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As the pandemic continued to rage on earlier this year, Gary LeVox stepped out on the loose dirt of his sprawling Tennessee farm, and began to sing.
But for the first time in a long time, the longtime lead singer of superstar country trio Rascal Flatts found himself standing there without his bandmates Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney by his side.
This time, he was completely and utterly alone.
"It was weird," LeVox admits to PEOPLE of the day he filmed the music video for his Christian solo track "The Distance." "It would have felt weirder if we had been in some Nashville sound studio. I guess it helped me be more at peace just being on my dirt. I absolutely love it out here. But yeah, it was weird."
"Weird" may be the understatement of the past year and a half, as the country has found itself under the cloud of an ongoing pandemic, racial tensions and a general sense of unease about the future. But for LeVox and his Rascal Flatts bandmates, COVID also caused the country music trio — who had spent 20 years spearheading a shared career that resulted in 17 No. 1 singles and over 23 million albums sold — to cancel their much-anticipated farewell tour.
"I just remember thinking, 'What are we going to do now?'" the Ohio native recalls of those anxiety-ridden first days of the pandemic. "Heck, we still don't know what we are going to do about the farewell tour. The uncertainty of not knowing … I just don't know. I'm sure down the road we will do something, but who knows what the temperature of the world will be at the end of this year or next year. I mean, who knows?"
But while the future of Rascal Flatts continues to be in a bit of a limbo, the future of LeVox's solo career is getting clearer by the minute. On Friday, LeVox announced the upcoming release of a brand new, gospel-infused EP One on One on May 21, building on the foundation that his majestic song "The Distance" has already planted firmly in the hearts of his well-established fan base.
"This song has been on my heart for ... probably a couple of years," LeVox admits of the faith-driven song he co-wrote alongside Josh Hoge and Matt McVaney at the beginning of 2020. "It was a part of me, you know? I love the message. I believe you can't have enough songs about hope. All these speedbumps and cracks and detours — we can get through it. We can absolutely go the distance with God's help."
Robby Klein Gary LeVox
LeVox certainly has never been shy to proclaim his faith, often being the first to admit that he wholeheartedly believes that God's timing is always perfect, no matter the circumstances.
"It was the first time I had even met McVaney or wrote with either one of them," says LeVox about the writing session that eventually turned out "The Distance." "But we talked, and I told them where my heart was and all of that. Sometimes God just lets you hold the pen."
It's this undeniable faith that weaves its way throughout the entirety of LeVox's uplifting EP, which includes collaborations with breakout country star Breland, legendary Christian group MercyMe and LeVox's daughter and aspiring singer Brittany LeVox.
"He gets the credit for everything I have ever been able to achieve," says LeVox. "It's all about Him."
And it's Him that LeVox says he sees within every sunrise and sunset on that sprawling Tennessee farm of his that has personally served as a refuge for him since 2007.
"We call this our thin place," he explains quietly. "It's from the Bible. Sometimes God will blow the veil of heaven open just for a moment just so you can get a glimpse of what that is. That's the kind of place this place has always been for us. During the quarantine, we sort of set up camp. We are in the middle of nowhere with nobody for miles and miles and miles. It was a gift."
But now, as the country seems to be coming back to life, LeVox too seems to have his eyes firmly fixed on the future. He hints at the possibility that he will trek out on his own for some solo shows this year, bringing his faith-filled message to the masses who could really use it right about now.
"God doesn't bring you this far to let you fail," LeVox concludes. "When His hand is on it, great things happen. I'm excited and I'm ready. Whatever door opens, I'm going to run through it."