In the 2000s and early 2010s, Rascal Flatts found themselves reaching incredible career highs, pretty much from the get-go: Their first 14 singles all reached the Top 10 on the country chart (it was 2014 before one didn't make the Top 20, in fact). Eight of their 11 albums hit No. 1. They won four straight ACM Top Vocal Group trophies and six straight CMA Vocal Group of the Year honors.

"We had a distinct vision for how we wanted the sound of Rascal Flatts to be, and we wanted to be different," Jay DeMarcus recently explained to a group of media members. "We wanted to cut more rock 'n' tracks, but with country lyrics and mandolins and fiddles on top of it. Nashville hadn't really come around to embracing the pop side of music at that time, so we spent a lot of time experimenting."

Clearly, that vision paid off for DeMarcus and bandmates Gary LeVox and Joe Don Rooney. But during those mega-successful years, DeMarcus admits, they didn't always get to enjoy it fully.

"I wish we would [have spent] a little more time ... enjoying the ride while we were on it," he reflects. "A lot of times, it was tough to really enjoy the fruits of our labor and what we were living in the middle of, and just how special those times."

Rascal Flatts' influence is still palpable in country music in 2020, from the general way the genre has embraced those pop sounds to the very specific style of, for example, Dan + Shay. It's only in looking back, however, that they've been able to realize, as DeMarcus says, "what rarefied air we were in."

"I wish I could go back and tell ourselves, 'Hey, while you're in the middle of this ride, just slow down, take a deep breath and take it all in,'" DeMarcus adds, "'because it really is pretty special.'"

After announcing their retirement earlier this year, Rascal Flatts will release a new EP, How They Remember You, on Friday (July 31). The trio was supposed to spend this year on the road for their Farewell: Life Is a Highway Tour, but that trek has been canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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