In the 20 years that Gary LeVox spent as the frontman for country trio Rascal Flatts, he and bandmates Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney often tossed around the idea of doing a Christian project together.
“I always wanted to do it,” LeVox explains in a recent virtual press event. “We’ve talked about doing it collectively, and we were just so busy with putting records out and touring and everything, with the Flatts. But it was something that I wanted to do since I was a kid.”
Faith has always been a big component in the bandmates’ lives. Before they formed Rascal Flatts, DeMarcus was a member of Christian duo East to West, for example; after the band called it quits in 2020, DeMarcus decided to focus on running his own faith-based label, Red Street Records. Their Christian backgrounds have often taken center stage during the band’s time together, too: Some of Rascal Flatts’ biggest hits have faith-based messages, like “Changed” and “Bless the Broken Road.”
“I’ve always tried to sneak some Jesus in there somewhere,” LeVox jokes.
But in 2020, between the pandemic, Flatts’ breakup and an absence of touring, LeVox knew it was the right time for a solo gospel project. “I was like, ‘You know what, now is the perfect time to go in and really just do this passion project that I wanted to do.’ Everybody’s asked for it. I had absolutely nothing to do except get my nose swabbed and create music,” he remembers.
Specifically, he and his co-writers Josh Hoge and Matt McVaney wrote “The Distance,” LeVox’s first song off the project, as a message tailor-made for tumultuous times. From the beginning, the singer says, he wanted to write a song about hope.
“Not just about the pandemic, but the divorce rate, and the drug rate — mental health issues, suicide, just all of that was starting to break loose,” LeVox elaborates. “And the uncertainty of what the world was. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, will we be able to find toilet paper or not?! I don’t know!’ That was kind of the inspiration.”
“The Distance” offers a perspective rooted in Christian faith, returning to the idea that no matter how stressful the world might be, a relationship with God is a powerful stabilizing factor. Plus, LeVox adds, they wanted the song to be anthemic.
“We needed something with some fire and some tempo, just a big soaring chorus, and I think we captured it with ‘The Distance’,” he continues. “Like, look — we can’t do it on our own, at this point. Just don’t lose hope. Don’t ever give up. Stay in the fight, and with God, we can get through anything. That was kind of the message.”
As he continues to embark on a new season of his career without Rooney and DeMarcus to his left and right, LeVox admits that he’s feeling some “mixed emotions.” Ultimately, though, he’s enjoying having complete creative control over the songs he cuts, and is finding inspiration in his new role as solo artist.
“There’s a time for a new season, and now’s that time. So it feels really good. I’m excited about the music,” he explains, adding that he still keeps in touch with the guys from Rascal Flatts. In fact, they were some of the first people that he told about his solo plans.
“I actually talked to Jay and Joe Don. I was like, ‘Man, I’m gonna do a solo Christian record,’” LeVox says. “And they were like, ‘That’s killer. Go do it.’ That’s where that went, and here we are.”