Rooney, DeMarcus say Rascal Flatts will return to stage

Joe Don Rooney tees off at Lake Tahoe’s American Century Championship on Wednesday, July 7.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

“Life is a Highway” and it always has an exit. However, sometimes a detour comes before that final stop. For the country music trio Rascal Flatts the detour came in the form of a nationwide shutdown of live shows in the year 2020.

According to two of the three members, the “Farewell: Life is a Highway Tour” wasn’t necessarily canceled. It was merely postponed for a couple of years or more.

“We need to say a proper goodbye,” bassist Jay DeMarcus said on Friday during the opening round of Lake Tahoe’s celebrity golf tournament, the 32nd American Century Championship.

Earlier in the week during a practice round, guitarist Joe Don Rooney said the same thing after being asked if Rascal Flatts was done.

“No, we’re never going to be done,” Rooney said. “No way. For us now, we are just recalibrating things, taking some time off and waiting for things to open up the next couple of years. We have no set year yet even, but at some point we’ll get back at it.”

The band announced it was splitting up in Spring 2020 and was set to begin its “Farewell Life is a Highway Tour” when the pandemic halted live shows. On Oct. 2, 2020, “Twenty Years of Rascal Flatts: The Greatest Hits” was released. It appeared the band that made 17 No. hits was finished.

Jay DeMarcus uses body language to help his approach shot on Hole 10 on Friday at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. DeMarcus and fellow Rascal Flatts band member Joe Don Rooney are competing this weekend in the American Century Championship, Lake Tahoe’s annual celebrity golf tournament. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Rooney is playing his 11th ACC tournament. Bass player Jay DeMarcus has played Tahoe 10 times. On many occasions, the band would coincided competing in the tourney at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course and playing a nighttime concert just across the street at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys.

Rascal Flatts’ third member, lead singer Gary LeVox, released a five-song EP, “One On One,” on May 21.

“My cousin Gary is too good a singer to stop,” DeMarcus said. “He has songs he needs to get out of his system.”

DeMarcus is busy with a Nashville-based Christian label he started in 2018, Red Street Records.

“It’s fun to be on the other side of things,” DeMarcus said.

Rooney, too is mindful of upcoming musicians.

“For all of the artists who tour and especially the younger ones who are just getting out there who might have been with the headliners last year, it really stinks for them,” Rooney said.

“The timing couldn’t have been worse,” DeMarcus added.

During his time offstage, Rooney has been writing songs like never before.

“That’s been one silver lining in Covid for me being a writer is that I was able to write a lot,” he said. “I wrote over 100 songs since last March. That’s a lot for me. I normally don’t write nearly 25 percent of that in a year.

“So that’s kept me happy and kept me busy and motivated because music is all I really know. I’m decent at golf. Hopefully, I’m not making a living at golf because I wouldn’t be able to.”

Rooney said he’s collaborated with people on Zoom in Europe and throughout the world, looking into markets for pop and country music. He said he hopes to release some songs in early 2022.

He said the songs are “about life growing up in Oklahoma all the way to now. As we sit here in Tahoe, this is a pretty inspiring place, too. I might need to write one this weekend.”

Mark Twain also did some writing at Lake Tahoe. And he once said, “News of my death was a gross exaggeration.”

The same can be said for one of country’s most iconic bands of the new millennium.

“Rascal Flatts is bigger than the three of us,” DeMarcus said. “The time will come when we pass the torch. But first we have some unfinished business.”

-Tim Parsons

Rascal Flatts during at 2014 concert at Lake Tahoe: Joe Don Rooney, left, Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus.
Kurt E. Johnson / Tahoe Onstage
Rooney and DeMarcus were joined by comedian Bill Engvall during the 2013 American Century Championship.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.


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