Rascal Flatts sat down with Sarah Trahern, chief executive officer for the Country Music Association, in Nashville on Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 19) for an in-depth and emotional conversation about their 20-year history and their upcoming retirement.
The hourlong discussion, titled Rascal Flatts: 20 Years of Country Radio Success, featured the band’s humor with Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus often poking fun at each other and likening their 20 years together as that of a marriage.
In addition to providing the Country Radio Seminar 2020 audience at Nashville’s Omni Hotel laughter for much of their conversation, the country trio got serious when discussing their legacy within the genre as well as their friendship. They stressed that their retirement later this year has nothing to do with any band turmoil.
“We’ve certainly had so many milestones to celebrate and things that really, we’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy and take a deep breath,” DeMarcus said. “We’ve really done some remarkable things in a 20-year career. I think for us, [we’re] looking forward to this year and making it all about the fans who are allowing us to have the best jobs in the world. We really want to focus on not so much the sadness of retirement, but what we’ve been able to do for 20 years.”
While the three members each have plans in place to continue working in music following their retirement at the end of 2020, they admit that their tour stop at Bridgestone Arena on Oct. 30 remains the final date of their farewell tour. “October 30 will be the last time you’ll get to see the three of us on stage,” LeVox said.
Meanwhile, bandmate and cousin DeMarcus stressed that the decision to take a step back from Rascal Flatts wasn’t because the trio had been fighting. He addressed that many fans have been asking on social media if they had a fall out, had been fighting with each other or had gotten to a point to where they can’t get along.
“That’s really not the case. We love each other, probably more now than we ever did when we first started. We just got to this point in the road where it’s forking and we’re entering new seasons of our lives,” DeMarcus said. “We haven’t signed a pact to say we’re never going to work together ever again. This isn’t a ploy to get everybody to come out, see this tour so we can turn around next year … there are no immediate plans to do any more Rascal Flatts shows past October 30.
“This is a decision that we didn’t reach lightly. It was a very tough decision and is going to be a very sad, bittersweet year, but it’s something we think is the best for our lives right now. We still all get along. We didn’t arrive in separate vehicles.”
When asked if they’ve thought about their final moment on stage together in October, the band got visibly emotional. “It’s going to be really, really sad and it’s going to be emotional, “DeMarcus confessed. “This time next year when there’s no tour planned and I can’t look over to my right and see my cousin and Joe Don standing next to me, it’s going to be … this has been the [biggest] part of my life for most of my adult life. So it’s going to be a really sad thing. That’s all I can say.”
Rooney, meanwhile, expressed his gratitude for the fans’ support over the past two decades before admitting that their final concert on Oct. 30 will be bittersweet. “We’ve been one of the fortunate ones to do this for a very long time. It’ll be so bittersweet to play that last note on guitar and hear that last note down low on bass, hear Gary hit the stratosphere,” he said.
“There’s so much love and so much appreciation for everything we’ve gotten to do. It’s going to be an exciting year. It’s going to be a heavy year. It’s going to be, I think, an amazing journey this year of all the years we’ve been together. And I don’t know how I’m gonna feel … there’s a lot to be thankful for.”