CMT.com posted an interesting interview with Rascal Flatts about the country trio's new song, "Love Who You Love." The mid-tempo ballad is available for download starting today on iTunes as a teaser toward the April 7 release of new album, "Unstoppable."
The song covers the well-trod territory about not getting so caught up in the day-to-day troubles in life that we forget to tell our loved ones how we feel. However, the CMT interview stresses that its lyrics can be interpreted as support for same-sex relationships as well. And that's just fine with the boys in Rascal Flatts.
"We actually have some gay people that work with us, and we have a lot of friends that are gay, too, and I know that this song has inspired them,"singer Gary LeVox tells CMT (I will add that any time, whether it's Sarah Palin or LeVox or Mr. Magoo, someone says they actually intersect with gay people, it sounds as if they still consider homosexuals to be like martians, when that is clearly not the case here). "I know that coming out was tough on their parents and on them and the whole entire family. For a long time, some of them didn't get to hear ‘I love you' from their dads or be accepted in that way. ... It's helped a lot of our friends."
"That's what's cool about our music," says guitarist Joe Don Rooney. "You can interpret (it like) that. If you get that - it's perfect. If you are someone who's gay or someone who's straight, you still feel something from the song, and that's what we want."
"We don't judge anybody's lives," says bassist Jay DeMarcus.
How sad that in 2009, it's considered a possibly risky move-career or otherwise-- to allow a line to be interpreted to include gays, but good for Rascal Flatts. I love everything they say here. They've always been on the pop tip of country, so their "countrypolitan" audience doesn't intersect much with the more traditional, conservative fans of someone like, say, Hank Williams Jr., but it's still an issue in country music.
CMT's journalist Craig Shelburne compares the song to Garth Brooks' "We Shall Be Free," which contains the lines "When we're free to love anyone we choose" and "When the last thing we notice is the color of skin." My first of many interviews with Brooks took place just as that song was coming out in 1992. I was working for Billboard in New York, and although I was raised in the South and had lived in a number of other conservative towns before arriving in NYC, my memory was blessedly short that anyone could possibly still judge someone for whom they chose to love.
Brooks was more circumspect. He told me he planned to take a break from touring to spend time with his then-infant daughter, but added, because of the song's lyrics, "I might not need to worry about retiring; my career might be over,'' he said with a laugh.
In the interview, he went a step further, adding, "As long as you think the color of skin affects how someone can do their job, as long as you think who someone chooses to sleep with affects how they do their job, it's not a free country, it's an ignorant nation. The fact that homosexuals feel they have to have individual rights is a direct failure of people to realize that we're all human beings. The fact that there is a word 'minority' represents a failure that we all realize we're human beings.''
It should be noted, "We Shall Be Free" was one of Brooks' lowest-charting singles. But as the years have passed, the song has taken on its rightful place as an equality anthem. Was there ever a more appropriate place for it to be played than on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as part of Brooks' appearance at HBO's "We Are One" inaugural concerts on Jan. 18?
We hope Rascal Flatts' song finds its home too since as the November passage of Prop 8 in California showed, there are still people who have an issue with equality for same-sex couples.