Charleston native Darius Rucker is living out two separate dreams. Not only did he rise to stardom during the mid 1990’s as the lead singer with Hootie & the Blowfish, he reinvented himself several years ago and has equaled Hootie’s success as a solo country singer.
It would be hard to begrudge Rucker’s rags to riches story for two reasons. First and foremost he earned his career, and secondly he is genuinely a nice guy. With all his success he could have easily up and left Charleston, but celebrity has never gone to his head.
“This is my home. I was born and raised here. This is where all my friends and family live. Why would I want to alienate everybody who has supported me throughout my career. Besides, I can be myself in Charleston. I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not. Charleston keeps me well rooted.”
In fact although he is a bona fide celebrity the only person that doesn’t realize it is Rucker himself. And for that reason he enjoys a quiet anonymity in his hometown. “Doing what I do for a living has allowed me the opportunity to travel and see different parts of country and for that I am truly honored and grateful. But it is always good to be in Charleston. Here I’m just a regular guy trying to raise a family and enjoy life.”
Rucker’s rationale for keeping his star status in check is simple. “Back when Hootie first started out we went from being the biggest thing in our dorm to being the biggest band on campus. After that we were the biggest band in Columbia to the biggest band in South Carolina, and then the southeast. By the time we were a national sensation we just figured it was the natural progression. Since it didn’t happen overnight for us we just thought it was how it was meant to be.”
Perhaps the single best perk Rucker has derived from his celebrity is using his name for the many charities he and his Hootie band mates are connected with. “Notoriety is okay and being recognized for my music is nice too, but the greatest personal satisfaction for me is being able to give back. That is the ultimate reward.”
Since taking the nation by storm in the mid 1990’s with their breakthrough album ‘Cracked Rear View’, Hootie through their very popular Monday After the Masters Celebrity Golf Tournament and the Hootie and the Blowfish Foundation have raised over four million dollars for local and statewide charities. “We definitely believe in ‘think globally and act locally’. We’re doing our best to support as many Palmetto state charities we believe in.”
Rising to the top of one music genre is hard enough, but crossing over into another market and equaling that success is even harder. However making the transition from pop and rock to country music radio didn’t seem to phase Rucker. “I grew up listening to all kinds of music. When I was four or five years old I can remember listening to country music, traditional country crooners like Buck Owens. Honestly I never knew the difference. If it was a great song I pretty much listened to it. The older I got I started to really appreciate great songwriting.”
When it comes to his own songwriting Rucker takes a simple approach. “I don’t beat myself up over songwriting. I try to write what comes naturally. The key to songwriting is paying attention to what’s going on around you. I try to write songs that people can easily connect with. I write about love and life, and everyday things people can understand.”
Rucker admits writing with fellow songwriters sometimes makes the task easier. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to surround myself with great writers, with my brothers in Hootie and with some really top notch guys and gals in Nashville. It’s no great mystery, it’s easier to get creative juices flowing when you bounce ideas off one another. Working with the writers I’ve worked with over the years has only made me a better all around artist.”
In the summer of 2008 Rucker released his first country album, ‘Learn To Live’. ‘Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It’ was already topping the charts when the album hit the stores. “I was a little bit in awe when my single went to number one.” Rucker followed the success with two more chart toppers, “It Won’t Be Like This For Long’ and ‘Alright’. “It was a bit overwhelming. The album is very honest and I really poured myself into the making it. For it to be so well received is very humbling.” ‘Learn To Live’ was certified platinum in 2009.
Rucker had a few concerns during his transformation. “I had no doubt with my ability or my desire for country music. My biggest concern was I didn’t want fans thinking I was entitled because of the success of Hootie or that I was going to take advantage of my past history. What I got was genuine respect from country music fans and country music radio. They welcomed me into the fold right away and for that I am truly grateful.”
After successful tours with country heavyweights Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley, Rucker returned to the studio and churned out another masterpiece. ‘Charleston, SC 1966’ was released in the fall of 2010 and celebrates the singers heritage. “I wanted to pay respect to the city and to the community that continues to embrace me. Charleston has a love affair with country music and I felt it was time I honored my hometown.”
‘Come Back Song’ and ‘This’ both spent weeks at the number one position, giving Rucker five number one singles to his credit. “It’s been an amazing ride so far.”
The legendary Charley Pride is the only other African American to garner so much praise from country music. “That’s good company to be in. Country music fans are very loyal. That’s the one thing I love about country music. If you give them honest music and stay true to who you are they will remain faithful.”
I’ve been acquainted with Darius Rucker for over a decade and been a fan for even longer. Whether he’s singing rock, pop, Sinatra, or country he knows how to sell a song. Rucker doesn’t have an inflated ego, he wouldn’t know how to be a star if you asked him. Truth is he is one hell of a talented musician, as well as a singer songwriter.
What makes Darius a celebrity is the fact that he doesn’t care whether he is or not. What he cares about is the music and entertaining, and using his celebrity to help raise awareness. If only others in the entertainment world would model themselves more like Rucker. You can bump into Rucker on a local golf course or at the gas station or even in Target. “When I’m not on the road, I’m just a regular family man doing all the same things the rest of the husbands and dads are doing. And that’s a pretty good life.”
Rucker is set to headline is own tour this fall, a tour that will bring him to the North Charleston Coliseum in November along with Justin Moore & Thompson Square. “There is no better thrill in doing what I love and what comes naturally except in front of my hometown fans.”