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Rascal Flatts

Rascal Flatts riding high on the multi-platinum success of its first two CDs

When Rascal Flatts began work on its second CD near the end of 2001, it made sense that the country vocal group would figure that it was time to move forward.

The group's self-titled debut CD had been out for almost two years, and had made a respectable showing, spawning hit singles in "Prayin' for Daylight" — a chart-topping single — and "This Everyday Love." The group also earned the 2001 Academy of Country Music Award for new vocal group of the year. But right about that time, a Nashville disc jockey, Gerry House, gave another song from the first CD, "I'm Moving On," a test spin. Response was so emphatic that Rascal Flatts' record company, Lyric Street, decided to release the song nationwide.

"I'm Moving On" soared up the country charts and suddenly the first album was hotter than ever. And Gary Levox, lead singer for Rascal Flatts, said the atmosphere surrounding the second album quickly took on a whole new dimension.

"We absolutely had no idea 'I'm Moving On' was going to do what it did," Levox said. "We didn't even know there was going to be a fourth single until Gerry House played it in Nashville. Yeah, 'I'm Moving On' took us to another level in a lot of people's eyes ... So it put a little pressure on us to go: 'You know what, these (new) songs have got to be great, not good or OK. They've got to be great songs.' I think we captured that on this album, I really, really do. I wouldn't change a thing."

The second CD to which Levox refers is called "Melt." Released in October 2002, the CD briefly topped the country charts and easily has surpassed platinum. Its lead single, "These Days," also became a No. 1 single, while a second single, "Love You Out Loud" also went top 10 on the Billboard magazine hot country chart. A new single, "Mayberry," has climbed to No. 15 on the country singles chart.

The CD also helped Rascal Flatts earn 2003 Vocal Group of the Year awards from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.

Without a doubt, "I'm Moving On," a deeply emotional ballad about closing the book on one phase of life to begin a new chapter, put Rascal Flatts on a whole different level on the country music scene even before "Melt" arrived. A multi-format hit, it pushed sales of the first CD past 1 million and clearly resonated deeply with fans who have had to go forward in life after such events as divorce or the death of a loved one or friend.

The success of "I'm Moving On" — and now the "Melt" CD and the "These Days" and "Love You Out Loud" singles — also has been a sweet reward for the members of Rascal Flatts, Levox, bassist/keyboardist Jay DeMarcus and guitarist Joe Don Rooney, who faced some tough career choices before deciding to form the band.

DeMarcus, a native of Columbus, Ohio, had some success in the Christian music duo East to West, but set that aside in the mid-'90s to pursue country music. Levox, who is DeMarcus' second cousin, left a steady job with the state's Department of Mental Retardation to make music his career.

Still, it took a chance event to bring together Rascal Flatts. One evening the guitarist who usually played in a trio with Levox and DeMarcus could not make a gig. DeMarcus asked Rooney, whom he had met while playing in Chely Wright's road band, to sit in that night.

When the three blended voices that evening, they knew they had to form a group together. Within a year, Rascal Flatts had been signed by Lyric Street and work was beginning on the first CD.

With "Melt," the trio mostly stuck to the musical strengths of the debut disc. Once again, Rascal Flatts effortlessly blends rootsy country with strong touches of pop on such easygoing uptempo tunes as "Too Good Is True," "Love You Out Love" and "Fallin' Upside Down," while showing a talent for melodic balladry on songs like "I Melt" and "These Days."

One contrast between "Melt" and the first CD is that Levox, DeMarcus and Rooney were more involved in the making of the new CD. The three co-produced the CD, and where the first CD featured studio musicians, DeMarcus and Rooney were key players in the studio group for "Melt."

Although much of the CD had been recorded by summer of 2002, "Melt" took one final twist when near the end of the sessions, "These Days," a song written by Steve Robson, Danny Wells and Jeffrey Steele, was pitched to the band.

After hearing that song, Levox, DeMarcus and Rooney chose to add it to the CD and jettison one of their original songs to make room for "These Days."

It was an easy decision, Levox said.

"There are some songs, when you're sitting in a room and you're listening to stuff, like for us 'I'm Moving On' was a no-brainer," he said. "'These Days' was a no-brainer."

Rascal Flatts headlines a show today — Feb. 19 — at the Family Arena in St. Charles. The show, which also features Cledus T. Judd and Brian McComas, is sold out.

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