It’s good to be back in the tournament now,” Darius Rucker told me during a phone interview last week, and he wasn’t talking about his music career, risen like a phoenix in a Stetson from the ashes of another animal. Specifically, a Blowfish.
Rather, Rucker’s talking about the University of South Carolina hoops squad, back in the Southeastern Conference tournament after seasons of, well, lesser achievements. “‘Back-to-back NIT [National Invitational Tournament] champions’ isn’t something you really want to say,” said Rucker with a laugh.
No, but is an NIT championship more valuable than a mid-level finish in the SEC? I wonder, but Rucker doesn’t seem concerned with it.
Gone country: Darius Rucker sticks to his guns on Learn to Live and brings his live show to The Paramount Theater on Thursday, March 19.
If he was concerned, it stands to reason that he might not’ve risked the country record he released last year, Learn to Live, or the tour that will bring him to The Paramount Theater on Thursday, March 19. After all, Hootie & The Blowfish’s debut album moved more than 16 million copies, and nothing released by the band or the sum of its parts since has come close to such a powerhouse of a total. (A month ago, Rucker learned that Learn to Live went gold, a marker for half a million albums moved.)
But Rucker isn’t concerned. Much like his alma mater’s basketball team, I imagine, Rucker is grateful—for new fans and old, for the silky quality of his booming baritone and for finding a record label willing to take on his project.
“When Capitol signed me, it shocked me. I didn’t think I could get a record deal,” explained Rucker.
Record deal or not, Learn to Live was a purposeful drive into country music territory, a move Rucker says he mentioned to members of Hootie & The Blowfish years ago. “They didn’t want to, [and] that was cool,” he said. “But this was totally the plan.”
And now that Rucker’s back in the tournament, he plans to stick around. “I’ve got a couple [country records] in my head right now,” he said, and offers a few thanks to fans.
“I want to make some country because I want to show these people that their investment in me as an artist wasn’t a one-off, wasn’t a joke,” he elaborated. “I’m in this a long while. I’m a country singer now.”
And Rucker’s a man of his word, loyal to his drives. “If the game comes on TV and you don’t like it,” he chuckled, speaking again about his basketball team, “you can go someplace else.”
Click here to read an interview with Rucker talking about Al Green and vocal training with the AM radio.
Feedback Session: Mister Baby
Last week, Megan Huddleston—the singer, songwriter and eye of the storm for Mister Baby—dropped by the C-VILLE office to record a live, three-song set of tunes from her excellent new album, Lucky You! It’s a smoking set, and one of the finest, fiercest sessions we’ve had the privilege of recording.