“It doesn’t feel like 10,” said Joe Don Rooney. “It feels like 20,” added Jay DeMarcus.
The members of Rascal Flatts can hardly believe it’s been 17 years and nearly 10 albums since their self-titled debut in 2000, but the opportunity to release their tenth album is one the men don’t take for granted.
“It was an absolute joy getting to make this record. We didn’t have any pressure on us, any time constraints,” Rooney told Sounds Like Nashville. “Scott Borchetta and Big Machine just said, ’Take your time with this, guys. When the music is done, I want to hear it. I trust you guys to go in and find the best songs you can find and do your thing.’”
And that’s what they did. The GRAMMY-winning group collected ten songs (plus three more for a deluxe version) and created what is now their tenth studio album, Back To Us. The album is reflective of Flatts-past and highlights what the group is best known for… their harmonies.
“I think with the way that the album was mixed, our vocals are at the forefront, like they were in the beginning of our career,” said the band’s lead singer Gary LeVox. “Everything just organically fell into place, really just the way God had it handed to us.”
The title track of the project was written by Cary Barlowe, David Hodges, Josh Thompson and perfectly encompassed the project for the trio.
“‘Back to Us’ really spoke at all volumes of this entire project, and where we’re going for this year and what we’re doing. It’s really good,” added LeVox. “We loved that song. It was one of the first ones we had cut for the album. It lived throughout the process of going out through there, and there was just a line in there, “back to us,” and we just thought it encapsulated everything we were doing.”
The project also features several songwriting credits from fellow artists, like Dan + Shay and Chris Stapleton.
“Well, … we had a deal early on with Dan + Shay that if they were going to steal our sound, we needed first pick of their songs,” joked DeMarcus. “It’s truly an honor to think that an artist thinks enough about what you’re doing to sit down and try to write a song for you. We’re always surprised, and grateful, and very humbled that people care enough about what we’re doing still to try to write something for us.”
While they cut several outside songs, LeVox, DeMarcus and Rooney found it important to put pen to song as they exercised their songwriting muscles for the record.
“I think this time it was [important], in particular, because I don’t think any of us had any cuts on the last record. I think Gary has been a vital part of our sound and our singles over the past 15 years, 16 years, so I think that it was important that we all be represented as writers on this record because it leads back to the title Back to Us. It certainly is more of us when more of what we have to say as artists are included on the record,” shared DeMarcus.
We all wrote great stuff,” LeVox agreed. “It’s funny because, the last record, it wasn’t from lack of putting songs in, but when you live in a town where some of the greatest songwriters in the world are, the best song wins in our camp. You have to put your ego on a shelf and go, ‘Okay, yeah, that’s better. Stapleton’s tune is better than the one we wrote.’”
“I think we’re lucky to have each other, too. When you have other opinions in the room, you look at it and listen to a song a little differently, I think. I think we lean on each other for that. There’s sometimes where Gary might not be on board on a song, but he’ll try it, and he sings the dog out of it and it’s awesome, or it doesn’t work. There’s times that’s all happened, too. It’s just a cool process to be a part of,” Rooney concluded.
Thankfully, the Flatts found their footing among the many Nashville songwriters and released their songs, among others, when Back To Us hit shelves on May 19. The lead single from the project, “Yours If You Want It,” is currently at country radio.