4 album set - Learn to Live, Charleston SC 1966 (CD+DVD), True Believers & Southern Style - Out 3rd March.
Darius Rucker has always had a close kinship to country music and country artists. 'Growing up in South Carolina, it was always around, always on the radio', Rucker says. First an acolyte of Buck Owens, Rucker naturally gravitated towards Dwight Yoakam, New Grass Revival and Radney Foster in his twenties. 'When I first heard Radney's voice on Foster & Lloyd's 'Crazy Over You' I thought, 'this guy's voice is bigger than Texas'. I'm thinking 'this is cool songwriting'.
Ruckers career path veered first into pop as the singer/co-writer for the wildly successful Hootie & The Blowfish. The Grammy-winning group's 1994 debut, 'Cracked Rear View', is one of the best selling albums in history, surpassing the 16 million album mark.
Fans of the band, many of whom have made the natural migration from pop to country radio, realise that Hootie & The Blowfish's catchy songs were rooted in the same elements that make great country music. In fact, Rucker says, 'We talked about being a country band, and I just got outvoted! They also used to kid me about how I always was bringing them country songs that they had to turn into rock songs...' Therefore, making his first country CD was not so much a big leap for Rucker as simply a slight shift in his musical evolution. As Billboard magazine noted, 'There's a sense of purpose that makes Rucker feel like a member of the country family, rather than an interloper... Sounds like country may have a new shining star'.
Q&A with Darius Rucker
Darius Rucker's name is synonymous with one of top-selling bands of all time, and with a range that rivals top vocalists across all genres, it is no surprise that South Carolina native and frontman for Grammy award-winning pop group Hootie & The Blowfish is now changing the face of music once again with a debut country solo album on Capitol Records Nashville.
With co-writes from country industry leaders-such as Rivers-Rutherford, Frank Rogers, Dave Berg, Chris DuBois, and Clay Mills - with whom Rucker co-wrote the debut single, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" - Rucker showcases his rich storytelling capabilities while maintaining a familiarity fans are sure to recognize.
"Don't Think I Don't Think About It" is the first single you've taken to country radio- what made THIS song the best way to introduce yourself to a country audience?
I really would have been happy with pretty much any of the songs being the first single, but I told (producer) Frank Rogers after we finished this song in the studio that this was going to be it. . . I think the feel, the tempo and the sentiment all had something to do with the decision, and, everybody wants to think that there is someone out there thinking about them, don't they?!? I wrote "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" with (songwriter) Clay Mills, who was one of the great guys I got to write with on this project; in fact, a few of the songs we wrote together made the record.
You recording a country album might surprise some people. . . should it?
No, I don't think it should surprise anyone. I love music and for years I've listened to country artists. I mean, I grew up in South Carolina in the 70's, you know. Some of my favorite memories of being a kid is sitting in front of an AM radio and flipping through stations. You would hear a Stevie Wonder song or something, then hear a commercial so you'd turn the dial. . . hear a Kiss song, hit another commercial so you'd turn the dial again . . . and then Buck Owens jumps out at you. His guitar has no bass and the high notes are higher than any thing you think you have ever heard - I didn't know who it was, but I listened to the DJ to find out. I just had to know. I grew up with a mom that let me listen to whatever I wanted to, and a grandmother that loved country music, so it's just naturally part of my background. It might sound funny now, but Hee Haw was a religion for me. Every country artist that existed was on Hee Haw, and I saw 'em all.
So, you wouldn't say that this is a big departure for you?
Not at all. I believe what we do with Hootie is not that far off from a lot of country music, I mean, when we first started out, I begged the guys in Hootie to be a country band, and I just got outvoted! And I have always written country songs, in fact, a big joke in the band is that I write these country songs that they have to make rock. So for me, this is really just part of the natural evolution of my career - inevitable, really.
You have a pretty distinctive voice - what country artists would you describe as "distinctive," either as a vocalist or a songwriter?
There are so many singers in country that have their "thing" that is just them We can start with Dwight. I love Dwight Yoakam. Nobody sounds like Dwight, nobody dances like Dwight - and we both love a shuffle. I think my biggest country influence is someone with an amazing voice, Radney Foster. The first time I heard Foster & Lloyd's "Crazy Over You" on TV, I went into the record store where I worked early so that I could open the album and hear it - and I never went to work early. His Del Rio Texas 1959 album is one of the 10 best albums I have ever heard. As for other artists. . . well, Nanci Griffith is unbelievable. Patsy Cline, New Grass Revival, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, David Allen Coe, Hank Sr - these are all people that I have listened to for years, and with all of them, you recognize their voice the second you hear it. Oh yeah - don't want to leave out Hank Jr.! One of my goals is to record "Family Tradition" - I think that would be perfect for me.
You know, I've been in that little twangy rock cocoon for a while. . . But now I get to come out and sing these songs. I plan to be doing this for a long time. This isn't a one album deal - it's a career thing. Actually, I would like to have fun with this record and then get right back in the studio and start the next! I love working in Nashville.
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