After an incredible two-decade career of smash-hit songs, millions of album sales and streams, and over 40 awards, well-known country band Rascal Flatts calls it quits, marking the end of a solid era.
Now, Gary LeVox, the former frontman of the well-known band, is stepping into a new chapter as a solo artist. His first project is One on One, a faith-based EP filled with songs of hope and collaborations from household names in Christian music: gospel/contemporary artist Jonathan McReynolds, the iconic Christian band MercyMe, and country-rap artist BRELAND. Gary's daughter, Brittany LeVox, also makes an appearance.
I talked with Gary about creating One on One, why he chose a Christian record as his first solo project, and how to keep your faith strong while working in the music industry.
After the Rascal Flatts chapter came to a close, what made you decide that making a Christian album was the next right step for you?
I've always wanted to make a faith-based album, but we'd always been so swamped. For two decades, we had deadlines, tours, albums, and TV appearances, so I just didn't have the time. I grew up a Pentecostal boy. And I always wanted to create a Christian album. Then, when the pandemic hit, I needed to make it more than anything. It's beauty from ashes, really. Something great came out of something so horrible. The world stopped, but I wasn't going to. Now, I have the time and I'm going to make that album.
Sometimes in church, you grew up hearing that you can't be a Christian and make music that's not gospel or if you go work in the mainstream music industry you might lose your faith. Yet, you're an example of someone who's had a successful career and your faith is still important to you.
How did you stay strong in your faith throughout your career–particularly in mainstream music–and how would you encourage other aspiring artists who are Christians and want to be in the music business?
We've always kind of snuck our faith in our music. We always snuck in Jesus. My faith has always been first and foremost in my life. I don't know how you do life without God because it's just too hard; it's too big to live life on your own. You have to be true to who you are. If you're a person of faith, you're going to fall; it doesn't matter what branch of music you're making. Look at how many pastors and Christian artists go through the exact same thing in every genre of music.
We're humans; we're going to fall and, hopefully, get back up. We're all sinners; we all need Christ. Healthy people don't need doctors, right? God hung out with the drunks, the prostitutes, you know?
So, I think you just have to be true to yourself. Everybody has their own walk. If you feel convicted singing about certain things, then you shouldn't. That's between you and God. And if you don't feel convicted about certain topics then sing about them.
Even the Bible says the narrow road is tough to walk, but we have a clean slate every day. The Lord knows I'm so grateful for His grace and mercy. That's the only way to continue on through life. I've done worse things to not get into heaven than sing, right? If singing a Johnny Cash song is keeping me out of heaven, well, I don't have a shot.
You have some powerhouse collaborations on your new album: MercyMe, BRELAND, Jonathan McReynolds, and your daughter, Brittany. Pop artist Tauren Wells helped write for the EP. How did the collaborations come about?
Well, Jon is one of my dear friends and one of my favorite singers. I told him before I was going to record this EP (I probably told him two years ago) that, "You and I are working together or I'm coming to your house to burn it down until you come out. We're singing together." So, we started the conversation.
He said, "I've got a song; let's see if you like it." It was a song he wrote by himself called "Never Forget." So, Jon jumped on that with me. Then, with MercyMe, lead singer Bart Millard and I have been wanting to do something for a long time, so we worked together on the song, "A Little Love."
It was funny, I called Tauren and said, "I'm doing this gospel record." He responded, "I just finished my record and there's a song I love ("While I Wait") that didn't make the final cut. I'm going to send it to you and see what you think." I played it so much around the house and Brittany was singing her face off. I said, "You ought to record this song with me." She went to the studio and put her vocals on the song and just slew it.
BRELAND called me and said, "Hey, will you sing this song on my record?" So, we went to the studio and I'm doing the vocals on his record, and I had an idea. He's a pastor's kid, so I thought, "I have to get BRELAND in on something." So, I pitched him the idea and he literally wrote the song "All I See" in like 20 minutes.
"Never Forget" is an incredible song. It gives us all the Gospel vibes. I love the message of remembering your history with God and God's goodness in your life. What's something Jesus has done in your life that you'll never forget?
Oh gosh, you know, there's so many things. But I think my truest leap of faith was when I moved to Nashville. I was in my mom's kitchen, singing to the radio, and then it hit me. I still remember it to this day. I felt so convicted. I prayed, "God, I feel like You've given me the gift of song and I'm so sorry that I haven't used it."
Of course, I was afraid. I asked myself, "Okay, where do I get started? I don't want to do this." I was comfortable. I worked for the state of Ohio. I didn't want to go. But I knew God was calling me to move to Nashville. So, I sold everything, took a two-week leave of absence, and knew I wasn't coming back. I threw all my clothes in my truck and that was it. I was starting over. It was just me and Him. I was 28 years old. And, I think God rewarded my leap of faith.
How are you hoping people will be impacted by the message of these songs when they hear One on One?
My favorite scripture is Psalm 16:8: "God is always with me. I will not be shaken for He is right beside me." That's what this whole thing is: hope. Like with "The Distance," we're going to have speed bumps, cracks, and detours. But, with God, if you give it to Him, you can go the distance. You can finish your race well. With the chaos the pandemic has caused--death, skyrocketing divorce rates, increased drug addictions--there's one God that's still the same today as He is every day.
Hopefully, this pandemic can put everybody in check. Help everybody get their priorities back on what's important. I mean I know I've been sitting here going, "Golly, I've put so much time and energy into stuff that didn't even matter." So, hopefully, we're reminded of everything great that God does. That He's still as sovereign today as He's ever been. When people listen, I hope they're reminded of the wonderful things that Jesus has done for us in our lives. And that everyone finds peace, hope, and encouragement.
What can fans lookout for from you following the EP release?
I've got the end credits song in the new Liam Neeson movie Ice Road, which debuts on Netflix at the end of June. And, I've already finished my solo country record. And, I'll be dropping that in the fall.
How can we be praying for you?
Please pray that God's hand is on this record and that whoever the songs were written for penetrates their soul. Pray that people who are downtrodden and feel like they can't get through it are blessed by the message of these songs.
NRT contributor Jasmin Patterson is a lifelong fan of Christian music who is passionate about helping others connect with Christ. She lives in Kansas City where she serves in college ministry and runs a blog to help seekers and believers discover and live biblical Christianity.
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