Podcast Transcript

Jay: My cousin, who also grew up in Columbus Ohio. Gary was calling me, going, you know, I’ve been singing up here and I think I got something. I’ve been winning to karaoke contests or around you know, Columbus area here, and I’d like to come to Nashville and spend some time with you and sing for you and just see whether or not you think that there’s a path from me there or if I got anything worth pursuing. And you know, when you hear from a relative that they’ve been winning karaoke contest and you’re not sure what’s to expect. It was one of those moments that I kind of panicked at that call. I remember having a conversation with my mom and I’m like, you know, Gary called me and said he’s been winning to karaoke contest. But what in the world am I going to do or say to him if he comes and sings for me and he’s terrible.

Speaker 2: Welcome to this edition of the Takin a Walk Podcast with Buzz Knight. On this episode, Buzz welcomes Jay De<arcus , legendary country artist, songwriter and producer known for a successful run with the band Rascal Flatts. Jay has a new chapter in his career, serving as the president of Red Street Records, an independent label based in Nashville representing country and Christian artists. Jay DeMarcus joins Buzz Knight next on Takin a Walk.

Buzz: Well, Jay DeMarcus, thanks for being on this virtual edition of Taking a Walk. We’ll take a walk down memory lane here and talk about what you’re up to these days as well. But thank you so much for being on the Taking a Walk podcast.

Jay: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me on. It’s good to be with you.

Buzz: So we share one thing in common, certainly Columbus, Ohio, where I spent some of my formative years in the radio business at a radio station there called QFM ninety six. But tell me what it was like for you growing up in Columbus, Ohio.

Jay: Man, I’ll tell you what. It was a wonderful time because I spent the eighties and what I consider to be the greatest decade ever, and QFM ninety six was certainly a part of shaping my musical foundation for sure. I had I remember Sunny ninety five, FM ninety six and ninety two x FM were my three favorite radio stations that I bounced around between all three of those, listening to harder rock stuff on QFM ninety six and more of the pop stuff on Sunny . So I remember so well, and it makes me smile thinking that you were a part of that.

Buzz: Yeah, it was a fun place to be and watched. Certainly, the town was a great town to be because of, you know, the college influence as well. I gather you were a big football fan as well.

Jay: . I grew up a few blocks from the stadium, so I used to be able to sneak in. I knew some of the security guards. They’d let me sneak in the back gate there and kind of stand on the you know, in the in the student section there. So it was fun. I loved it.

Buzz: The Varsity Club remember that place?

Jay: Do I ever, absolutely absolutely.

Buzz: Remember when John Cooper was the coach?

Jay: Very well?

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Jay: I used to spend a lot of Saturday afternoons infuriated because he couldn’t run any better places than he did.

Buzz: We actually did a funny promotion that we called it meet mister Cooper at the Varsity Club, and it was actually Alice Cooper that we brought in to meet listeners.

Jay: That is awesome. I love that so much.

Buzz: We threw caution to the wind, for sure.

Jay: It’s great.

Buzz: So what was the first band that you were in.

Jay: I was in a band. I was in several bands, you know, in junior high and high school. But the most serious band when I was young was a band called Fair Warning, and it was a Christian rock band. So I had some guys that I went to church, and we played youth you know, like lock ins and youth camps and things of that nature. So I spent a lot of my early days, the teenage years there loving some of the Christian rock bands that were coming out, like Petra and Whiteheart, things of that nature. And so yeah, I spent about probably four and a half years. They’re playing with those guys. They were all older than me at the time, seven eight years older. But that was my first serious band situation.

Buzz: Could you have imagined then how big Christian music would become?

Jay: No, I couldn’t, you know. It was a little just a little niche niche, a little genre, and I certainly followed it and loved it, but man, it did not have the worldwide appeal that it does now and it’s certainly turned into, you know, a vinable business.

Buzz: Now. Production came before Rascal Flats for you, is that correct?

Jay: Yeah? I started producing some into high school. You know, I had the good fortune of going to a school of the arts there, Fort Hayes Career Center in downtown Columbus there, and you had to audition to get in, and you sort of did your academy the first half of the day and then you studied whatever art you were studying the second half the day. And I was, of course there for music. So I really found a really great call because I was surrounded by kids that had the same passions and the same interest that I did. Really really took music seriously. So I was around kids that were very, very gifted people that really pushed me to be better than I probably was at that point in time. And in that studio at that school, I started to get my feet wet and learning the process of producing and putting parts together and parts that worked together or to service the song. So I really started to discover my affinity for record production there in my high school years.

Buzz: So in your production resume, certainly a couple things or in particular pop out to me in those early days. One was Jody Messina. Yeah, and tell me about how that experience was. Producing Jody.

Jay: You know, that was great because we’d been on the road with her, so we were already friends and knew her so well and just always loved her voice. And when it came time to do that record, she reached out and wondered if Dan Huff and I would do a couple of sides on her. I called Dan and I said, Hey, my friend Jody’s wondering if we can do some sides on her. And it was the first chance I had never had to work in a co production situation with Dan. We certainly have worked together on some Flass records and some other things, but never as co producers. So it was a really great experience for me because working with Dan in a different capacity and sort of learning from him and watching him and working in tandem with him, I sort of got to throw ideas out and creative you know, everything from her arrangements to you know, coming up with parts together. It was a really great situation to learn from him and be able to be in a different sort of relationship with him than just him as the record producer and me’s at the artist being peers and co production was a really special experience.

Buzz: And how did you end up working with Chicago in the production side.

Jay: Well, that is a remarkable story. Actually, I grew up loving Chicago. Talk about the eighties and the reinvention they had there and the resurgence they had with David Foster with some of my favorite music. When I was a kid. I remember coming home one afternoon and running through the front door and saying to my dad, who was a wonderful musician himself, Dad, you won’t believe this new song I’ve heard. I cannot wait to play for it for you. And it was hard to say, I’m sorry. And he listened to it and he said who is that? And I said, this is this new band called Chicago and he dying. It was like, Chicago’s not a new band. They’ve been around a long long time. So my dad started to introduce all of the old Chicago music to me when Terry Caath was in the band, and so I developed this tremendous lovel for Chicago. I mean, they were everything I loved about music. You know. They had the horns, they had a funky rhythm section, they had the best singers in the world. And then when David Foster started making records for them in the eighties, I really fell in love with that and I was bummed out, like everybody was. I guess when the news dropped that Peter Stetera was going to leave the band, and I wondered, what in the world are they going to do? This guy sings, you know, all of the tenor parts, and he has this extraordinarily high voice, so signature for the band. Not only that, but he plays bass. It’s got to be nearly impossible to replace a guy like that. And then when I heard Chicago eighteen was coming out and they were dropping the first single, which was really used to Love Me, and that they had found a new movie singer. I heard it on the radio and I never will forget sort of had that moment where I stopped my car and kind of pulled over to the side and I was like, Oh, my gosh, I don’t know how they’ve done this, but they found the perfect replacement for Peter Sata. Many many years later, I would have never known that Jason Chef and I would become dear friends through the music business. He was in my wedding. We were writing songs together. I was such a fan of his, and you know, those high school years in early college years, coming out, never dreaming that I would even get the chance to meet this guy someday, And as fortune would have it and our past would cross, we became instant friends and really really close friends. The more that we wrote together, the more that our materials started to sound like Chicago records. I mean, you can’t help but sound like Chicago when Jason is singing one of your songs. So when Chicago started talking about going into the studio to make a new album, they had not in the studio for about fifteen years working on any kind of a new project, we started to make our demos. Jason would play them for the band and I never will forget. I believe it was Thanksgiving of two thousand and four. I was at my mother’s house. I got a call from Robert Lamb and he said, Jay, we’ve been hearing the things that you’ve been writing with Jason. It really sounds like a fresh version and a fresh take on Chicago and while honoring the past too, and we would love to offering you the opportunity to produce Chicago thirty. And you know, about to drop the phone, and I’m sure I almost passed out. It was you know, for a kid that grew up idolizing that band, then to be asked to produce a record was something I wouldn’t have dreamed in a million years. So that’s how that happened, through my relationship with Jason, and so proud of that record. It’s still one of my most favored memories when it comes to anything having to do with music. Being in the studio with those guys but we’re really my heroes was just such a wonderful experience and one that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

Buzz: And what a band that is so intricate in so many areas that I think the intricacies of that band sometimes get taken for granted, don’t you think.

Jay: I absolutely do. I mean there’s more to that band than what’s just on the surface. You know, those guys are seriously studied and tenured and gifted musicians. I mean, they know what they’re doing. Jimmy Penco is one of the most brilliant brass arrangers you know, you’ll ever come across, and he’s got such a signature sound when he plays trombone. You know instantly that it’s Jenny playing that horn, and that’s why he’s worked on not only Chicago records, but so many other records that were coming out of La op scene in the seventies and eighties. You know, a lot of those brass rangeits to hear on things through everything from Toto to some of the Earthline and Fire stuff were written by Jimmy. I mean, he’s just one of the very, very best in that field. So it was I learned a lot. I was so fortunate to be around those guys and soak up so much. But they also, you know, at the risk of sounding self serving, they realized very quickly that I had studied their music and I was a student of their music, and it wasn’t just some kid coming in trying to make them something that they weren’t. I knew and tried to honor all the legacy that was there while also trying to make a more modern sounding you know, chicagore.

Buzz: So nineteen ninety nine happens. That was a very good year I think for you, wasn’t it nineteen ninety nine?

Jay: Yeah?

Buzz: Yeah, it was this little band called Rascal Flats Forms you formed it with your cousin. So talk about the formation of this band that would have sixty number one singles, be the CMA Vocal Group of the Year from two thousand and three to two thousand and eight, the ACM Vocal Group of the Year from two thousand and three to two thousand and nine. Can I keep going.

Jay: On, Jay Man, I’m starting to blush.

Buzz: Inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in two thousand and eleven and given a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in twenty twelve. So how did the band form?

Jay: Well? I had been on the road with a female artist named Shelley Wright who was really really coming into her own there in the late nineties. She had a string up some hits, and I was her musical director band leader. And when I took the position as her band leader, she wanted me to hire some new guys in the band, some fresh spaces. And so one of the guys to come into audition for guitar was this fresh space, little young and named Joe Don Rooney from Oklahoma, drove all night to come in for the audition, got up and sat in with us. Some of the guys and I were playing at a bar here in town, and he got up on stage and sat in with us, and there was a fire and just an energy about this guy that I instantly was drawn to and selling love with him right there on the spot. Offered him the gig that night, and I was like, I don’t need to see anything else. You know, you’ve got the gig if you want it. Joe Don and I became fast friends. At the same time, my cousin, who also grew up in Columbus, Ohile, Gary, was calling me, going, you know, I’ve been singing up here and I think I got something. I think I’ve got a voice. I’ve been winning some karaoke contests or around you know, Columbus area here, and I’d like to come to Nashville and spend some time with you and sing for you and just see whether or not you think that there’s a path from me there, or if I got anything worth pursuing. And you know, when you hear from a relative that they’ve been winning karaoke contest and you’re not sure what’s to expect. It was one of those moments that I kind of panicked and I called. I remember having a conversation with my mom and I’m like, you know, Gary called me and said he’s been winning to karaoke contest. But what in the world am I going to do or say to him if he comes and sings for me and he’s terrible. So I had this fear that I was gonna hurt my cousin’s feelings or something, you know, because you just never know what to expect. Everybody thinks they can sing. I’m sure when they’re in gonna shower by themselves, they all sound like Mariah Carey or Steve Perry, I’m sure. But Gary came to town. He stayed with me for a weekend, and I remember sitting down at the piano and one of the first songs he asked me to play for him was One Last Try by Brian McKnight, and I remember when he opened his mouth. I was just stunned. I couldn’t believe the gift and the voice that this guy had been blessed with. He was my my cousin, we’d spend a lot of time together growing up, but I never knew he sang until I guess, gosh, that would have been the end of nineteen ninety seven or the beginning of nineteen ninety eight, and I was just absolutely mesmerized by the gift this guy had. The tone was there, all the things you can’t teach, the texture, the licks, the ability to sing in an incredible range, it was all there. But it was all pretty raw in the beginning, and so we sat out to sign up as many writer nights or as many open mic nights as we could find downtown. We would go together and sign up and I would play for him and he would get up and sing. And the more we sang together, the more we developed this chemistry, and the better and better he got at finding who he was because Gary was really great about emulating other artists, and he sang along to the radio and he could sound like Merle Haggard or he could sound like Stevie Wonder. He was a cameleon. He could do everything, really, But during those early months with playing together, he really started to come into his own and find his own voice and his own identity and develop who he was. And it was amazing to watch. I now look back on it, and at the time I didn’t realize how special it was to be a part of that time where Gary LeVaux was becoming Gary Levox and finding himself and the more we played together, you know, because Gary didn’t play an instrument, more often than not played behind him. And finally, the owner of the fiddle and Steel guitar Bar and printer, z Ally, came to us one night and said, if I give you guys Monday nights and so Tuesday nights, would you put a band together and I’ll build a stage on the other side and I’ll knock this wall down and make it a big dance floor so you guys can kind of have a home base. And we had been working with another guitar player at that point, and time Shane and we started playing together. The place was packed on Monday and Tuesday nights. It was it was I mean, you’d have everybody from Toby Keith coming in. He would sit in and sing with us. It was a great place for musicians who weren’t on the road to come in. Would get him up to sit in with us, and she became this big family and before you know it, the place was packed out all the time. And the guitar player we’d been using called me one night. I know I’m long winded here, but this is a great story, and he said, man I’ve got the flu. I can’t make it in tonight. I’m so sorry that I can’t. You know, Bet, I can’t make it tonight. So I immediately called Jodan and I said, hey, we’re in a spot. I need you to come sit in with us tonight if you can. And I’d been telling joda On about Gary, and I’ve been telling Gary about Jodn. And we got there that first night, Jodaan said his gear up. Gary was a little frustrated because, you know, he it had communicated to me that, you know, he was going to be a long night and if Jodn didn’t know any of her songs, that I’m gonna leave early because I got to work early in the morning. And he was very frustrated. I was like, let’s just give us a chance to see what we can come up with here. And the first song we played together was Church on the Coverland Road by Shenandoah. And when we hit that course, all three of us, I think you could ask either one of those other guys, we all knew instantly we had captured some lightning to bottle and some magic that you can’t manufacture, and it was naturally there. The blend was there. Jodn’s pure tenor voice was about the only thing you could imagine that could sing above Gary all that long, because Gary already sang pretty high. Gary and I of course were family, but jo don’t felt like he was family too, And from that night on we never never stopped. It went on from there, and I had the unenviable task of calling Shane and telling that he had and replaced in the.

Buzz: Mad great story. My God.

Speaker 2: You’ll be right back with more of the Taking a Walk podcast. Welcome back to the Taking a Walk Podcast.

Buzz: How do you sort of grasp the difficulty of keeping such a band with a great run like that together for the length of time that you did. Do you sometimes sort of step back from that and kind of look at that differently now?

Jay: Yeah, I think I appreciate it a lot more now that we’ve been, you know, dormant for the past four years. I really can look back on it with clearer vision and realize that it was so good. But being in the middle of it and sort of watching it all go behind a blur, it’s hard to appreciate it when you’re in the middle of it. And for me, we didn’t do We did a good job of this, but we were always great about it. Sometimes it’s easy for three guys that have different opinions, different different points of view about things, it’s it’s hard sometimes to put your own personal selfishness aside and do what’s always good for the band and good for the whole. We did a pretty good job of doing that most of the time. And I will say this, we rarely fought. I mean just like any other brothers or any other band. Of course, we had disagreements, and we fought a couple of times, maybe two bad times, but for the most part, we always made a commitment to each other to try to put each other first in the good of the group first. We wouldn’t do things that competed with Rascal Flats. If we had outside interests or outside hobbies, we tried to keep that away from the Flats so that we served Rascal Flats first. And I feel like overall we did a pretty good job at that. The one thing we did not do a good job up was managing our time well. We got on a vicious cycle of touring, doing a new record, doing press, and then touring again for twenty plus years. We never took a break, and I think the only thing we didn’t do right was taking a breath and sitting down and going we need to take a year off. We’ve got to refuel ourselves. We need some time away from each other. We need some time to do some things individually that we haven’t had a chance to do because all of us are going down the same path ninety miles a minute. So I wish that we would have been a little smarter at one point to look at each other and go, hey, no matter what the label wants to do, our management is telling us we should do another tour. We need to draw a hard line in the sand and say, hey, we need a break. We need we need to refuel ourselves, we need some rest, and we need a break.

Buzz: Do you think if you did that the band would still be around.

Jay: It’s hard to say. You can’t predict. I mean, you know COVID was such an anomaly and that you ruined a lot of things for a lot of people. But I think it would have been the very least given us maybe a little more fuel in the tank to not have run as ragged as we did toward being there. Twenty nineteen was a really tough year. We toured really really hard. Jodun had decided at a certain point that he had had enough, which there were other contributing factors there that we had no knowledge of. He was dealing with a lot At Halem. We were all a little bit frustrated because the band, I think, was coming to an end and we were supposed to do a farewell tour and it made the end of twenty nineteen even harder. So I think it might have given us a boost of energy, you know how much needed rest would have helped in a lot of ways.

Buzz: Would we ever see Rascal Flats and any other incarnation come back, even for a short run?

Jay: You know, I think you remember when some of the Melissa McCarthy and a couple of others remade Ghostbusters a few years ago. I think Rascal Flights is going to come back as three girls in a couple of years, and they’ll remake a new version of a Rascal Flat. You know. I hope and pray that there’s a day in the Nazi distant future when we can take care of some unfinished business. I feel like we were robbed of being able to say goodbye to our fans that have been so good to us over the years, and I feel like, you know, one of the things that makes me very, very sad is thinking about March of twenty twenty, of being on stage together for the last time, not realize the last time we were so worried about COVID because the world was shutting down that all we wanted to do was get back home to our families, and rightfully so, but that last time, that last night, we didn’t realize it was the last time. And I would love to give it the honor and the respect that it deserves, to give our fans another chance to at least come see us and say, you know, they’re farewells and their goodbyes. Maybe it won’t be a farewell to her, who knows, but I certainly would hope that there’s a time that exists that we can be on stage together again.

Buzz: So what were three sort of quintessential songs that you would say made a great impact on you musically and professionally.

Jay: You know, my earliest memory of my dad playing music and playing piano, The song Daniel by Elton John always sticks out to me because my dad played and sang that song and I remember being a little kid in that song being really really impressional to me because my dad sang it. I watched him play it on the piano, and it’s always been one of those songs that had stood out to me as one of the first songs that captured me, you know, that made me stop to think about what the song was saying and the chord progressions. So that was that was my very first time that a song like made me stop what I was doing and pay attention to it, I guess is the best way to say it, you know, some of the some of the other songs. Uh, this is a tough question because there’s so many songs that have influenced me over the years. But one of my life changing moments I’ve already covered was hearing hard to Say Im Sorry on the radio for the first time. There was something about that production and about that sound coming off the radio waves that just you know, consumed me. And it was another one of those moments I remember sitting in mind in the I wasn’t driving at the time, but I sitting in the car of the person I was with, just like stunned and mesmerized and trying to take all of this audio experience in and it was life changing. For me, I knew from that moment on that that’s you know, I wanted to write songs and be a part of music that changed people the way that song changed me that day, and so that really that song right there, really really stands out as one of those moments for me. And you know, quite honestly, one of the other ones was he stopped loving her today. That’s when I really really developed an affinity for country music, in the way that it was written and how well you could craft the lyric to hit so hard and be so heavy and be delivered by such a vulnerable, transparent vocal. George Jones was sort of my daddy’s favorites, and I certainly loved and grew up loving him as well. But when I heard that song and I heard how great country music could be and how powerful it could be, that changed me forever. And I was one of the lucky ones. I was surrounded by everything from gospel music to R and B, and my daddy was a rock and roller, but he also loved the country. My grandfather played in a bluegrass band, so I loved bluegrass growing up. I had it from all sides, and I’m so grateful now. I didn’t even realize it at the time. What a treasure that was to have, you know, to be surrounded by all of those different kinds of musical influences was remarkable.

Buzz: So let’s do a little segment that we’d like to call famous firsts here. First time you knew that you loved music?

Jay: Well, I mean, I think that the first time I knew I loved music was early on, as a kid, probably five or six years old, listening to my dad’s band and listening to them rehearse and watching the drummer and just you know, I couldn’t get enough of it. I was, you know, playing my first little drum kit that was bought at a garage to say, when I was six or seven years old, and I’d put headthunds on and play, you know, some of my favorite records. And that’s how I started. And I knew I loved that. I knew there was something in there that wasn’t going to leave anytime soon.

Buzz: First time you heard one of your songs on the radio That.

Jay: Would be in my Christian band East to West in the early nineties. We were visiting, you know, doing a radio tour. My college roommate and I had a band called East to West and we were signed to Benson Records, and we had six number ones. We were together for about four and a half years, so much fun. But they would have been at the radio station when they played our single on there for the first time. I heard Welcome to the Next Level, which was our first single, And I never will forget what an amazing experience that was hearing your record over the radio airways.

Buzz: Your experience when you got your first number.

Jay: One, Oh man, I think we were on the road at the time. There was a chart back of the early two thousands called the g two chart at Gavin Chart, and technically Praying for Daylight was a number one song, but it was only a number one song on the Gamon chart, and I think it was a number three on Billboard and at that time R and R. So our first bonified number one record was These Days, and I think we were on the road at the time, and we celebrated backstage after one of the shows that night, and that was a remarkable time, really wonderful memory.

Buzz: I’m sure you had no idea you would continue to repeat that experience many times.

Jay: Well, we felt very lucky to have one to be honest with you.

Buzz: I dare say, I bet it never gets old.

Jay: No, it’s always you know, it sounds so cliche to say, but it’s always a wonderful, great feeling to know that you’ve got a number one song. I mean, it never gets old.

Buzz: First album you owned.

Jay: That would have been probably Gosh Chicago sixteen YEP.

Buzz: And first concert experience Dolly Parton.

Jay: My mom took me to see her at the Ohio State Fair and then we won’t forget it. That’s when I fell in love with live music. I saw the light show and the stage show and how tight her band was. I was probably ten or eleven years old at the time. It was remarkable, and I remember looking at that stage going, I don’t want to do that for the rest of my life. Somehow I want to figure out a way to be on that stage and do exactly that right there.

Buzz: Did you have one of those big funnel cakes while you were there?

Jay: Probably so, or a corn dog in to stay or something. I’m sure I did.

Buzz: My father in law and I ate our way across the Ohio State.

Speaker 2: Fair one time.

Buzz: I swear to God, we must have put on ten pounds. Easy to do and the funny thing is we had to go out to a dinner with the family after and actually leave room to eat, and we were so full.

Jay: It’s easy to do, no doubt about.

Buzz: So twenty eighteen Red Street Records is formed. Tell me about the formation. What was behind starting a label?

Jay: I think I always wanted to, in the back of my mind, be in a place where as I got older in my career, was you know, settling in more and the flats, coming to the point to where we weren’t touring as armed and life wasn’t as crazy. I always wanted to be in a place to help other artists. I’ve always had a heart for other artists, being an artist myself, and it seemed like a natural thing to sort of start out small and see if I had an affinity first first of all, and see if I was any good at it. So I started out with a buddy of mine, Jason Krabb, and another group called Avalon signed a couple of Christian addicts. And the more I did it, the more I got into it, I discovered quickly that I did love it. Ken I learned that I brought some value to them, having done you know, been in the business for thirty plus years myself. I had things to offer them that conventional label heads don’t possess. So my view is very, very unique in that I can give them some advice about being an artist and about trying to achieve their goals that not a lot of other people in town can. And so I realized that that had value. I realized that there was a place for that. And the more I did it, the more I fell in love with it. The more I loved being able to like pass on any knowledge that I had to new artists, and also passing the torch on to a elder or the next generation of country music stars was really really exciting for me. So in twenty twenty two we opened up a Country Division two and now we have just signed Chris Lane. I’ve got Neil and Union, a really wonderful duo, and Ryan Larkins, who is incredibly gifted, and Ryan Griffin. So we’ve grown a lot in the past three years, and it’s been remarkable to see how all the dots connected and how the Good Lord has really put us in a place and set us up for success. And I’m so grateful and so honored by the fact that so many artists have trusted our careers or trusted their careers with us. It’s a really, really wonderful thing to be a part of.

Buzz: There’s so many intricate aspects of running a business like that, obviously, the publishing side, and the A and R side, and the airplay side. And it seems like you’ve certainly, with the success of the label, reinvested pretty regularly. Is that true.

Jay: Yeah, it’s very true. I’ve got a wonderful partner, Dan Crockett, who came along signed in twenty twenty during the pandemic, because I’d started in eighteen and I’d hired about six or seven people, and I was doing it all myself, and I got to the point to where, you know, the farewell tour was going to be canceled, and I’m sitting around and going, gosh, I’ve just gotten this off to the ground. What I’m not going to do? I called my dear friend. He jumped in, and he’s been a magnificent partner and sort of help, you know, given me the ability to realize all of my dreams and hire the people I wanted to hire. We’ve got about twenty folks. And to your point about so many intricacies, in running a label, I’ve been able to really hand pick some people that have a whole lot of experience and know things about the music business that I don’t know they’ve got. You know, I’ve got some remarkable people like Alex Valentine who’s our general manager, and Mike Craft, who’s our CFO. We’ve got a wonderful and our department headed by Kelly King, who’s been working with me since the day Rascal Flat started. She helped find, you know, some of our biggest hits. So there are nobody’s ears that I trust in instincts that I trust more than Kelly’s. So I’ve got myself surrounded by this trusted group of people that really helped me figure out the things that I don’t instinctually know about the music business. I’m very, very creative, and I know how to do the creative very well, but some of the more administrative managerial of things, I leave that to the people that know what they’re doing.

Buzz: How were your leadership skills shaped?

Speaker 2: You know?

Jay: I think being in a band it really put me in a good place to learn a lot and learn how to deal with different personalities. You know, when you have band personality that you deal with and crew personnel that you deal with it really without even knowing it puts you in a place to where you’re able to deal with multiple different personality times. So when you get thrown into a situation where you’re working in close proximity with different personalities all the time, it’s not always going to be perfect harmony. You’ve got to be part counselor per cheerleader, per coach, and I think all of those things are developed over time, but I didn’t realize how, you know, what a wonderful education I was getting being on the road for as long as I was and sharpening those leadership skills, because you know, all the three of us were the leaders of our company in our business, and we had to make those decisions. It’s not always easy, and people don’t always love what you have to say, but at the end of the day, your responsibility is to do what is best for the company first. And so I’m really really enjoyed being in a place to where I feel like I can use the skills that I developed without even really even realizing that I had developed them over time.

Buzz: I mean, your reputation as stellar, How did you learn the importance of reputation.

Jay: I think that started early on in college. The guy that brought me is to Lee University. His name is Danny Murray, and he was always like a second father to me, and he taught me the value of relationships, and I think that’s where it starts first. If you’re not a good steward of your relationships and you’re not a person that is honorable to your word, and you’re not a good friend, that will catch up with you over time, people will find out what you’re made of. And if you can’t. Vince Gill told me one time, he said, you know the thing that I tell all artists, And I’m fortunate to be dear friends with Vince, and this is advice that everybody could use. If you’re not gracious on the way up and gracious on the way down, it’s gonna reveal which your character is really, really, really fast. And I’ve always tried. Nobody’s perfect, but I’ve always tried to be cognizant of the fact that I’m blessed and have been very blessed to do what we’ve done over the last twenty plus years. And I’m one of the lucky ones. So few get to be where we’ve been and I feel grateful and humbled by it. And so I’ve really tried to communicate to the people that have been cheerleaders of mine and friends of mine and business associates of mine over the years. I’ve tried to be consistent and communicate the fact that I appreciate that they worked so hard for us, or that they had our backs, or that they were such a good friend to us. I’ve tried to be consistent in that because I believe, like I said at the beginning, that relationships in this business mean everything.

Speaker 2: I really do.

Buzz: When you look at Red Street, now, where do you want Red Street to be a couple of years from now?

Jay: You know, I want us to be successful. I want us to be consistently great at putting out great music, compelling music. You know, we’re such a young company still and we’ve got a little metum, but you know, you don’t. We haven’t proven anything yet. You don’t prove anything until you have a hit. I want us to have some gits. I want to have the kind of artists that we build long sustainable careers. I believe that we have some stars in the making on our roster, and my desire for them, is that they get the credit that they’re I believe that they’re due. So I just want us to carve out a little space for us. I think there’s enough room for all of us in this town, and I think that Red Street can do really, really great business. But with every business in the music business, you needed a little luck. You got to have it. So that’s what we’re praying for every day.

Buzz: How did you get the acting bug? You’ve been in a few shows CSI, Crime Scene Investigation, among others. How did you get the bug?

Jay: You know, I’ve always kind of had it. I was in a musical theater in high school and dabbled in it. And I think the more active friends that I started to have along the way, and meeting through Rascal Flats obviously one of my dear friends, Billy Zapka, who’s Johnny and the Karate Kid, and you know, living vicariously through him and hearing his wonderful stories about working with other great actors kind of really piqued my interest in it. We did the CSI episode and the director Ken think, Oh, I don’t want to say he took an interest in me, but he paid more attention to me than I expected, and we had a couple of great conversations in catering. He was like, you know, you got a neck for this. The camera likes your face, and you’ve got some natural ability. If this is something you wanted to do, you know, as time permits, I would encourage you to do more of this because I think you could do it. So that was all I needed to hear. I was off to the races. I got an agent and started doing headshots, going out for different parts, and I’ve done some television and gotten some little roles and some films here and there, and I’ve also scored a couple of films. So I really I have a desire to do it more. I’m trying to be really really good at where I am right now at Red Street, and don’t have too much on my plate that distracts my focus from here. But I would really love eventually to be able to do more.

Speaker 2: Well.

Buzz: In closing, you seem like a continuous learner. What haven’s you learn that you wish you still can learn?

Jay: Patience? I really, I really wish I could learn how to be patient. I am a person that wants things done yesterday, and when it comes to something like this, in Red Street. I mean, I want success last year. You know, being patient sometimes and letting things play out the way that they need to and letting things just happen is really tough for me to learn. Because I think my bandmates would tell you this too. I have a really a propensity to be very controlling. I want I want the outcome to be exactly the way I want it to be. That also comes from I think producing records and being, you know, being in charge of so many different moving parts and making sure that everything sounds the way that it’s supposed to and all the right parts are on there and it all sounds right in the mix. It’s just part of my personality that’s hard for me sometimes to put the reins on. So I’m working every day at being more patient. But I appreciate you saying that because I do feel like I learned something every day. I’m trying to keep my mind and my heart open to things that I need to learn.

Buzz: Jay DeMarcus, an honor to meet you. Continued success on all the paths in your tremendous career.

Jay: I appreciate that. Thank you for your time, and thanks for having me.

Speaker 2: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Taking a Walk podcast. Share this and other episodes with your friends and follow us so you never miss an episode. Taking a Walk is available on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your podcasts.

Buzz: Di

About The Author

Buzz Knight

Buzz Knight is an established media executive with a long history of content creation and multi-platform distribution.

After a successful career as a Radio Executive, he formed Buzz Knight Media which focuses on strategic guidance and the development of new original content.