For Rascal Flatts' Jay DeMarcus, getting to perform with Journey for the first time earlier this year was a "dream come true."
The two groups came together for an episode of CMT's "Crossroads," which pairs country artists with their counterparts in other musical genres.
"All of us grew up together idolizing the music of Journey," DeMarcus says. "To be sharing the stage together with those guys was pretty surreal."
The episode, which premiered the night before the Super Bowl, proved so popular that Rascal Flatts and Journey have subsequently hit the road for some tour dates, including a Sunday, Aug. 4, stop at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
"I think we've got the same kind of audience, the same kind of people with the same kind of heart," DeMarcus says of the links between the groups.
"Even before we did the 'Crossroads' with them, we sort of prided ourselves on being our generation's Journey, and taking some of those influences to country music. That's something we've been proud of."
Plans for the AC show were still coming together at press time, but DeMarcus anticipates the groups performing separate sets and then sharing the stage.
For Rascal Flatts, the bigger challenge at this point is what songs to leave out of its set, since the group has charted more than two dozen top-20 country hits over the past dozen years.
Rascal Flatts, which has won nearly every major country award and a Grammy for songwriting, has topped the charts with such tracks as, "Banjo," "Why Wait," "Bless the Broken Road," "Mayberry" and "These Days."
"We try to cover as many hits as we can," DeMarcus says. "We don't focus on one album, we have so many songs that have touched people's lives in so many ways.
"It's hard for fans to come to a show and not hear their favorite songs. We try, in as many ways as we can, to get through as much material as we can."
Rascal Flatts' latest hit album, "Changed," got its title from a series of behind-the-scenes shakeups that befell the band in 2010. First, its label, Lyric Street, folded, and then the threesome decided to switch management teams.
Now signed to Big Machine Records, the group, which also consists of Gary LeVox on lead vocals and Joe Don Rooney on lead guitar, is relieved to have weathered that career junction.
"There comes a time when you run out of ways at looking at things, and a fresh perspective is needed," DeMarcus says.
For the Flatts' next album, which is being targeted for an early 2014 release, members enlisted Howard Benson, a producer known for working with pop and rock acts like Bon Jovi, Santana and Creed.
"This is his first foray into country music," DeMarcus says. "With his touch on what we're doing, the tracks are a little more gritty, a little more guitar-heavy, and the arrangements are not as slick as what people are used to hearing. They have a little more raw edge to it."
Having written and performed so many of its own hits, Rascal Flatts also has a strong appreciation for veteran acts with similar high standards. Rascal Flatts has recorded "Old Flame" for the forthcoming "Alabama & Friends" tribute album.
"Like any other '80s kid, I was a huge Alabama fan," DeMarcus says. "Their songs were so infectious. I admired how they kept their career energized from album to album. That's the sign of a really talented band, that they can do it for so mnay years and the song quality never dips."
Coming off a month of performing non-stop in Europe and North America, DeMarcus is looking forward to a little down time, after the AC show.
Still, he appreciates becoming one of Nashville's long-term success stories, while still remaining close to LeVox, who is his cousin, and Rooney.
"We've navigated those waters pretty well," DeMarcus says. "We haven't had any major fallouts over the last 13 years. I'd be lying to say there aren't disagreements or times we want to kill each other. But we love each other like brothers, so it helps to keep it all in perspective."