She was a mom and a wife and a sister and a friend who knew every word to every Rascal Flatts song, and on this particular night, she knew she was going backstage to meet her musical hero–Rascal Flatts lead singer Gary LeVox.
She also knew she was dying of cancer.
As soon as Gary (LeVox) walked in, he went up to her, gave her a kiss on the cheek, and told her that he would be praying for her tonight,” recalls police officer Brian Michels of the meeting he witnessed at a recent Chicago concert between LeVox and Brian’s wife Jodie, who would ultimately lose her life to the dreaded disease just a few short months later. “Up until that point, she had been very weak. But that night, she smiled.”
Jodie Michels was just one of the millions of fans who, through the years, have laid witness to the musical testimony of Gary LeVox. Because alongside the talents of his Rascal Flatts brothers Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney, LeVox has used the stage to not only sing from, but also as a platform where he has proudly proclaimed his love for music… and his God.
“I feel like God graced us with a platform where we can not only touch people’s lives through music, but by being men of God offstage too,” explains LeVox during an exclusive interview with TwoTen Magazine. “At those times when we are with fans that are going through something like cancer, it is so wonderful to not only sing for them but to hold their hand and pray with them. I want them to know that they have a friend in me. I’m not just some guy on the stage. I feel like Christ has put me in this position because He knew I could handle the obligation, which often means taking the time to lift someone up in prayer.”
So with an ever present cross around his neck and faith filled words coming effortlessly from his lips, LeVox has gone and shown us all how the power of celebrity can be used in his music, straddling the country and gospel genres alongside his Rascal Flatts band mates with inspiring hits such as “Bless The Broken Road,” “Every Day” and “Changed.”
"Gary's graciousness with the fans is always inspiring, and to witness him sing a song like “Bless the Broken Road” is one of the most spiritually moving moments I have ever seen,” says Joe Don Rooney. “So many people from all over the world have been moved by that song. And I feel blessed to get to see it and hear it every single night on stage.”Joe Don Rooney
“God has truly been the biggest thing in our lives since we were children, so there is no way we can remove that from our music,” adds LeVox. “I’m thankful our music has touched people. But yeah…I just can’t believe this whole career was planned out for me long before my conception. It’s mind blowing.”
Living On Faith...At the Beginning
As a kid, LeVox says he was already a true believer of God. “We are all blessed to have had such a wonderful Christian foundation as kids,” explains the 43-year-old, father of two. “Jay [DeMarcus] and I are cousins, and being old Pentecostal boys from Ohio, our first memories of life were not about music, but church every Wednesday and twice on Sunday. [Laughs.] My grandmother had a strong influence on my faith life. She was the absolute center of making sure we got to church three times a week…every week. Throw us a piece of Juicy Fruit, and off we would go.”
Growing up, there were moments when LeVox felt a professional soccer career might have been where his life was headed. His job at the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation had more than fulfilled him after graduation from high school. Yet, LeVox says he always felt another life tugging on his conscience, but never as much as the day he found himself sitting in his mom’s kitchen, contemplating a life altering move to Nashville. “I’ve always had faith,” he says. “Faith is believing in the things you can’t see, and I always had that. But when I started thinking about moving to Nashville, I truly felt the presence of God standing in that kitchen right next to me. I said, ‘Lord I am so sorry, because I think I sound as good as the guys on the radio, or at least I could try to sound as good as them. I think you have given me a certain gift, and I’m just so sorry for not using it. I know You wouldn’t have given it to me if you didn’t want me to use it.’”
And Gary LeVox was ready to use it.
“I decided right then and there that I would quit the job I had for ten years and sell everything, and on a true leap of faith, I loaded my truck and headed to Nashville,” he recalls. “Two minutes after I drove into town, I was in a studio singing backgrounds on Michael English’s gospel record that Jay [DeMarcus] was producing. That’s how good God works and how great He is.”
Living On Faith...Rascal Flatts Style
Since that fateful truck ride to Nashville and a chance meeting on stage between LeVox, DeMarcus and Rooney (“From the very first night we sang together, we knew we had something ordained. God had his hand upon what we were doing from the very beginning”), Rascal Flatts has gone on to achieve the often unreachable. Known today as the best-selling country vocal group of the past decade, Rascal Flatts has sold over 22.5 million albums and over 28 million digital downloads since their musical debut in 2000.
Currently basking in a career resurgence of sorts via their new hit single “Rewind” and the May 2014 release of their new album, also named Rewind, the most-awarded Country group of the past decade has persevered through an ever changing industry in which often, only the smart and talented survive.
“I pray first, and we discuss later,” LeVox says of the decision process often put in place within the band. “I let the Holy Spirit take control. He is my best friend. I always have to go back to what I feel like God is calling me to do. It’s the most important thing.”
“I think Gary gives careful consideration to his faith with each decision he makes as a man and as a business partner,” adds DeMarcus. “Gary is smart enough to realize that every decision he makes personally and professionally affects him and everyone else around him. What I admire is that it’s not just about Gary–it’s about his family, Joe Don and I, as well as all our fans. That’s something he takes very seriously.”
Of course, within the music industry, there lies a constant chance of pitfalls and pressures which LeVox admits has, at times, been challenging to muddle through. “I may not always do it perfectly, but I always try to give God all the glory and credit in the professional world,” remarks LeVox, who also prides himself as an avid hunter. “There is never a time that I am ashamed or embarrassed to say that whatever stress and worry we might be going through as a band, God is still in control. He is not going to set us up for failure.”
“Gary has a calming effect on me when I am stressed out or worried about something that is out of my hands,” adds DeMarcus. “I have learned through him that it’s not necessary to beat yourself up all of the time, and it’s ok to be human. Grace is a gift that none of us deserve. What right do we have to put limitations on it? It’s a wonderful thing to watch someone in their pursuit of living Christ-like, and it is evident that it’s of the utmost importance to Gary.”
And while fourteen number one singles and 7 million concert tickets sold continues to keep the Grand Ole Opry members on the forefront of country music, the members of Rascal Flatts have admitted hitting their share of personal challenges through the years. “In my opinion, sometimes faith was the ONLY thing that kept this band together,” explains DeMarcus. “Miles and days get long, everyone is human, and everyone gets tired. I know that the good Lord has had His hand on us and has sustained us from day one. Of that I am absolutely certain.”
“There have been many moments when faith had to come in, and we just had to trust,” adds LeVox. “No decision has ever been made by just the three of us. Every decision is made by the four of us. Christ comes first. Our job is to simply hold on. God said ‘Trust in me and I will show you things unbeknownst to you.’ He has done that…a lot.”
Living By Faith...On the Road
Getting ready to hit the road yet again this spring for the “REWIND Tour 2014,” LeVox boards his tour bus with a bible by his side, church services on his iPad and his accountability partners never far away.
“I have learned how special it is that we each help to inspire & re-inspire each other at times throughout this journey together,” explains Rooney. “Your convictions have to be strong on the road, and Gary is a great reminder of the path and mission that us Rascal Flatts boys are on. It’s inspiring to walk on Gary’s bus and see him reading his Bible or making notes with his favorite Bible verses.”
"When you are on the road all the time, you have to rule the road…you can’t let the road rule you. It’s all about getting into a routine."Gary LeVox
You must stay in The Word, show some discipline, and surround yourself with good people.”
Good people…including good buddy Tim Tebow. “Tim Tebow and I are best friends, so Timmy and I are really strong accountability people to one another,” LeVox says. “He keeps me in check. Plus, my wife and my mom are both strong women of faith, and I am blessed to have them around me.”
Living By Faith...Now and Into the Future
2014 marks the release of Rascal Flatts’ ninth album and seems to signal where Rascal Flatts is headed. “It might not have a completely spiritual tone, but there is a song about a girl from Memphis, and yep, Jesus is mentioned,” LeVox chuckles just before singing some of the song’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics. “God always has a way of getting into our songs in one way or another. But one of the greatest things is we can tell other people’s stories too. So yes, there is also a song on there called ‘Liquor Talking.’ [Laughter ensues.]”
So, as a man of God who seems to have let go of the reins and let God take the wheel thus far, what is next in the life of Gary LeVox? Is there life after Rascal Flatts?
“I don’t know what God has in store for me,” he admits, a bit quieter than before. “He is in control, so it’s going to be fantastic whatever it is. I never know what the next chapter is going to be. My oldest daughter took her first mission trip to Guatemala last summer, and so I suppose we are going to have to keep up with those trips. I’m a hunter, so something in the outdoor world would be cool. All I care about is staying humble. When I pray or talk to Christ, I always say how I cannot believe He had all of this in store for me. He never ceases to amaze me. I have been blessed beyond measure with way more than I deserve. He is simply amazing, and it’s been an amazing career so far. I can’t wait to see what is next.”
By: Tricia Despres
Tricia Despres is a Chicago-based entertainment writer whose work has appeared in publications such as the Chicago Sun-Times, Advertising Age and Country Weekly magazine. From making story deadlines to making dinner for husband Paul and girls Taylor and Amanda, Tricia leads a busy life....but is never too busy to listen to the whispers of God.Read More Articles by Tricia Despres