In his new memoir, Shotgun Angels: My Story of Broken Roads and Unshakeable Hope, Rascal Flatts member Jay DeMarcus opens up about a secret that has weighed heavily on his heart over the course of his career: In his early 20s, he fathered a daughter with a then-girlfriend, who placed the baby up for adoption.

At the time, DeMarcus was a member of Christian duo East to West, along with his bandmate and friend Neal Coomer, and before the pregnancy, East to West's star was on the rise.

"We had hits. We were selling records. We were on big tours. We were up for awards," DeMarcus recalls to The Boot -- but that all changed after the news of DeMarcus and his girlfriend's unplanned pregnancy spread within the industry. East to West's connections and career vanished.

"My record label dropped me pretty unceremoniously," DeMarcus adds.

Outside of the industry, however, the story remained more or less unknown. "It was kept pretty quiet," the singer explains. "It was swept under the rug, not for any nefarious reasons, but just for the fact that everybody involved wanted it to sort of dissipate and not be a big deal. [Keeping the story quiet was] protecting everybody's interests."

As he moved past that time in his life and into his country music career with Rascal Flatts, DeMarcus never spoke publicly about the daughter whom he had put up for adoption. Something changed, however, when he set out to write his memoir.

"I've carried this for so long -- and I know some people will have opinions, saying, 'He's just writing this ... to sell more books,' and that's not the case at all," DeMarcus shares. "What I wanted to do was convey to people that when you feel like you fail, when you feel like you've done something that you're gonna have to carry for the rest of your life ... it's okay to feel hopeless."

To call how DeMarcus felt after the scandal broke "hopeless" is an understatement. "[My career with East to West] was all I had wanted to do. I felt like I had ruined everything I had ever worked for and tried to build there," he relates.

"I felt like I let everybody down, including myself, and I can't tell you how badly I beat myself up, thinking about all these people who counted on me, and I let them down in one night. In one instant," DeMarcus adds. "It was something that I knew I was going to have to live with for the rest of my life."

Still, as time passed, he began to find peace -- and even joy -- in aspects of what had happened. "Knowing that there was a couple out there who had been trying to have children for so long, and that we were able to bring some joy into their lives during a season of life when they were struggling to conceive, really does bring me great joy," DeMarcus continues. "And the fact that she was placed with wonderful parents who loved her, cared for her, raised her -- in that way, I'm at peace about the situation.

"But it was very difficult," he adds, "and I can tell you, it didn't get any easier for a long, long time."

One thing that did make a difficult period of his life much easier was the support he found in his bandmate, Coomer. Despite the fact that DeMarcus' actions triggered the demise of East to West, his bandmate never expressed anything other than friendship, love and solidarity. In fact, the country star details in his book, Coomer responded to learning DeMarcus' secret with a secret of his own: He shared that he was gay.

"Neal coming out to me as gay didn't impact me at all. I loved him either way. Didn't matter what his sexual preference was," DeMarcus says, with emotion in his voice. "What I saw in that moment was his unconditional love for me."

That moment, DeMarcus goes on to say, taught him that there were people in his life who would love him no matter what. "Because even though I was the catalyst for us splitting up, he proved to me what true friendship was, by standing beside me and making sure that I was okay," he continues.

"That was what was more impactful, to me, in that moment, than him coming out," DeMarcus explains. "He knew that I would love him no matter what, and that I would always love him."

All these years later, that love still rings true, too: "I just had dinner with him on Monday night," DeMarcus says with a smile.

When his daughter was adopted, DeMarcus wrote a letter to her "explaining that I loved her, did not abandon her, and have tried several ways to make it possible to be in her life," and hoped that she would read it when she turned 14. While he would love to have a relationship with her one day, he says it ultimately is her decision.

"I've made clear, too, that if I am ever gonna have a relationship with my daughter, I want it to be on her terms," he says. "I'm not out to point fingers at anybody. I just want to tell my side of the story and how it affected me."

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