Seven Questions for Rascal Flatt’s Gary LeVox

The singer on working with the cognitively impaired, being labelmates with Taylor Swift and surviving a Cars movie


Photo by Sheryl Nields

You were a social worker assisting the developmentally disabled in Ohio for a decade before launching a music career. Do you look back fondly on your first job?

Man, that was an amazing 10 years of my life. I learned so much from that experience—how to be patient, how to be honest, how to embrace life and have a positive perspective. It was just a wonderful time for me, and it really helped turn me into a man. The lessons I learned from working in that field have helped me in so many other parts of my life.

Does entertaining millions offer similar fulfillment? Any times you’d rather be attending, say, the Special Olympics instead of grappling with another entertainment lawyer?

[Laughs.] Look, I’ve been so blessed. Sure, I do miss my old job at times, more often than you might suspect. But I know I’m where I’m supposed to be, and that’s right here with Rascal Flatts. I’m thankful for both jobs, and I’m deeply grateful to be able to touch so many lives and hearts by playing music.

My kids were thrilled to learn that I’m interviewing the singer of the Cars soundtrack hit, “Life Is a Highway”—the original “Let It Go.” Do you still view the song as a boon, or is it double-edged at this point?

Man, I really do feel for you, and I apologize for that. [Laughs.] But I’m also glad to know your kids wore you out with it like mine did with me. If it makes you feel any better, for the longest time my kids only admired me for three things: the Cars song, the duet [2010’s “That Should Be Me”] I did with Justin Bieber, and my cameo in that [2009] Hannah Montana movie. Incidentally, I was just over at [Pixar chief creative officer] John Lasseter’s house last spring, and we’re going to be working together again on Cars 3, which I’m looking forward to. So get ready for another “Highway”!

Ever received a thank you from singer-songwriter Tom Cochrane, who wrote “Life Is a Highway,” for covering his song and upping his royalty checks?

Many times! You know, he calls his new vacation home the House of Flatts, in honor of our contribution to his lifestyle. Seriously, he’s a great songwriter and deserves every bit of credit.

Does being labelmates [on Nashville-based Big Machine Records] with Taylor Swift come with any perks? For instance, do you get to hear each other’s new albums before the rest of America?

I don’t know yet if there are any perks, because I’m still waiting to hear back about that loan I asked from her more than five years ago. No, Taylor is amazing, and I think it’s great that Rascal Flatts was the first band to put her on tour. We’re so proud of her, watching her evolve as an artist with each new release. But to answer your question: No, she keeps her new music all to herself. We’d have to have our people talk to her people, just like everyone else.

Your most recent disc, Rewind, has earned raves even from tough critics. But I notice the praise is sometimes qualified with descriptors like “smooth, suburban country.” That bother you?

No, not at all. Critics have certainly said a lot worse about us! We’ll take it, and I’m glad people enjoy our music, because we put our heart and soul into it. As long as fans love what we do, we’ll keep doing it. God gave us a platform, and we want to take it as far as it will go.

What were your thoughts upon first hearing and recording the single “I’m on Fire” from Rewind?

When I first heard the demo Sean McConnell sent me, I immediately loved the tempo of it. But I thought the chorus was I’m burning the bed, which didn’t sound right. So, I had to call Sean and say, “I’m not sure where you’re going with that line, man.” And then he kindly corrected me, since it’s I’m burning up and …, with a break there. And we went on to have a blast recording it, mainly because of the cool way that song swings—after, you know, I figured out the words. [Laughs.]

With your upcoming residency at The Joint, Rascal Flatts appears to have a real affinity for Las Vegas—and vice-versa—don’t you think?

Well, if you remember, we actually shot what I think is probably our best music video there for our [2010] song “Why Wait,” which features everyone from Carrot Top to Penn & Teller to Wayne Newton. That was certainly the most fun we’ve ever had on a music-video shoot. Las Vegas always holds a special place in our hearts. There are just so many great talents there. We feel honored to stop in and play that city for a few nights.

Rascal Flatts Vegas Riot! (with  Craig Wayne Boyd)

8 p.m. Feb. 25, 27, 28 and March 4, 6, 7, 11, 13 and 14, The Joint,

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