Rascal Flatts received an ACM Awards Vocal Group of the Year nomination this year, after being noticeably absent from the nominees list for the past several years. The trio, made up of Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney, felt the nod was proof that they were heading in the right direction -- and that some tough choices they made had paid off.

"We sat down at the end of last year, and it was a very difficult decision. We decided to make a change with three of the personnel we had," Rooney told The Boot and other reporters at a recent media event. "We love the guys we had to let go, and it was a very, very difficult decision, but Jay and Gary and I got on the same page together, got on one bus and talked about it, and it's what we felt like we needed to do to evolve and continue to evolve with our sound live. It's like you do in the studio, you've got to evolve with your albums, and I felt like it was time to do that with our live show."

The guys, who said that they decided to make the change in advance of their recent Las Vegas residency, acknowledge that they at one time thought their reign as one of the biggest acts in country music might be over.

"A few years back, we looked at each other and thought we might be finished," Rooney adds. "We made some really tough decisions back then, and here we are, another three, four, five years down the road, and it feels like we got a little momentum now. Probably more so, in certain ways, than we ever had before."

The Flatts' 2014 album, Rewind, landed at the top of the charts, but the record's first two singles were not the radio successes that some of their previous hits were; the second single, "Payback," failed to reach the Top 20. But instead of allowing themselves to be discouraged, the three men found an inner strength, which made them even more determined than ever to prove that they still had something to say.

"Finding and keeping that hunger [that you have] when you have nothing, when you don't have a song on the chart and you haven't sold a record, you've got to rediscover that in some ways," DeMarcus says. "When you've had success, [sometimes you] rest on that and go, 'Well, we've done that, I'm not as hungry,' so it's been fun to reinvigorate ourselves and find new hunger and new drive, to still want to be relevant in this business. We feel like we are."

Rascal Flatts will kick off their Riot Tour 2015 next month. Tickets are available on their website.

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