Wade Payne, AP
"That song was a breath of fresh air for us," Jay says of "Banjo." "When we heard it, we immediately knew we wanted to cut it. We had no idea it would be the first single off the record. It is one of those tunes that is so infectious. When we do it live, it's an immediate crowd-pleaser. It's hard for us to find uptempo tunes that resonate with an audience and translate both on radio and live, and this one has done exactly that."
"You never know what the journey of a song will be or where it will end up," adds Gary. "For 'Banjo,' we thought it would be a great representation of our new album. For it to go to No. 1 so quick was great. It is sometimes hard to do that with uptempo songs. We were just thrilled to death because we love it. It's one of those that everyone requests all the time. A lot of times you get a No. 1 that no one wants to hear again but 'Banjo' isn't like that."
The main room at Puckett's was filled with friends and family of the singers and songwriters. Food tables were laden with country fare you might find if you drive 'til you hear a banjo, or if you go to Pucketts: fried catfish, pork barbecue, fried green beans and special cake pops in the shape of a banjo.
Awards and accolades were not in short supply as the various publishing companies and assorted trade magazines presented plaques and trophies to the singers and songwriters.
Earlier in the day, Jay remarked on what it takes in a song to get the group excited to record it. "We've been blessed to do so many albums with so many types of songs, and covered so much material, from R&B to hardcore country, and explored the rock edge a little bit ... for me, I look at something that jumps out at me as being unique, whether it's the lyric or melody.
"The bar has been set so high it's very hard to find something now that jumps out at you and is unique," he continues. "That's the wonderful thing about 'Banjo,' is that it had the rock elements but the lyric and everything else was centered around the banjo. For me, it was just the perfect marriage of both worlds, pushing the edge of contemporary country but also being very much at its core a country song. I think I can say for all of us, it's hard to find that song or a group of songs that's different enough that makes you want to go in the studio and put time into cutting them."
Asked if the group had any flashbacks to the movie "Deliverance" when they first heard the song, they had to admit that they did. "Deliverance" was the 1972 film starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty that featured the tune "Dueling Banjos" and a less-than flattering portrayal of folks who live off the beaten path in the rural south.
"When we were talking about the first single it was between 'She's Leaving' and 'Banjo,' and the only negative was that maybe some of the older people might associate it with 'Deliverance,' because they would have seen the movie. The young people wouldn't make that association at all."
Gary noted that it all boiled down to the fact that the song felt great and right for them to release.
Rascal Flatts' new single is "Come Wake Me Up." Gary says he recognized that its melody was "one that can live on forever. Once you hear it you can sing along with it. Plus, I think we've all been where the lyrics take you; this is a bad dream. It was one of my favorite songs on the album and a way to have more tempo and passion behind it. The response so far has been good."
Rascal Flatts will debut their Changed tour this weekend with special guests Little Big Town, Eli Young Band and Edens Edge. The trek begins Friday, June 15, in Hartford, Conn. Keep track of their tour schedule here.