Rascal FlattsWhen it came time to record their new album, due in September, Rascal Flatts escaped the long and dreary Tennessee winter and flew west to the balmy, coastal climes of Santa Barbara, Calif. It was both serene and intense for them ... intense in a productive way, that is, which they feel shows on their finished product.

"It relaxed us," guitarist Joe Don Rooney tells Nashville's Tennessean newspaper. "We didn't have the hustle and bustle of going back home from the studio and being in Nashville in the crazy traffic. We were pretty close to the studio in Santa Barbara and we got to spend 14 to 16 hours a day in the studio. By the time we got home, we were tired enough just to sleep at the place we rented. We got a lot of work done that way. It was a really cool experience!"

Saying they were surprised by Disney's recent announcement that Lyric Street -- the only label they've ever known -- was closing down is an understatement. The multi-platinum-selling, most awarded group in country music were shell shocked.

"It just blindsided us," lead singer Gary LeVox admits. "It was out of the blue. It's still a little shocking. That was our family for 12 years. It's just a sad deal."

Though Disney hasn't made any public announcements about a new home for the trio, who have sold more than 20 million albums this past decade for the label, they will remain under the Disney umbrella, along with a few employees, to help them ready their new album, which is due to drop in September.

"We're still moving full steam ahead and we're just pumped about the new stuff that we're cutting," Gary continues.

The first single off their as-of-yet untitled album of all new material is due out in June.

"We've still got the same radio promo team in place and they're still working our singles, so it's just business as usual for us," says bassist/piano player Jay DeMarcus. "Unfortunately, there's just not as many people around as there used to be."

But thankfully, the sadness they feel about the dissolution of their label is balanced by the joy they are feeling about their new record. And they swear ... they can even hear a difference in their sound, as a result of laying down tracks and vocals in the beautiful and relaxing coastal setting of Santa Barbara, Calif.

"That's what made it so refreshing," Jay reflects. "That for one intense period of time, we got to concentrate on the music we were making. That kind of intense focus shows in those tracks that were recorded there."

Rascal Flatts will hit the road this summer on their Nothing Like This tour, beginning June 25 in Raleigh, N.C. and through 26 cities, ending in Boston Sept. 19. Kellie Pickler and Chris Young will be joining them as opening acts.

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