Monday, July 19, 2010

Reader's Digest Interview with Gary

I know this is old, April 2009 but I thought I would add some past articles to this site. There is also a link to a telephone conversation with Gary that I am sure you will enjoy. All credit for this article goes to Reader's Digest

Up Close with Rascal Flatts Lead Singer 
Gary LeVox

Gary LeVox is on the road again with country pop's Rascal Flatts. Here he talks about singing gospel, becoming a star, and staying a family man at heart.

Also in this article:
To say that Rascal Flatts has a faithful and fervent fan base is an understatement. "We've had women schedule their C-sections around our tour dates," says the lead singer of the country-pop group, Gary LeVox, 38. "If you have great songs, people come out to see you." In fact, ever since Rascal Flatts—which also includes bassist Jay DeMarcus, 38, and guitarist Joe Don Rooney, 33—joined forces in 1999, not only have people come out, they've helped the band sell more than 20 million records, the latest of which is Unstoppable. Here LeVox describes his humble beginnings and his family values.

A little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll: (from left) DeMarcus, LeVox, and Rooney.
As a kid growing up in Columbus, Ohio, I was moved by music. Whether a song was happy or sad, if it made me feel something, that was all that mattered. Whether at home or church, music was what we did as a family.

Every Saturday night, I stayed with my grandparents. My grandpa played guitar, my cousin [DeMarcus] played piano, my grandmother played the spoons, and I sang. I memorized songs like the spiritual hymn "The Old Rugged Cross" and sang it over and over. My grandmother was Pentecostal, and she'd say, "Secular music is from the devil," but she thought country music was okay. I wasn't allowed to listen to the Kinks, but I could listen to Merle Haggard.

I knew I had a musical gift, but I didn't know where to start. After high school, I got a job with the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation, where I worked for ten years. I was responsible for 85 people at one time, teaching them skills so they could live on their own and get jobs. I became their father, their best friend, and their confidant.

My break came in Nashville, where I was visiting, in 1998. It was at a karaoke bar called Lonnie's Western Room. The owner of the famous Fiddle and Steel Guitar Bar approached me after I sang and asked if I would like to perform at his place. Great musicians hung out there. I said, "Man, I don't even live here, but if I ever move down, I'd sure like to."

Shortly after, I was standing in my mom's kitchen and it hit me: I thought, Lord, I don't think you gave me this gift just so I could use it in my mom's kitchen. I headed off to Nashville and started working three jobs: building swimming pools, selling newspapers, and performing at the Fiddle and Steel.

The fan base for our new band grew so large that the Fiddle and Steel owner bought the building next door and knocked down a wall so we could have a bigger stage. We took on the name Rascal Flatts [after a fan's former high school band] and signed a record deal in 1999. Boy bands were all the rage at the time, so people assumed that some Svengali—like producer had put us together. But it wasn't like that. We didn't do Star Search. We took songs by serious country musicians and put our own spin on them. I think we had a hard time winning over the critics because we didn't wear cowboy hats or big belt buckles. But you've got to be true to who you are. I didn't grow up sitting on a bale of hay with a piece of straw in my mouth. I grew up hunting and fishing in Ohio. Doing our own thing is what's helped us sell millions of records.

I do have regrets in my life. My grandparents passed on without getting to hold my kids [Brittany, eight, and Brooklyn, five] or see me perform. When we first played at the Grand Ole Opry, I thought about how proud they would have been.

I've also experienced heartbreak. My parents divorced when I was eight, and my mother remarried when I was ten. My stepfather, Randy, taught me how to hunt, as well as how to be responsible. When I was 18, my mom and stepdad announced that they were divorcing. I was shattered. I wanted a father. My stepdad hasn't been part of my life since then. Sometimes I think about reaching out to him.

Living through divorce has made me a better husband and father. I may not be the best-looking guy in the world, but my wife [Tara, whom he married in 1999] and kids love me for who I am. It's hard to remember life before my daughters. I'm such a sap. Some days I'll be singing in the studio and think of them and just start crying. It's like, Man up, Gary, come on. I have exceeded every dream I've ever had.