Kicking off their second Las Vegas residency at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino earlier this week, country music trio Rascal Flatts is taking fans on a musical journey with their re-imagined “Rhythm & Roots” show. One concert deep in their nine-show engagement, the group that has been the best-selling country vocal group of the past decade is stripping down 16 of their most popular songs and getting back to their roots with only five people on the stage.
Very different from their “Vegas Riot!” residency at The Joint last year, Rascal Flatts is introducing audiences to new takes on some of their classics that, as Joe Don Rooney put it, are “going to blow people’s minds.”
Before their opening night, we sat down with Gary Levox, Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus to get the inside scoop on their new show and we even figured out some of their favorite places to hang out around town… for informational and non-stalking purposes only, of course.
Q&A with Rascal Flatts
Vegas.com: How is “Rhythm & Roots” different from the “Vegas Riot!” tour?
Gary: The songs are completely different that we are doing and we’ve taken songs that we’ve done at the Riot! Tour but we’ve done them completely different. (Jay) It’s fresh, it just breathes new life into some of the older tunes that we’ve done. We’ve re-imagined them musically. We haven’t deconstructed them to the point where you won’t recognize them but we’ve just changed it up to put a little bit of new energy into it and switch it up a little bit. I think people are going to be really surprised when they hear some of their favorites done with a current rhythm and current feel to it, you know?
(Joe Don) Well, it’s fun for us too, you know? After 15 – 16 years of doing some of these songs, it just re-energizes us to want to commit to these new versions.
VDC: Is it new instruments you’re implementing?
Gary: Yes, all of it. We can’t give too much away! There’s only five of us on stage.
Jay: Our goal was to really strip it down to the point where it was more about the music this time and the three of us. You know, last year we did the bigger band, we had the three girls behind us singing and it rivaled any Vegas show in town, it was a huge production and this year, things are slimmed down a little bit, stripped down a little bit and it focuses more on our musical journey and what got us to where we are as Rascal Flatts and that’s what’s kind of cool about this ride.
VDC: What was the inspiration behind the “Rhythm & Roots” show?
Gary: I was drinking at NOBU in Los Angeles and jotted it down in my phone. You know, I got to thinking about what we wanted to do with this show and we discussed at the end of last year some ideas for coming back here and what we wanted to do and we wanted to kind of go back to how we started; playing with a minimal band in front of the kind of intimate audience that we are going to be in front of here and it just made sense to talk about our roots and how we got here and take people on that journey a little bit and we knew we wanted to strip it down and have more percussive nature to it. We’ve got a guy that we’ve hired; he’s really, really great. Plays everything on the stage, he’s percussion, synths, he’s got pads up there and all kinds of things, so that’s where the rhythm part comes in because we were going to re-imagine some of our tunes and add that element so Rhythm and Roots just seemed to be a good representation of what we wanted to do.
Joe Don: Well, it’s kind of interesting too, because when we first got our start at clubs in Nashville we used to take old standard hits, Merle Haggard songs, Vince Gill songs and do our own thing to them and we would do things that no one else was really doing, we’d just kind of break the rules a little bit and have fun with it, we’d put some rhythm to the roots, make it a little more funky here and there and the way Gary sang sometimes caused us to play a little more aggressively on certain tracks so we’ve just taken our hits from over the years, our catalog and done the same thing to them and so it’s been really cool to do them in such a different way that it’s fresh and current.
VDC: What do you like to do in Vegas when you’re not performing?
Joe Don: Go to Serendipity. Oh Serendipity 3… boom!
VDC: What do your order there?
Gary: Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.
Jay Don: Oh, the sundae, it’s looks like a martini glass and it’s huge and it’s like a full-on brownie cake and it’s unbelievable.
Gary: I haven’t had that, I always get the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, take the kids. We have it on the day off because we are going to work the next day and run around on stage.
Jay: Martorano’s at the Paris is one of the best places in the world to eat.
VDC: How many songs are on the concert set list?
Jay: Sixteen songs, eighteen if you include some pieces that we do of other songs.
Joe Don: There’s some surprises… that’s one thing I think we’d say too is that we tip our hats to some old stuff and we tip our hats to some new stuff that’s current too that is other people’s music. It’s still kind of our roots. We are inspired by music today that people are making as well and I don’t think your roots ever stop growing.
VDC: What is your favorite song to play in the show?
Gary: For me, it’s “I Like The Sound of That.” I like the sound of “Broken Road,” “Praying For Daylight.” I like the sound of “I Like The Sound of That.”
Jay: Mine is probably forever going to be “Broken Road.” I just think that’s a brilliantly written piece of music. (Gary) With this set list, still? (Jay) Yeah, I do because it’s a moment where we aren’t doing it with the band, it’s just the three of us and we are going to be really intimate with it and we are going to take it back to the roots. Joe Don is going to sing a verse, I’m going to sing a verse and have fun with it. (Joe Don) We are going to blow people’s minds.
See “Rascal Flatts: Rhythm & Roots” at 8 p.m. on select nights from Feb. 19 – March 5, 2016.