Gary LeVox

by Dan MacIntosh

On "Life Is A Highway," his burgeoning solo career, and the Rascal Flatts song he most connects with.

Gary LeVox has one of the most distinctive voices in all of country music, so whether he's singing a Rascal Flatts song, or a new gospel music song, that voice stands out. LeVox is at a bit of a crossroads, as he released his first solo EP (One On One, a gospel project) and is working on a solo country album. Much like his favorite Rascal Flatts song, "Fast Cars And Freedom," Levox is certainly not slowing down.

Rascal Flatts started out hesitantly, coming off like the country music answer to the boy-band trend of the late '90s. Their image evolved with the quality of their music, though, as light pop songs like "Prayin' For Daylight" progressed to deeper emotional sentiments like "I Melt" and "Bless The Broken Road."

Rascal couldn't have taken these giant steps without LeVox's immediately recognizable voice. While high and sweet, his vocal instrument is deceptively powerful. Wherever that voice goes – whether within a group or on its own – that power marches with it.

Busy as he is, though, LeVox still found time to talk about his favorite songs, explain why Rascal Flatts split up, and talk about the possibility of a reunion.
Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): You're now doing music that reflects your Christian faith. Do you feel more comfortable away from the group in doing more spiritual music, or were there other motivations that caused you to start exploring that side of your personality?

Gary LeVox: We always have put our faith in our music, as with "Bless The Broken Road," so it's had that temperature on our music. It's been a dream of mine to put out a gospel record and make some gospel music, just because I love it and that's who I am. So, the One On One album was something I always wanted to do.

I think that the best singers come from the gospel world. And I've always been firm in my faith. So, it was just awesome to be able to do that.

You know, my new single, "Working On Sunday," is actually the first single off of my solo country record that'll come out next year. I'll be doing all of it. I love country music and I love my gospel music. Now that my gospel music EP is out and done, I'm doing a country record. "Working On Sunday" is the first single off of that, and I just did it on The Opry the other night. The response was incredible. I'm excited about it.

Songfacts: What can you tell me about "Working On Sunday"? Did you have a part in writing that one?

LeVox: You know, I did. I wrote it with Cledus T. Judd, Wendell Mobley and Tony Martin. It was a song that we wrote probably five years ago. I never wanted to pitch it because I loved that idea. I loved that melody. Those songs with that cadence, like in the chorus, kind of those adult lullaby kind of [sings the song's melody, play clip below to hear it] that kind of repeats itself, those seem to be the ones that always seem to hit.
I love the premise of a guy going through a relationship and his girl's not calling him back and he's like, "Look, I know it's been a while, but I don't think I can make it until Monday if you don't call me back."

And you know what's crazy too, man, is now that the song's been out, I've been getting a ton of people who have taken pictures and put them in these collages with that as their music bed. Bedside visuals of people in the hospital with COVID, soldiers in Afghanistan, firefighters. People are taking it as their prayer. "Look, I know how you feel about working on Sundays. I need a miracle in a bad way. I don't think I can wait. I don't think I can make it till Monday. So how do you feel about working on Sunday?"

So, everybody's just kind of taking it as their own, and it's really been powerful.

Songfacts: Of the hits you wrote for Rascal Flatts, which do you connect with the most?

LeVox: Probably "Fast Cars And Freedom." And "Changed." That was actually written about myself, my wife, my daughter and my mom. We all got baptized together.

Songfacts: Oh, I didn't know that.

LeVox: Yeah, I wrote it with Neil Thrasher, and at that time, Neil's daughter had gotten baptized, so that all came from that.

I wrote a song called "Summer Nights" that was part of where I was at that point in my life.

"I Melt," we were newly married at that point.

You live with part of every song, but I connect most with "Fast Cars And Freedom."

Songfacts: Why would you say that?

LeVox: Because I was young, newly married. I just became a new dad. The story of that song was how I didn't know what was going on in life. I was a new artist and had just gotten married and just became a dad, so everything was new. It was like, "Wow, I'm an adult now! I sure want back to when it was just about fast cars.'"

Songfacts: One of your biggest songs is actually a cover, "Life Is A Highway," which I think you guys did a great version of. That introduced you to a whole new audience, with the feature film and everything.

LeVox: Yeah, it really did. You know, John Lasseter, the head of Pixar at the time, we were such good friends with John and he told us about this movie Cars that he was doing. We were, like, "Well, that sounds weird. So, the cars are gonna talk?"

And he was, like, "Yeah."

"Toy Story worked, so you know what you're doing, John."

So he came to a show, and afterward he told us about it and showed us some drawings and stuff. We were, like, "Man, that's awesome!"

You know, there's certain songs you just wanna leave alone. You're, like, "How can you re-do that?" There are staples of music history, and "Life Is A Highway" is one of them with Tom Cochrane. But he was like, "I want you guys to do 'Life Is A Highway.'" And we were, like, "Wow! Really?"

And you know, that was the first song Dann Huff1 ever recorded on us.

Songfacts: You guys go way back together.

LeVox: Yeah, he helped us get our record deal because he was such good friends with our producers at that time.

Songfacts: Is your new album completed?

LeVox: It's pretty close.

Songfacts: What can you tell me about it? What are some of the songs you like most?

LeVox: There's a song called "It Never Rains In A Bar." I love that one.

I think this record's a little more country-er. It's a little bit different than what I did with Flatts. It's just kind of my own thing. I love a song called "I Know There's A God." The whole title is "I Know There's A God Because There's A You."

Songfacts: Did you write it?

LeVox: Yeah, I wrote most of it.

Rascal Flatts - LeVox, guitarist Jay DeMarcus, and bass player Joe Don Rooney - announced their farewell tour in January 2020. Before the pandemic quashed it that March, it was slated to run from June through October, ending in Nashville.
Songfacts: How is it as a solo artist, without the security of a group?

LeVox: It feels really natural. Being the frontman for Rascal Flatts for 20 years, that was my job. I knew what my position was. We all knew what our lanes were. It was almost like being a solo artist at times.

It was a transition I wasn't expecting. I didn't think Joe Don would want to retire and leave. You gotta play the hand you're dealt sometimes. You just gotta believe that God's timing is perfect.

So here we are, off and running. The tour kicks off in two weeks (October 14, 2021), so I'm excited and ready to go.

Songfacts: As far as the band's farewell tour, is that still something that could happen or is it basically tabled for now?

LeVox: It's tabled for now. Now that I'm on my solo career and Jay's got an independent Christian label here in town that he owns.2 So, they're doing their thing and I'm doing mine. Who knows what the future holds, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. It's a new season for all of us.

October 5, 2021
Get tour dates and more info at garylevox.com

More interviews:
Catt Gravitt
Barry Dean
Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland

photo: Robby Klein

Footnotes:

  • 1] Dann Huff is a big dog in Nashville, working as a guitarist and producer for acts like Faith Hill and Keith Urban. After seeing Rascal Flatts perform in clubs, he championed the band and helped get them their deal with Lyric Street Records, a Disney imprint. The first album he produced with the band was Me And My Gang in 2006. (back)
  • 2] Red Street Records (back)

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