Ras­cal Flatts looks to young song­writ­ers for big hits

The Hamilton Spectator - - A & E - KRISTIN M. HALL

NASHVILLE — Early on in their ca­reer, the coun­try group Ras­cal Flatts often dealt with crit­ics of their pop-coun­try sound and be­ing la­belled a coun­try mu­sic boy band. Bassist and pro­ducer Jay DeMar­cus noted that one early re­view re­ferred to their mu­sic as “bouncy, bouncy, flop.”

Sev­en­teen years later with the re­lease of their 10th stu­dio al­bum, “Back to Us,” the trio of DeMar­cus, Gary LeVox and Joe Don Rooney say they’ve adapted their ma­te­rial to fit their lives.

“As hus­bands and fa­thers and every­thing, you have to write ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­rial and find ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­rial for where you are,” said DeMar­cus.

“And not cut­ting as many songs about kick­ing at the club with the fel­las,” LeVox joked. “One song is called ‘In Bed By 7.”

Still the group that has had sev­eral plat­inum records and No. 1 hits re­lies on young song­writ­ers and artists to keep their mu­sic sound­ing fresh. Grammy-win­ning pop singer Meghan Trainor’s ear­li­est suc­cess as a song­writer came when she con­trib­uted to two songs on Ras­cal Flatts’ 2014 al­bum, in­clud­ing the sin­gle “I Like the Sound of That.”

“Back to Us,” out May 19, has songs co-writ­ten by Shay Mooney of the ris­ing duo Dan + Shay, a duet with 22-year-old “Amer­i­can Idol” alum Lau­ren Alaina and a song writ­ten by pow­er­house per­former Chris Sta­ple­ton.

“I think it’s im­por­tant for all of us to help a younger gen­er­a­tion of coun­try mu­sic artists come along,” said DeMar­cus. “And I think the more they have suc­cess, the more suc­cess there is for all of us. It’s re­ally syn­er­gis­tic from that stand­point.”

He joked that the band’s re­la­tion­ship with Dan + Shay was more like an in­tern­ship than a men­tor­ship.

“We made an agree­ment with Shay early on right when they got signed, if they were go­ing to steal our sound, we had to get first pick of the songs he was writ­ing,” DeMar­cus said.

WADE PAYNE, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Meghan Trainor con­trib­uted to two songs on Ras­cal Flatts’ 2014 al­bum.

SAN­FORD MY­ERS, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Dan Smy­ers, left, and Shay Mooney, right, of Dan + Shay. Mooney cowrote songs on “Back to Us,” out May 19.

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