys and Sunday’s event is part of the mission to spread the word about the lineup for the cruise line’s 2015 Carnival Live concert series.
Rascal Flatts will play three shows for Carnival in Cozumel, Mexico, from May-7.
“They’re a top notch organization,” Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus tells Billboard of the trio’s partnership with Carnival. “We were sitting around one day and the opportunity came up through our management company via our booking agency and we decided it would be a fun, different sort of thing for us to do. You get in a pattern of doing the same types of things all the time tour after tour. And when this came up, to be able to do three shows in May of next year and to play before a Dallas Cowboys football game — we’re all such huge football fans — it just made sense.”
DeMarcus says when he and fellow Flatts members Gary LeVox and Joe Don Rooney perform at sporting events it’s different than a regular tour date.
“It is a different energy,” he says. “You’ve got football fans there and they’re tailgating and partying, and you’re just giving them something else to add to the party. It’s a different kind of atmosphere you’re playing in and it’s so much fun. A few years ago, we did the NFL’s opening night kick-off for the season. It was the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. I’ve never felt anything like playing that kick-off party. It was incredible.”
DeMarcus is also looking forward to playing for cruise passengers. With the Carnival Live concert series, acts fly into Nassau, Cozumel, or St. Thomas and board the ship and perform. The acts don’t sail on board the cruises, but just fly in and out and have greater flexibility. Carnival launched the concert series this year and it was so successful, they’ve already booked Journey, Little Big Town, Smokey Robinson and Styx for shows the first half of 2015. The lineup for the second half of the year will be announced later.
The acts perform in theaters on board the ships that range between 900 and 1,300 seats. Ticket prices range from $35 to $60 for general admission. VIP packages range from $125 to $150 and offer seats in the first four rows, a meet-and-greet and photo with the artist.
Mark Tamis, senior VP of guest operations for Carnival Cruise Lines, says they carefully book acts that will appeal to the company’s customers.
“In the process of setting up Carnival Live, we talked to a lot of our guests,” he says. “We talked to them in person. We talked to them through surveys. We talked to them in focus groups about the idea of doing these concerts onboard the ships. So they told us from the beginning they would love it. And then they told us what their favorite genres of music were, and within every genre, they told us who their favorite artists were. So we literally took that information and went out and started getting on the phone and calling these artists and making these bookings.”
Launching in 2014, Carnival Live featured 49 shows by 15 acts including Foreigner, REO Speedwagon, Martina McBride, Gavin DeGraw, Daughtry, Chicago, Trace Adkins and Jennifer Hudson. Lady Antebellum is set to perform is mid November.
“Lady A will be playing a 1,200-seat venue on the Carnival Breeze,” Tamis says. “A lot of these bands don’t play venues that small, but they love to play venues that small. They love to have that connection with their guests. That was our intention to bring this unique, amazing experience to amplify the Carnival cruise vacation.”
The company has been pleased with how the concert series has fared since the launch earlier this year.
“As we saw the success in 2014, that really gave us more motivation to do it even bigger in 2015 — bring in even bigger bands within their favorite genres,” Tamis says. “So there’s still a lot of focus around classic rock, country music, R&B. You can see what the caliber of talent from Journey to Rascal Flatts to Little Big Town and bringing Styx back because they’ve been so tremendously popular and completely sold out. I was just with them last week for two shows and sold out both nights. The 2014 success really gave us that inspiration to even go bigger in 2015.”
DeMarcus is looking forward to the Cowboys game on Sunday, even though he admits his football loyalty is split between Nashville’s franchise, the Tennessee Titans, and the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I’m a huge Titans fan. I have a lot of friends who play for the team,” says DeMarcus, “but I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, so I’m a huge Cincinnati Bengals fan. You just can’t help where you’re raised and what’s ingrained into you. There’s a 50/50 shot. [In Columbus] you’re either a Cleveland Browns fan or a Cincinnati Bengals fan. I ended up being a Cincinnati fan, and a pretty die-hard one at that.”
When asked if he had any concerns about the Ebola situation as he heads to Dallas this weekend, DeMarcus says, “I trust the Cowboys organization. I’m sure if there was a real scare they would shut it down.”
Celebrity chef Guy Fieri is also slated to be part of the weekend’s festivities. “We’re going to have a really good time,” DeMarcus says. “Our buddy Guy Fieri is going to be down there in Dallas at the tailgate parties cooking up a bunch of stuff. We’re just going to throw a big party and enjoy a Dallas Cowboys football game.”
Fieri also has a partnership with Carnival. “We started a business with Guy a couple of years ago and we now have Guy’s Burger Joints on our ships,” Tamis says. “Guy is going to be in Dallas and Guy is friends with all the band members of Rascal Flatts, so it’s perfect. We’re doing this really fun burger cook-off, that Guy will be judging for the Best Tailgate Burger for the day.”
Carnival recently announced its major sponsorship of the Dallas Cowboys and has other promotion events planned for home games throughout the season. “You get the really exciting stuff that’s happening around our dining, combined with what’s really exciting and happening around our entertainment and live music onboard the ships, and bringing that to Dallas, Texas,” Tamis says. “That’s what Sunday’s all about.”