Sunday night, Rascal Flatts will participate in a very high-profile performance at the ACM Awards, to be seen by untold millions of viewers. Two days later, their new album, Changed, drops. What an amazing fluke of timing and coincidence, right? What were the odds?
"Amazing how that all worked out," singer Gary LeVox quipped to Yahoo! Music Friday, confirming that this was all part of the evil-genius scheme undertaken by their label, Big Machine.
As it turns out, it is also totally not coincidental that Rascal Flatts will be on theater screens nationally, for one night only, two days after the album comes out.
"Next Thursday, we'll be in New York City, doing the premiere," says Jay DeMarcus.
"Grand opening, grand closing," adds Joe Don Rooney, referring to the film's one-night-only status in theaters.
But before these release-week activities, there is the ACMs to keep Rascal Flatts busy. Slightly famous bluegrass enthusiast Steve Martin will be joining them for a performance of their rapidly rising hit single, "Banjo." When we caught up with the group Friday afternoon, they were just a few hours from their first in-person rehearsal with Martin for the telecast. Which is not to say that no rehearsing had yet taken place at that point.
"Jay's actually been on the phone with him a bunch and listened to him play," said Rooney. "Our steel guitar player in our band, Travis Toy, plays banjo with us as well, and he's been doing FaceTime and Skype-ing with Steve.... They're gonna play together on stage and do like a dueling banjos."
And will the performance be a de facto tribute to the recently departed Earl Scruggs?
"Certainly we're not setting out to make it a tribute to Earl," says Rooney, "because I'm sure [the ACMs] are going to do a segment for him that will be more suited for that tribute."
"But you know what the greatest thing is?" adds LeVox. "Whoever during that show is playing the banjo, it's kind of a tribute to the man who made it such an amazing thing and gave it a life."
"As long as it's five-string. If it's ganjo," jokes Rooney, referring to the combination banjo/guitar often used in contemporary country, "it's not gonna be a tribute."
There's some irony in the fact that Rascal Flatts, who've often been tagged as "pop-country," would be the ones to have a hit single celebrating the country-est of all instruments. But, as LeVox notes, "We kind of delivered that with a wink and a nod."
"Careful saying 'deliver'," interrupts DeMarcus, making a banjo-centric cultural allusion.
"Yeah, Deliverance," says LeVox, in case we missed the joke (which we did). "'Banjo' is a really unique song beause it's about the banjo but the track is really, really rockin', so I think it carries the best of both worlds."
The rest of Changed has been tightly under wraps. Any hints or promises? "First off," says DeMarcus, "it's always fun to do uptempo songs. We have more uptempo songs on this album—being our eighth studio album—than probably any album we've put out. And with that, we also have some depth in this album. It goes a little bit deeper than any album we've done. So I think it's a little more of what Rascal Flatts has to offer, all in one nutshell."