As a member of Rascal Flatts, Jay DeMarcus has lived some incredible experiences. But the road to forming one of America's most successful and beloved country music bands wasn't always smooth. The Columbus native chronicles his mistakes, childhood memories, and what he considers his greatest blessing in a new book titled Shotgun Angels.
Bless The Broken Road plays...
The band Rascal Flatts has several hit songs, but this one resonates the most with Jay DeMarcus.
"I've seen it touch so many lives and been such a monumental part of people's weddings and anniversaries and things," DeMarcus reflected. "It's a subtitle in my own book. I've had my own broken roads that I've been on that mean a lot to me personally, so that song really touches me and hits me where I live."
DeMarcus' road began in Columbus, growing up on Clinton Street and later moving to Westerville.
"My earliest memories are seeing my mom and dad sing around the piano and picking up a guitar," DeMarcus recalled. "My whole family was musical. Everybody sang or played something. Friday and Saturday nights, we'd have everybody sitting around in the living room singing together. I probably took it for granted early on, but looking back I'm so grateful for those memories to recall."
While therapeutic in many ways, writing a book for DeMarcus also meant reliving some painful times.
"One of the hardest things to write about was my sometimes difficult relationship with my father," DeMarcus said. "We're close, but it was complicated. My mother and father were divorced not once but two times. Reliving that and remembering the pain and confusion I was going through was really difficult to bring back to the surface. The greatest lesson I've learned is that we can't live through life alone. We can't make it through life alone. The biggest takeaway that I have in my own life is that faith counts for everything at the end of the day, and it has been the sole source of strength for me sometimes in my darkest days."
After attending Lee University on a music scholarship, DeMarcus moved to Nashville with a friend and started the band East to West. The band's first single became a hit on Christian radio.
Welcome To The Next Level plays...
"We were doing really well," DeMarcus recalled. "I went through a really tough relationship that led me down not such a great path. I made a lot of bad decisions that led to the next bad decision. Ultimately it ended up with me having fathered a child out of wedlock, In Christian music, that's a no-no. The word got out. My record label found out. The rest of it's in the book. It was a tough time."
Part of the recovery came courtesy of his second cousin, Gary LeVox who also grew up in Columbus and after a chance audition with Joe Don Rooney --- Rascal Flatts came to life.
Prayin' For Daylight plays...
"It's one of those things you don't see at the time, that it's going to be a great blessing in disguise," DeMarcus said. "At the time, I thought I ruined everything that I worked so hard to build. I would not have found my way reconnecting with my cousin (Gary) and found my way to Joe Don. That's why I've always said failure isn't fatal. You never know what's waiting around the next bend. That's why it's so important to find the strength somehow to keep going, to stay the course."
"It's hard for bands to stay together in the music industry," DeMarcus noted. "You've got different personalities and different opinions. We've been able to dig deep and look beyond just ourselves and realize that what we do as Rascal Flatts is much more important than any of us individually. We've stayed true to the purpose of being there for the fans and keeping to make music that touches their lives --- and to remember that Rascal Flatts has what we feel like a divine purpose despite any adversities that may have faced us. Music and the message can move you in a different way than anything else does on the planet. It speaks to the soul in a different way than books do or speakers do. So for me, I want to be as moved as making the music as I am by listening to it and hopefully somehow we find that connection in the right spots for the listener."
Fall Here plays...
He touched on it a couple times, but in addition to music, faith and hope have carried DeMarcus through.
"We live in a world full of hurting people, people that deal with real pain, real hurt, real life," DeMarcus said. "And people that probably deal with unimaginable things that most people will never even know about. We live in a world where there are so many different remedies. People spend thousands and thousands of dollars on therapists. They spend thousands of dollars on the right medication. My hope is that someone will be inspired to take a look at a different view and consider a relationship with Christ that they've never considered, because it may be the very place you find your hope and your strength to forge ahead. I've found that to be my ultimate hope and my ultimate source of strength in my life, and I think it works. I've seen it work."
Enjoyed that feature? Please check out the full Music Journeys podcast below to hear more from Jay DeMarcus, including his reflections on collaborating with Chicago and Lionel Richie plus his 80’s-inspired responses to the Fast Five. Thanks for listening.
2:02 Jay DeMarcus extended feature
14:05 Jay DeMarcus' Fast Five