Rucker leaves Hootie behind

Darius Rucker

Darius Rucker sounds as surprised as anyone that he's now got a career in country music, with hit records on the radio and an armful of awards.

"When I went to country radio, they took the music for the music and they managed to throw the Hootie thing out the window," Rucker said. "I wasn't expecting that."

After all, when it comes to Hootie, Rucker has a long way to go to outrun the legacy of Hootie & the Blowfish, one of the most popular pop bands of the '90s. Rucker was the band's soulful lead singer on hits like "Hold My Hand" and "Only Want to Be With You." The band's "Cracked Rear View" album sold 16 million copies.

Hootie eventually ran out of gas, and Rucker launched a solo career with an album of R&B material. Then, in 2008, he made a major switch, releasing a country music album, "Learn to Live," that went platinum. His first country single, "Don't Think I Don't Think About it" went to the top of the charts.

Rucker, who performs Sunday at Mayo Civic Center, might be the most unexpected success story in country music in recent years.


"I just made the record for myself," he said by phone from a tour stop in Laughlin, Nev. "I had a great manager who got me a record deal. "

Did you hear from people who at first doubted your sincere interest in country music?

People who know me know that I've loved country music. My influences are people like Radney Foster, Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam. Those are the guys I like.

What makes a good country music song?

It's got to be real. The best songs are the ones that make people say, "Oh, yes, I know what you're talking about." That's how it was with "Don't Think I Don't Think About It."

How often do people come up to you after a show and say they were big Hootie fans?

I hear that all the time. I think younger country music fans, they all own 'Cracked Rear View.' When they heard the voice again, it was familiar, even if they didn't know my name.

Your first country album was such a success. What kind of pressure did you feel in doing the second one ("Charleston, SC, 1966")?


I don't feel pressure. I'm just making records. If it doesn't work, I'm cool.

How are country music fans different from pop music fans?

Country music and pop music are so different in the business aspects. But when you talk about the fans, they all want the same thing. They want to hear the song they like, and they want to dance and have a good time. There's no difference.

What To Read Next
Get Local