A Decade Into His Country Music Career, Darius Rucker Contemplates The Wisdom Of Changing Genres

Darius Rucker (Credit David McClister)Photo Credit: David McClister

It’s been almost 25 years since Darius Rucker first achieve mainstream success with his band Hootie & the Blowfish, and their 1994 debut album “Cracked Rear View,” which earned him his first two Grammy Awards. But Rucker needed a change, and in early 2008, Rucker signed to Capitol Records Nashville, transforming from a radio-friendly rocker to a country music artist, and took home his first Grammy as a solo act in 2013—the Best Country Solo Performance trophy for his cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.” Since he made his metamorphosis, Rucker has successfully released five country music album’s including his latest effort, “When Was the Last Time,” which has spawned the singles “If I Told You” (his first Billboard Country Airplay No. 1 since “Wagon Wheel”); “For the First Time”; and “Straight to Hell,” a collaboration with Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Lady Antebellum‘s Charles Kelley. Here, we chatted with Rucker about making his musical transition, the secrets to his success and what new artists he’s totally shipping.

Darius performs at London's Royal Albert Hall
Darius performs at London’s Royal Albert Hall

Photo Credit: Christie Goodwin

It’s been ten years since you made your country debut. Has the transition been everything you’d hoped it would be?

It’s been so much more than I ever could have dreamed. I had always wanted to make a country album and planned to just do it with friends, but Mike Dungan and Capitol took a chance by believing in me enough to give us a country record deal. After five albums, I still wake up inspired to write songs; it’s the greatest job in the world.

What do you love about the country world specifically that sets it apart from other genres (in terms of people, sound, etc.)?

The country music community is so special, from the Opry family to the other artists who have taken me in as one of their own. Even with my current single, Charles Kelley called me up and said ‘you know, you should really cut a cover of ‘Straight to Hell’ and you should let me sing on it.’ I had always wanted to cover the song, and a few days later we called up Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan and got them on the song too. It’s the little things like that which make this community unique.

What prompted you to make that transition?

I grew up on country music. At night I’d turn my radio dial in South Carolina until I caught the WSM station broadcasting live from the Grand Ole Opry. It was magic hearing people like Buck Owens, Charley Pride and Dolly Parton coming across the airwaves. So country music has always been special to me and a part of who I am. I always say “Let Her Cry” was the first country song I wrote, we just didn’t call it that at the time!

rah_51405169708Photo Credit: Christie Goodwin

What’s the idea behind “When Was The Last Time?” What does the title mean to you?

The album title came from one of my favorite songs on the record, “For The First Time.” I wrote the song with Scooter Carusoe and Derek George, who brought the original idea to our writing session. We were just talking about how special it is when you do something for the first time, and how all of us can get into such a comfortable routine that you forget to go out and chase that feeling of trying something new. I’ve been lucky to experience some amazing things in life, but there are still so many things I want to see and do.

What happens when you’re doing a late-night recording session with Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Charles Kelley? Shenanigans?

Shenanigans, absolutely. I’m from South Carolina and they’re all Georgia boys, so there’s always some smack talking there. But we all really are such good friends, so I love hanging out with them. Getting to cut and perform a song together with your best friends makes it even more special.

Is there a song on the album that’s particularly personal to you? If so, which and why?

“If I Told You” is one of the most personal songs I’ve ever recorded, which is ironic because it’s one of the few singles we’ve released that I didn’t have a hand in writing myself. But it just tells my story. I said to the songwriters – Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman and Jon Nite – that I felt like they truly wrote my life into a song without even knowing it. It’s a song about vulnerability and honesty, laying it all out on the table. This is me, this is where I come from, this is what I’ve been through – but I hope you can love me anyway.

rah_51405157152Photo Credit: Christie Goodwin

Is there a secret to your success? What, if so?

I still have to pinch myself when people point out the success we’ve been able to achieve. From the whirlwind start of our Hootie & the Blowfish days to now being able to say we’ve been releasing country music for ten years – it’s hard to wrap your head around. I know none of it would have been possible without having such a good team of people around me and having the chance to work with the incredible songwriters and musicians I’ve met over the years.

What artists are you listening to right now? Is there one song of 2018 that blew you away?

I think Kane Brown is a superstar. Luke Combs, Lauren Alaina, Russell Dickerson and Jimmie Allen are really awesome too. I’m excited to see what they all accomplish in the future.

What to you is the greatest luxury in life and why?

Family. At the end of the day, time with them is the most important thing in the world.