Jon Westman sat down with Darius Rucker before he hits the stage locally this July for this issue's installment of "10 Minutes With..."
Darius Rucker is on a roll. The former Hootie & the Blowfish frontman has made a historically successful transition to country music; sings “Stuck on You” on Lionel Richie’s number one album, Tuskegee; and continues to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity each year.
He’s now on tour with Lady Antebellum in support of his upcoming album and will appear in concert on July 26th at The Freeman Stage at Bayside. Jon Westman sat down with Rucker in this issue's installment of "10 Minutes With..."
You’re currently in the studio recording tracks for your third country album. How are the sessions going, and what can your fans expect upon its release?
I expect it to be the best record I’ve ever made. We’re working really hard, and the songs are very strong. I’m trying to make it special and want the record to reflect Darius Rucker.
Your debut and sophomore country albums were so incredibly successful, including five number one singles. The accolades continued by becoming the first African-American country artist to reach number one since Charley Pride
in the 1980s and being named the Country Music Association’s New Artist of
the Year. Can you describe your feelings when you learned of these accomplishments?
It was really amazing. When I was making my first record, I never thought about honors or awards. I just wanted to make a good record. If I had stopped to think about it, maybe I would have looked for a top 20 along the way. To have earned these honors and to be mentioned with Charlie Pride is great. I never expected any of the accolades, from number ones to the CMA’s, so everything that’s come with the success of the records has been amazing.
What challenges, if any, did you face after deciding to pursue country music?
I think the biggest challenge was coming over from pop. The rock world is very different. You know, I think when a lot of people heard that I was going to make country music, they thought I was just a ‘carpetbagger’. But when I did my radio tour and met people, the feedback was really strong. And if I hadn’t gotten a record deal, I would have made a record here at our studio in Charleston. But I got the deal, and it’s been really cool to go from being a carpetbagger to being a part of the industry.
The creation of Hootie & the Blowfish is a cool story. What are favorite memories from when you and Mark Bryan met?
Oh man, I still remember the day I came out of the shower [at a University of South Carolina dorm] and Mark said, “Hey, man, what are you singing?” I remember it like it was yesterday. It all started right there. I remember playing in the little dive bars with him. Mark’s my brother.
When did you realize that the group had achieved mainstream acceptance?
We were touring all of the time back then, but I happened to be home for a week or so.
I was riding in my car, and I turned on a radio station, and one of our songs came on. I turned the station, and one of our songs was on. And I turned the station, and one of our songs was on. And I turned it again, and one of our songs was on. And I said, “Wow! We’re doing something here!”
How did the group get the name “Hootie & the Blowfish”?
Actually, the name came from a couple of guys we sang with in show choir. One guy had big eyes, and we called him “Hootie.” Another guy could play like Dizzy Gillespie, so we started calling him “blowfish.” Eventually, we put the two together. Mark and I started a band about a week later; we were a duo at that point, so we decided we were going to call it Hootie & the Blowfish. The rest is history.
You’ve got a busy summer-tour schedule, which includes several dates with Lady Antebellum. Do you have any pre-concert routines or traditions that you follow before going onstage?
Our only pre-concert routine started in 1997. We were on tour with Van Halen and Slash [of Guns N’ Roses]—it was one of those really wild festival tours in Europe. We were sitting at our trailer with the band and some of our crew—about 10 dudes sitting around drinking—and we looked over at Slash’s trailer… and it was him and nine girls (Laugh). I’m not exaggerating. So, that night we toasted to Slash—and we’ve toasted to Slash every night since (Laugh).
You had the unique opportunity to sing at Frank Sinatra’s 80th birthday party and at Tiger Woods’ wedding. What were those experiences like?
He was such a special guy. Tiger is one my best friends, and to have been a part of those events... they are great memories that I will always have.
I am a huge Sinatra guy. I don’t like him; I love him.
Your July 26th concert venue, The Freeman Stage, is also home to a very challenging Jack Nicklaus-designed course. Any plans to tee it up while you’re there?
Absolutely. We play every day when we are on the road. I’m not a partier anymore, so I usually get up around 6 or 7 in the morning, so I am definitely looking forward to playing when we get there.
I know you have spent time in Ocean City. What did you enjoy most about our area?
I have been to Ocean City many times and have some great stories—many that make me laugh when I think about my time there. I’ve had a blast in Ocean City. Mark [Bryan] and Dean [Felber] are from Gaithersburg, so we spent a lot of time in Ocean City. We have so many great friends there and really had some special times.
As a father of three, what are the coolest aspects of being a dad for you?
about being a dad—even when they’re not so good and you’ve got to get mad at them. Just yesterday, me, my wife and our two youngest were just sitting around the living room, talking. I told my wife, “I just love our family. I just love our time together.” I am so busy on the road, that when I’m home, I just want to hang out with my kids and be their dad.
Your charity golf tournaments, such as The Darius and Friends Concert and Celebrity Golf Tournament and Monday After The Masters, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. Our area has a long and rich history of conducting golf tournaments to assist charitable endeavors. What are some keys necessary to produce a popular and revenue-generating event?
For us, the number one thing has been the celebrities that have supported us. We had Fred Couples help us the first year. Then Atlantic Records asked us what we wanted to do in our third video, and I said, ‘I want to meet Dan Marino.’ So we came up with the Only Want To Be With You concept. I got to meet Dan and he started coming to our charity event the next year. But beyond that, the community has been so good to us. I mean how many charity tournaments do people actually come and watch you play golf? But for ours, the people of the community have really supported us.
Let’s play a quick game word association. I’ll say a word or a name, and you tell me the thoughts that come to your mind:
Nashville: Music, fun and work.
Performing Onstage: Life, everything and fun.
Amen Corner: Hard, majestic and beautiful.
Your Wife, Beth: The best, beautiful and can’t live without her.
Lionel Richie: Idol, smooth and friend.
The Grand Ole Opry: Nerve-racking, everything you’d think it is and magical.
Tiger Woods: Friend, the greatest to ever play and my guy.
Southern Food: The best, usually fattening and rich.
Your Fans: Incredibly important, loyal, and I’m grateful for them.
Your Mother, Carolyn: Most important, special and my heart. I miss her.
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