Jason Crabb has signed with Red Street Records, the Christian label launched last year by Rascal Flatts’ bassist Jay DeMarcus, Billboard has learned exclusively. In addition to recording for the label, Crabb will have the option to sign and develop other acts for Red Street.
"After Jason and I did the Unexpected record [in 2018], we started talking about our love for working with each other and how can we be involved moving forward in making music together again,” says DeMarcus, who produced the Grammy winning Unexpected album as well as six songs on Crabb’s 2013 album Love is Stronger. “He went out on the road and got busy and before you knew it a couple of years passed."
When Crabb’s deal was up with Daywind Music Group, he gave DeMarcus a call. "I’ve always loved making music with Jason even if it was just sitting in the studio helping him capture his vision," DeMarcus tells Billboard, “but this was just beyond anything I could have imagined. I was thrilled to get that phone call and immediately started talking to my staff making sure that we were able to give him the kind of deal that he would want to come and be a part of our family. I’m so glad he’s here."
For Crabb, the decision to sign with Red Street was an easy one. "I feel like he’s more like my family, my brother, than anything and that’s the way it feels in the studio," the Beaver Dam, KY native says. "There is no other place that I would rather be. What a huge honor."
Crabb says his family has always been a fan of the way DeMarcus produces his records. "Every time I work with Jay, my family says, 'He always brings out who you are. That sounds like who you are when you are on the road,’” Crabb shares. "I have had people say, 'Man you sound better live than you do on the recording.’ And they always said that until I started working with Jay."
Crabb began singing Southern gospel music as a teen with his siblings as The Crabb Family and they became one of the most successful acts in the genre before disbanding in 2007 to pursue solo careers. Since then they’ve reunited for the 2012 album Together Again, have hit the road for a winter tour the past few years and most recently recorded a new album, 20/20, which releases in March via Daywind Music Group.
After the Crabb Family disbanded, Jason embarked on a solo career and has released five solo albums. His self-titled debut on Gaither’s Spring Hill label netted a Grammy for Best Southern/Country/Bluegrass Gospel Album in 2010. Most recently, Unexpected won a Grammy in 2019 for Best Roots Gospel Album. Crabb has also won 22 GMA Dove Awards, including Artist of the Year in 2012.
Though DeMarcus is well known as one third of the award-winning country super group Rascal Flatts, he’s no stranger to Christian music. He started his career on Benson Records as half of the contemporary Christian duo East to West, and over the years has continued to work with faith-based artists as a producer. In 2018 he launched Red Street Records, signing veteran Christian hitmakers Avalon as his flagship act.
Though Crabb’s main base has long been Southern gospel music, over the years he’s made inroads in mainstream country and flirted with other formats. DeMarcus plans to expand Crabb’s presence in the Christian AC arena. "It’s about making sure Jason connects to the CCM audience with the right song,” DeMarcus says. "The talent is there and everybody knows it. Every time Jason gets in front of a crowd he wins a thousand percent of the time. He has yet to find that one magical song that has broken him at CCM radio and that’s what our task is because I believe once we get over that one little hurdle, and we become entrenched at CCM radio, there are going to be all kinds of doors that open up for Jason and his career will only grow."
DeMarcus admits the last album they made together, Unexpected, covered a lot of territory stylistically. "We made our dream record the last time where we did a little bit of everything because he’s great at all of it," DeMarcus says. "He can do a country tune where there’s a bunch of picking in it and then he can turn around and do an inspirational tune and then he can turn around and do a rock tune. So I think we need to knock the edges off and more clearly define who Jason is as an artist. That’s what I’m excited about getting in and helping him do and we’re going to surprise a lot of people."
DeMarcus says Crabb’s role with Red Street will go beyond just being an artist, explaining that he will be a friend and mentor to younger acts as well as have the freedom to develop his own projects and sign his own acts. "Jason’s presence at our record label is not just about him being an artist, it’s also about the experience and knowledge that he brings to our younger artists that we have on our roster,” DeMarcus says. “There’s a larger aspect of what Jason is trying to do at this point in his career than just simply making records and going out and touring on those records. Our partnership goes much deeper than him just simply being an artist."
Crabb is looking forward to the possibilities. “I’m ecstatic about that,” Crabb says of being involved in the label. In 2017, he briefly launched his own Red Bus Records, a Daywind imprint, but admits he didn’t have time to develop it as he had planned. "We were so busy trying to make some other things happen that I just didn’t really have time to grasp a hold of that," he says. "It just kind of fizzled out."
Crabb and DeMarcus haven’t started recording yet, but are looking for songs and plan to have Crabb’s new album out later this year. "I feel like I’m with the right people that get exactly what my vision is and who I am and what I do," Crabb says. "Being with someone like Jay that has been on the road, that has traveled the world, has played in front of millions of people and sold millions of records that knows the industry in and out and knows what it takes is awesome."
Rascal Flatts recently announced they are embarking on their farewell tour this year. DeMarcus looks forward to putting more time into Red Street after the group comes off the road. "I took the leap of faith and started Red Street Records not knowing what was out there in the future—much like not being able to see what would one day become Rascal Flatts early on. Now I’ve got something here that looks like it’s been God’s timing all along," DeMarcus says, then adds with a laugh, "I'm so happy that things have worked out the way that they have because I’m going to need a job in 2021."