Riding high from the successes of 2011, Rascal Flatts hopes to keep the momentum going in 2012. The trio of country superstars returns to the Charleston Civic Center Thursday for a show with Sara Evans and Hunter Hayes.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rascal Flatts' Jay DeMarcus said if the band didn't play West Virginia as much as it did, the guys would be in trouble with their mamas.
Bassist and pianist/keyboardist DeMarcus and lead singer Gary LeVox are second cousins. Their family, he said, comes from Wayne County.
"My mom and Gary's mom were born and raised in a little town called Dunlow," he said. "They moved to Ohio when they were little girls. Grandpa couldn't find work."
DeMarcus and LeVox, along with guitarist Joe Don Rooney, don't have the same problem. The country stars have performed at least one show in West Virginia almost every year since they burst onto the country scene with their self-titled debut album in 2000.
Thursday, the award-winning band returns to the Charleston Civic Center, along with singers Sara Evans and Hunter Hayes.
With 2011 barely in the taillights, DeMarcus was in the mood to reflect on the past year. "I'll look back on 2011 as one of the highlights of our career," he said.
Though the year was a good one for Rascal Flatts, it almost didn't happen.
In April 2010, Rascal Flatts' longtime record label Lyric Street closed while the band was in the middle of working on its album "Nothing Like This."
"We were some of the last people to know," DeMarcus said. "We got a phone call telling us Lyric Street had closed."
At first, he said, the trio wasn't sure what to do. He, LeVox and Rooney sat down and discussed things. In the music business, 10 years is a long time together as a band. There would be no shame in hanging it up or the guys just going their separate ways.
"We asked ourselves, 'Do we even want to do this anymore?'" DeMarcus said. "We wondered if we'd taken 'The Flatts' as far as there was to go and had we done everything we needed to do?
"The answer was no."
DeMarcus said the three recommitted themselves to each other and to making music together as Rascal Flatts. Rather than fall apart, they forged ahead, finished the record, signed a new deal with Big Machine Records and went back out on the road.
"We made a commitment to keep pushing ourselves, to keep challenging ourselves," he said.
"Nothing Like This" was a No. 1 country album, sold more than a million copies and spawned three Top 5 hits. Rascal Flatts played their hearts out all last year and toward the end of it were inducted into the Grand Ol' Opry.
"It was an incredible year," DeMarcus said.
He and his band mates have high hopes to continue on in 2012. They plan to release an album of new material in April.
"We're really excited," he said. "It's always exciting when you get your hands on material you're excited about."
DeMarcus gushed about the record and reflected on how different it will be from the band's first record.
"In the beginning, we were so green," he said. "I think by now we know better what our strengths are and what to zero in on."
The new album, he promised, focuses more on the music of the trio than anything else.
"Not to diminish anything from what our producers have done in the past, but it's really neat to get to the point where we just rely on each other." Reach Bill Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5195.