Darius Rucker Reflects On His Journey From Pop Star To Country Music Sensation

Back in the 90s, Hootie & the Blowfish soared onto the music scene making a household name for themselves winning Grammys for chart-topping hits like “Hold My Hand,” “Let Her Cry” and “Only Wanna Be With You.” A little more than 10 years ago, the pop band, fronted by lead singer Darius Rucker, decided they weren’t going on tour anymore and it was then Rucker seized the opportunity he always knew he was destined for and took a chance at becoming a country musician.

Since then, the rest of his story is legendary music history. The South Carolina native stayed true to his roots putting out five country albums, which have garnered him eight number one singles, including “Come Back Song,” “Homegrown Honey” and “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.” He was awarded the Country Music Association’s New Artist of the Year in 2009 and made history for being the first African-American to do so. The multi-Platinum country music sensation is now headlining a tour with Lady Antebellum that runs through October.

We caught up yesterday with Rucker to find out how he made the transition from pop star to country music’s favorite artist.

Tell us about your unlikely journey from pop star as lead singer of Hootie & The Blowfish to becoming a country music sensation.

Back when I was a kid growing up in South Carolina, I loved country music. I loved the people singing it and I listened to everything back then. In the 80s, I discovered Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam and Radney Foster. We had been on tour with Hootie forever and one of the guys didn’t want to be on tour anymore so it was then I decided that I wanted to focus on being a country musician. It’s crazy to think about my whole journey that started with Hootie in late ’85.

How have you been able to balance having two enormously successful careers?

The cool thing is that it wasn’t simultaneously (laughs). I still do a lot of charity work with Hootie, but right now I am focused on being a country artist.

Darius RuckerPhoto Credit: David McClister

Did you ever think you would be a member of the Grand Ole Opry?

Oh God, no. With Hootie, we tried to play at the Opry. When I first played there (in 2008), I’ll never forget that day. When they asked me to be a member four years later, it was a really amazing thing.

Nashville can be somewhat unforgiving for crosssover artists making the transition to country music. What has been your secret to your success being accepted as a genuine country musician?

I think one of the things was growing up, I was always a fan of country music. Often you hear an artist trying to make the transition and being asked who they like for country artists. Most people would say Willie Nelson or Dolly Parton, and I love them both, but they didn’t know any other country musicians. Loving country music the way I did, it was easy for me to make the crossover.

It hasn’t always been easy. Tell us about some of the challenges you faced early on in your career.

When I first started out as a country musician, I heard from a radio programmer that I would never be accepted as an African-American country singer. We have since become friends, but that was one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome.

Where does the inspiration for your songwriting come from now?

My life. It could be something I have been through or am going through.

How do would you say your country fans differ from your pop music enthusiasts?

As they say, country fans are so loyal. They will always stick with you. Country music is huge in the northeast and places like Boston. It’s crazy because the stigma of country music being a southern thing is not there anymore.

“First Time” talks about doing things for the first time. What’s on your personal bucket list?

Oh, I have got tons of things from places to concerts. I got to cross off my number one last year when I saw Paul McCartney play in Tampa. He played for three and a half hours. It was incredible. When you realize that people are able to escape and get a break from their lives at a concert to just enjoy the music, that’s really fulfilling.