Jay DeMarcus’ New Memoir Portrays Success as ‘the End Result of a Lot of Life Lived’
Early on in his memoir, Shotgun Angels: My Story of Broken Roads and Unshakeable Hope, Jay DeMarcus lays out one of the earliest and most abiding sources of confusion in his life: his name. Officially, his birth name is Stanley Wayne DeMarcus Jr. -- he's named after his dad -- but no one ever called him by it, "leading to all kinds of confusion later in life when it came time for [me] to get [my] driver's license, open bank accounts, enrolled in college, print wedding invitations -- you name it," he writes.
His dad wanted a namesake, DeMarcus reasons, but not even his parents liked the name. To his mom, DeMarcus is "Bubby."
Compared to the ups and downs of his musical aspirations, a choppy relationship with his dad and even the loss of his first career over a child he had out of wedlock and put up for adoption, DeMarcus' confusion over his name is one of the book's more lighthearted struggles. However, the most important thing about Shotgun Angels isn't DeMarcus' own life story, per se, but rather the constants of hope and faith that helped him navigate that story. Now, he tells The Boot, he hopes the book will reach people who are going through challenging times of their own.
"I was just trying to talk to as many people as I could, who may or may not be ... dealing with some life-changing events, and just trying to encourage them a little bit," DeMarcus explains. "There were times in my own life when I was dealing with things where I didn't know what to do or where to turn, and I found great comfort and hope and peace through other peoples' stories."
DeMarcus knows that many of his readers will know him mainly as one-third of the wildly popular country group Rascal Flatts, and he's hoping Shotgun Angels will spotlight the long backstory that led him to fame. "Even though you see Rascal Flatts and you see success, you're seeing the end result of a lot of life that has been lived, a lot of dark times and a lot of hardships," he continues. "I wanted to lay that out in hopes that it would encourage someone to keep moving forward and persevering."
DeMarcus' Christian faith played a big role in getting him through those dark times, though he stresses that he doesn't wish to proselytize to anyone. "I am a person in a country band who happens to be a believer, and it's not my platform right now to preach to anybody or force the gospel on anybody," he says. "What I'm trying to do is simply paint a picture of the things that have helped me in my own hard times."
Just as importantly, DeMarcus wanted to dispel any assumptions that Christianity makes a person perfect or absolves them of accountability for their mistakes. "I'm not trying to present this picture of someone who has been imperfect and fallen back on my Christianity as an excuse to not take responsibilities for my own actions and mistakes," he clarifies. "What I'm trying to do is say that through my mistakes, through me being human, the one constant has been that I've had a relationship and a firm foundation with my faith.
"I think, all too often, it's easy to judge somebody when they say, 'I'm a Christian,' or, 'I'm a believer,' and you point to their mistakes and go, 'But, but, but, but -- you've done this.' That's not what it's about," DeMarcus goes on to say. "What it's about is recognizing that we all need help. We all make mistakes, and we all go through the same pain and the same hurt. That's more to the point for me."
Although writing the book meant reliving the darkest periods of his life, it also allowed DeMarcus to revisit some of his happiest memories, too. "There's some times I talk about in there when we're all together singing in our living room, and remembering how close I really was to my Mamaw and Papaw growing up. Reliving some of those memories was just so awesome," he recalls. "To sit by myself in front of a computer, typing those pictures out -- to go through and replay all those memories in my mind was really, really awesome for me. I kinda went back in time, and I loved that part of it."
The singer may not have a clear-cut explanation of who he is -- never has, ever since his early-in-life name confusion -- but even so, his identity comes into clearer focus as the years pass.
"I'm more settled into who I am now than I think I've ever been before, but I think I'm a bunch of different things," DeMarcus muses. "I'm a producer to some acts, a band member and bass player to Rascal Flatts; I'm a father and a husband. All of it suits me just fine, and I love where I'm at, and the season of my life I'm in right now."
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