“We were just trying to create some new music while we were all hunkered down in our homes to have something for everybody to listen to,” says Jay DeMarcus of the How They Remember You EP, which he completed in a few months’ time with his Rascal Flatts bandmates, Joe Don Rooney and Gary LeVox. With the veteran country-pop trio’s planned farewell tour postponed due to the pandemic, the members instead culled through their stockpile of unfinished tracks and chose a stylistically varied sampling to polish to completion. Bassist-singer DeMarcus, who had a big hand in the arranging and production, says his sole guiding principle was “What can we do to still be uniquely Flatts, but sonically give people something they may not expect to hear? That's part of the fun for me, after 20 years of making records with the Flatts. I mean, we've pretty much done everything there is to do from a sonic standpoint.” Here DeMarcus tells the stories behind each of the seven songs on the record.
How They Remember You “We thought we were going to be on a farewell tour, and we thought that song was a perfect message, but things started to shift and that took on a whole new meaning as well. When the pandemic hit and we began to have so many friends and family affected by COVID-19, and so many friends that have lost their lives due to that, it took on a whole new meaning: How do you want to be remembered when you're no longer here? What do you want your friends and your family to say about the kind of person you were when you leave this world? I think it's just a great question right now for all of us to consider and to ask ourselves as we face probably one of the most horrible things that any of us will ever live through in our lifetime.”
Feel It in the Morning “I'm constantly, as a person who loves record production, experimenting with different ways to make music. As the years have gone on and I’ve become more adept at programming and arranging myself, I like to take the song, sit in there by myself for a couple of days and maybe hire a programmer to work alongside of me and sort of flesh it out and play and spend the time outside of the studio, playing with different sounds and different textures and sort of chip away at it. Then what I try to do is take all of those elements, present them to the players that we have in the room and say, ‘Now let's make this our own and let's make it feel like a band has played it together.’ We spent about a week hunkered down in the studio playing these tunes over and over again until they felt natural and we got what we felt like we needed to get. With ‘Feel It in the Morning’, it was just such a driving beat anyway, a pulsating groove. It felt like it made sense to marry some elements of rock and disco. I think you can hear some of those elements blended in together, especially in the chorus.”
Quick, Fast, in a Hurry (feat. Rachel Wammack) “One of my most favourite things to do on the planet is to get a Gary lead vocal locked in to where it is, and then call Joe Don up and have him come over to the house and us sit there and listen to it and get in there and try different things, countermelodies, harmony parts, answers. Some of it works and some of it doesn't, and it's not an exact science. This time, I brought Rachel over first, and we worked for a day and she went in and sort of made the song hers. Then Joe Don and I go in and we're just like, ‘This song is about them. We've got to showcase these two wonderful singers, but we also have to be Rascal Flatts. We have to pick and choose our spots and not try to take the focus away from what's really going on here. It's these two people singing to each other and this desperate love for each other, even though they both know better than to be fooling with one another.’”
Looking Back “That song, to me, is just classic country, and you can't make that something that it's not. In order to sound relevant, there are certain production techniques that you have to do, and people use loops nowadays. It's a great marriage between synthesisers, loops and tasteful steel guitar, and still keeping traditional drums on top of a track. That was more about the tune itself and trying really hard not to make that song something it wasn't. It's a wonderfully written tune by Rhett Akins and Thomas Rhett. I just wanted to showcase the lyric of that song and Gary's powerful vocal.”
Warmer “I can't take any credit for that one. Joe Don produced it. That was a song he fell in love with and sort of took and made his baby and worked on at his house, and Gary and I popped in and laid our parts down. I laid a little bass guitar part for him and did some background vocals. Joe Don did the rest there. He had a producing partner, Andy Sheridan, and worked really hard on that track. It comes from more of a pop perspective. It's more programming and synthesiser-based, but I think that's what makes that tune special, is it stands out from the rest as something different and unique.”
Sip Away “It’s about summertime, just chilling out on a boat, having a beer with your buddies and relaxing by the dock somewhere. It was one of those tunes that already had the elements there and it was just a fun, uptempo, finger-snapping sing-along song, and I just wanted to represent it and do the writers proud.”
Through the Years “Kenny Rogers, to us, has been a wonderful example of somebody who has seamlessly moved between the worlds of pop and country. If there was anybody that ever did it with any more grace, I sure don't know who it would have been, but he was proof that you could exist in both worlds, and, still more importantly, stay true to who you were. He understood who the wonderful pop producers, players and songwriters were in LA, but he also understood who the great consummate country writers, players and producers were here [in Nashville]. When it came time to do ‘Through the Years’, I absolutely revisited his version. That's why I used the electric piano and the Moog synth bass and the little 808 loops, was to try to capture some of the retro-ness of that '80s sound. I didn't know it would end up being a part of this EP.”