The Rascal Flatts founding member discusses his roots in his memoir, “Shotgun Angels.”

Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus remembers it all like it was yesterday. He recalls the plywood covering the rusted floorboards in the 1978 Ford Thunderbird that would sit in the driveway of his family’s home in Columbus, the look on his mom’s face when she would scramble to get ready for her second job, the day his dad loaded his shotgun and placed it by the front door.

“If anyone tries to come take you away, I’ll shoot ’em,” DeMarcus remembers his father telling him when he was just 7 years old.

Reliving some of those memories still hurts, as DeMarcus realized while writing his new memoir. “Those are the moments that choke me up and make me pause,” he says. “Those are the ones that continue to leave a huge hole in your heart.”

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“Shotgun Angels: My Story of Broken Roads and Unshakeable Hope,” released in April, isn’t the typical recording industry tale about life behind the scenes in Rascal Flatts, the band he founded with his cousin and fellow Columbus native Gary LeVox. Instead, it details the peaks and valleys of DeMarcus’ personal journey.

For a guy who looks to have it all as the bassist, backing vocalist and a frequent songwriter in one of country music’s all-time best-selling groups, DeMarcus says he went through a number of intense struggles as a kid. His parents divorced each other twice, and his relationship with his dad was rocky. He was raised in Old North Columbus and Westerville largely by his mom, who worked two to three jobs to make ends meet.

But through every heartache and challenge, DeMarcus held tight to one crucial thing: hope. His attitude is tied to his Christianity, which he credits to his mom. In fact, “Shotgun Angels” reads as much like an inspirational workbook as it does a biography—a faith-filled parable meant as a motivational guide. “Once you recognize it, you can find hope in the strangest of places,” he says.

As he wrote the book between tour stops last summer, those places and moments were the ones he found himself wanting to revisit. Though recalling the hard times was painful, it also allowed him to recall the good times.

And make no mistake, there was plenty of good in the life of the kid from Columbus who loved to spend time at his grandparents’ house, listening to the family sing on warm summer nights. Or his first concert as a musician, an impromptu yet successful show at the King’s Place, a now-defunct Christian venue in Reynoldsburg. He relishes those memories and shares them with his two children when he returns, though his hometown has changed greatly over the decades.

“Some parts are really unrecognizable to me. When we go home for the holidays, we will drive around Westerville and Clintonville, and things now look so much smaller to me,” he says with a laugh. He loves showing his kids the places he went to school, like Tree of Life and Fort Hayes.

DeMarcus pauses for a moment, and then continues. “It’s a constant struggle and battle as a parent because they have no clue how great they have it,” he says quietly. “Despite everything, Columbus shaped me and it shaped my life. It will always be home to me.”


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