It’s hard to believe that in the midst of their 16-year career, the guys from Rascal Flatts—Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney—have yet to put out a Christmas album. Until now. The “I Like the Sound of That” trio is excited to release their first-ever Christmas album, The Greatest Gift of All, tomorrow (Oct. 21).
“The timing never seemed right,” Jay told Nash Country Daily. “We were touring and always busy and going 90 miles a minute. We were asked early enough out this time. Scott Borchetta—president of Big Machine Record Label—came to us and said ‘Look, you guys can do whatever you want to do, whatever songs you want to do and take your time with it and do it the way you want to do it.’ So it just felt right. It felt like it was time and the fans have been asking for it for a long time. We gathered up a bunch of songs that have been our favorites over the years and just took our time and really had a ball making it.”
Produced by all three members of the band, The Greatest Gift of All consists of a 10-track collection of both classic and contemporary country songs— each song with its own nuanced arrangements varying from big band and jazz to R&B and traditional sounding.
“We wanted to do something different,” adds Gary. “That’s kind of what we cut our teeth on in the past–these songs have been done so many times that you’ve got to do something to make them fresh and new and your own and something that sounds like Rascal Flatts.”
The making of the Christmas album was a collaborative effort among the men. Emails and voice recordings were shared as they decided which songs would best fit their album. “It was a collaborative effort in the sense that I told them what we were going to do,” jokes Jay.
“He [Jay] sent us a list of classic songs—which all made this record,” said Joe Don. “But Jay said ‘I think we have a couple of spots for some outside songs that may be a little more current and ‘Strange Way to Save the World,’ recorded by Contemporary Christian group 4Him, is one of those that Jay brought to us.
Gary, Jay and Joe Don’s favorite Christmas songs on the album?
Gary: It’s kind of hard to beat “Silent Night” on this one with our kids on it. That one will hold a very special and dear place in our heart for life.
Jay: “Strange Way to Save the World.” To have a song written from Joseph’s perspective is so unique and the weight and responsibility he must have felt and the things that must’ve been going through his mind as he looked at the birth of the Savior in that manger is really incredible.
Joe Don: I think “O, Holy Night” is one of my favorite Christmas songs ever. The melody is just amazing. That song in particular too is one a lot of singer’s singers tackle because it’s really fun for them to pull off and Gary was just wow. It’s a beautiful arrangement and he really just brings that one home.
“We sang that on a CMA Country Christmas a couple of years back but we never recorded it. So it was fun to take it back in the studio and re-do it again. The other one was ‘Someday at Christmas,’ the Stevie Wonder tune, which has been re-cut by a lot of people through the years, it has truly become a classic. But it is a more up-tempo fun yet throwback kind of retro sound. I’m really proud of this record overall, I really am. It’s something that’s been waiting for a long time for us to do and I think it probably took us 16 years to get it done.”
The Greatest Gift of All is the gift that keeps on giving, a gift that shines with the striking Flatts harmonies we’ve come to expect, that will keep you warm on a cold winter’s night—along with their non-traditional depiction of fan-favorites such as “Joy to the World,” “Let It Snow and “The First Noel.”
“Silent Night” is one of the cuts that stands out due to the help of Gary, Jay and Joe Don’s children. All seven of the Rascal Flatts kids—Brittany, Brooklyn, Madeleine, Dylan, Jagger, Raquel and Devon—can be heard singing on the opening verse, with Gary’s daughter Brittany taking the lead.
“That kid loves to sing. Brittany just loves to sing,” Gary says proudly. “Brittany and Brooklyn were in the studio and Brittany just takes over. Who knows in the future what will happen with her.”
“It was fun,” Jay says of having the kids in the studio. “Some of them were awful,” he jokes. “I mean they have some really bad pitch problems. I’m not gonna call anybody out but…” He turns serious, “It was precious to have them in the room singing it. Joe Don and I were out there trying to direct them and lead them. They were shy but they opened up about the third or fourth time through.”
Gary, Jay and Joe Don can be seen at the 50th Annual CMA Awards on Nov. 2 where they will be vying for the Vocal Group of the Year trophy followed by a One Night Only concert on Nov.14 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York where they will perform songs from their newly released Christmas album.