Grammy Award–winning musician Darius Rucker is most widely recognized as the bluesy baritone behind the beloved rock band Hootie & the Blowfish. Rucker’s charismatic, smooth, and penetrating vocals have been said to be the band’s “secret weapon,” credited with creating their distinct sound and distinguishing them from the mainstream music of the mid-1990s. After releasing their first album, Cracked Rear View, in 1994, the band rose to fame selling more than 20 million copies thanks to chart-topping hits like “Let Her Cry” and “Only Wanna Be with You.”
Following his success with Hootie & the Blowfish, Rucker has reintroduced himself as a country music artist. His first two solo country albums yielded five No. 1 singles, including “Alright,” “It Won’t Be Like This for Long,” and “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.” In his most recent album, When Was The Last Time, Rucker collaborated with his current touring partner, Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum for, “Straight to Hell.” Before coming to West Palm Beach’s Coral Sky Amphitheatre, Rucker chatted with PBI about his roots, inspiration, and background.
PBI: As a South Carolina native do you feel your hometown has had an influence on your musical direction?
Rucker: I think my hometown has had an influence on everything. Living where I lived, knowing the people I knew, listening to Al Green records and A.M. radio as a kid—I think it all had a huge impact on who I am as a musician and as a person.
You formed Hootie & the Blowfish while you were a student at the University of South Carolina. What motivated you to make music at this time?
I’ve always wanted to play music. Ever since I was 4 years old I always wanted to be a singer, not even a musician—just a singer. At this point you could say that I had given up. Being from Charleston, South Carolina, there was nobody to play [music] with. During my sophomore year, I met Mark and Dean and we started this band. It was the first band I had ever been in.
Who was and who is your biggest musical influence?
Al Green was my biggest musical influence. When I was 4 or 5 years old, I discovered Green and couldn’t get enough. As of now, Radney Foster is my biggest musical influence. Every time I open my mouth to sing country music I’m trying to be Radney Foster.
What would you consider to be the highlight of your career?
Oh goodness, way too many moments! When we [Hootie & the Blowfish] sang the Billboard Music Awards with Al Green, being asked to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry, singing with Stevie Wonder at the Stevie Wonder tribute, and playing the Apollo. Those are moments I will never forget.
What sparked your interest in country music?
As a kid, I would listen to anything. For myself, my grandmother, and my aunts, Kenny Rogers was perfection. I have to admit, I never thought about singing country music until the until the late ’80s when I discovered Nanci Griffith.
If you weren’t an award-winning singer and songwriter, what would you be doing?
I’d like to say that I’d be working for ESPN, maybe in sports talk radio, but I’d probably be a bartender.
What song is currently playing on your iPod?
“Workin’ for a Living” by Huey Lewis & The News
What’s the best part about touring with Lady Antebellum?
Our friendship. Playing golf and writing songs with Charles and Dave. Making Hillary laugh. That’s the best part.
What can audiences expect from your performance at Coral Sky Amphitheatre?
A party. We bring a party to wherever we come, and we love to have a good time.
*This interview has been edited and condensed.