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INTERVIEW: Rascal Flatts on finding their new EDM-tinged sound

A native of the storied coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina, Julie Sprankles has been a lover of words her entire life. As a Southerner, she certainly has what her mama calls “the gift of gab.” When she’s not writing, Julie can be...

Don't know what hick-hop is? Rascal Flatts does, and says it's here to stay

For two years, fans of iconic country music trio Rascal Flatts waited patiently for their latest effort, Rewind. The guys — Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus — admit the gap between this ninth studio album and Changed in 2012 was out of character, but also purpose-filled.

On evolving, hitting No. 1 and hick-hop

Coming into their 15th year in the industry, Rascal Flatts has landed at the top of the charts 15 times and earned over 40 major awards. In fact, they're the most-awarded country music band of the last decade.

Still, with the fabric of country music constantly evolving — and especially so over the last few years — they decided it was time to shake their sound up some.

"I think we pushed ourselves to kind of evolve a little bit... not change up too much, just try to find some songs that had different beats and textures that we really haven't had before, and try to just grow this Rascal Flatts thing a little bit further and a little bit deeper," explained DeMarcus.

And it sure seems to be working for them. The title single from Rewind got the guys back to No. 1 on the country charts for the first time since 2012. The rest of the album is filled with an eclectic mix of potential chart-toppers as well, ranging from the sprawling piano ballad "I Have Never Been to Memphis" to the rock 'n' roll-heavy "Payback," their second single.

"The one great thing about country music is that there's room for everybody," the guys agreed when asked whether they think the trend toward 'hick-hop' is here to stay. "We've got people coming from the pop world coming over and doing country records, we have hip-hop artists singing on country records and we still have our Alan Jacksons and our George Straits."

On finding the right tracks

To successfully capture both the classic country sound and the newer influences on Rewind, the trio took a dramatic departure from their typical process of picking tracks.

"We really took our time to find the best songs we could find, and we got really lucky. It was actually pretty hard to weed it down to the final 13 for the album," LeVox admitted.

"This time around, we listened to literally hundreds of songs," said DeMarcus. "We took meetings with publishers in Nashville and sat down in meetings with them that took days, sitting around a table listening to what they thought were their best couple of songs to offer us."

While the album boasts its fair share of the trademark Rascal Flatts power ballads that send country music fans into a fervor, LeVox, DeMarcus and Rooney are actually pretty partial to the album's up-tempo tracks.

"'Powerful Stuff' we recorded in LA with Tyler Jensen, and he gave us the nice rock edge 'cause that's the world he comes from," Rooney told us. "And we did 'DJ Tonight' out of Jay Bruce's house in Nashville, Tennessee, and you can hear the difference in both of those songs, yet they still go together with the body of the album."

The latter of which they were drawn to for, as Rooney puts it, "the groove," elaborating, "We'd never done anything with that kind of disco, floor-to-floor beat, and it works perfectly in our live show, too."

But when the guys rattle off these EDM-tinged songs as some of their personal favorites to play, we have to assume they must be pretty good dancers — I mean, you've go be able to keep a beat rocking out to songs like that, right?

"Oh yeah, Gary's a fantastic dancer," joked DeMarcus, struggling to keep his composure. To which LeVox laughed, "I'm terrible. I have no rhythm in my body whatsoever!"

On gettin' rowdy, y'all

Still, you get the sense that dance skills or not, these fellas like to crank things up when they're offstage too, if you catch our drift.

"Yeah," LeVox drawled, "we like to get a little rowdy." (For further corroboration, Google "Rascal Flatts" and "goat." You can thank us later.) "That's why we end up eating so late sometimes and end up relying on Nexium 24HR, to make sure we can live life without hesitation and eat whenever and whatever we want to," added DeMarcus.

Rascal Flatts just announced that they've partnered with Nexium 24HR, a decision LeVox says was a no-brainer.

"We all three suffer from frequent heartburn. We have for years — it runs in our families — and we've found out there's thousands of people that have jumped on the Nexium 24HR bandwagon because it's a healer. It's unbelievable. You can literally take it in the morning, and you can eat anything you want to throughout the day on the go, with whoever you want to be around," he laughed. "And you're unaffected. Heartburn's not gonna happen. We take it. We live by it."

Without that hindrance, the trio is truly free to do what they do best: make amazing country music. And the guys promise both the album and the tour have been well worth the wait.

"If anyone hasn't come out to a show on The Rewind Tour yet, they need to check it out," vowed DeMarcus. "We've got Sheryl Crow and Gloriana out with us, and we've had so much fun. If you think you've seen Rascal Flatts live, you need to think again... 'cause it's a different show."

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