He is not Hootie. If you still need an explanation around that one, turn in your iPod, as it has been revoked. Darius Rucker’s success with Hootie and the Blowfish wasn’t the end of the line for him. Since then, he’s moved on to conquer the country charts. Here, he talks about writing a good hook and why he won’t hook me up with Jill Scott…
French Davis: You’re the first African American to top the country charts since Charlie Pride, more than a quarter century ago. Why have you had success where others haven’t?
Darius Rucker: Songs. I think it really has to do with the songs. And you know, as much as you would think it may hurt me, it really has helped me get in the door to a lot of places. Get my face in front of the right people. But a lot of it really is the songs.
FD: Why does there appear to be such a racial barrier in country music? Or is there one at all?
DR: I know there is one for me, but I hang out with everyone. Racism exists everywhere, though I think country music gets a bad rap. I don’t think, when it comes down to it, people care what you look like. They care about what you have to say and how you say it.
FD: When it comes to writing a hook, you’re arguably one of the elites. What’s the secret?
DR: I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great partners. I think, and I’ve always been a big believer in this, that there really is nothing new in music. Every note, every hook, everything has been written in some way by someone before, so it’s up to us to come up with a new and original way to present it.
FD: Are the crowds you see now different than before?
DR: I see everyone from six years old to 60 years old and everything in between. There is no reason that music has to be for just one generation—that is what I love about Brad Paisley: Your grandfather can love him and then so can your kids.
FD: You had an interview with The Weekender where you said, “I don’t even think if a record like ‘Cracked Rear View’ came out today it would get played (on pop radio).” Why?
DR: I love the top 10, but in reality—where would it get played? Who would play it? It just wouldn’t fit.
FD: Is there another genre you’d like to conquer?
DR: Oh no. This is it for me. I plan on doing this (playing country music) as long as they’ll let me. Country is where it is for me. If they’ll still listen, I’ll keep playing.
FD: What’s your opinion on the evolution of the music industry over the last several years? Good or bad change? Why?
DR: It’s up to the kids; though, there are really are a lot of kids that love country music. There may be a day where eight out of the top 10 hits are rock and roll, but it’s realistically not there now. I love the variety.
FD: Who’s on your iPod these days?
DR: A lot of country music—Brad Paisley, Toby Keith. “Take me there” by (Rascal) Flatts—what an amazing opening line that song has. “There’s a place in your heart nobody’s been/Take me There.” He could have sung the alphabet after that opening line and I would have loved the song.
FD: Finally, I’m totally in love with Jill Scott, who you’ve collaborated with in the past…can you hook a brother up?
DR: (Laughs) Awesome. Jill really is an awesome girl. I remember when she came into the studio in Philly and there was this aura about her. I do think she’s in love with someone right now, so I can’t hook anyone up, but she is an awesome woman.
Deb Flomberg contributed to this article.
Darius Rucker plays Sept. 4 at Red Rocks. Visit redrocksonline.com for ticket information.