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DARIUS RUCKER, BEERS AND SUNSHINE
4/28/22

BY KEITH MURPHY

Darius
Rucker sat down to discuss his career, diversity in country music and both past and contemporary peers.

Rucker, who first gained fame as the lead and co-founder of Hootie & the Blowfish, won the CMA Award for New Artist of the Year in 2009. The three-time Grammy winner has four #1 country albums, 11 RIAA-certified hits and is the recipient of a 2022 ASCAP Pop Music Award for his hit single “Beers and Sunshine.”

The South Carolina native recently announced his Riverfront Revival music festival, set to take place 10/8-9, fulfilling a longtime dream of bringing a festival to his hometown of Charleston. The former Celebrity Undercover Boss probably wishes he'd kept his roadie disguise and avoided this appearance.


When you first made your way into the country music world, you started off at country music radio stations, something you would usually see from newer talent. Why did you decide to take that up-and-coming route instead of trading off on your acclaim as the frontman for the multiplatinum Hootie & the Blowfish? It was always important to me to put in the work in Nashville and at Country radio to really prove I belonged – even though I had a music career with Hootie & the Blowfish, I was still a new artist in the genre. At the same time, I grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry on a little radio in my bedroom, so I’ve always had such a passion for Country music – I wanted people to understand that history and not think it was a fluke that I was releasing a single to Country radio.

Before your breakthrough there hadn't been a black country artist to enjoy widespread success since the great Charley Pride. How much of a towering figure was Pride to follow and what kind of resistance did you get from folks who felt that you didn't belong? Charley was a hero to me and so many other people, and I’m honored to be able to say that over the years he also became a friend. Charley faced so much adversity – from not only the public but also people within the industry – and he handled it all with incredible grace. When I was getting started in Country music, I knew that no matter what happened to me I could handle it because he had faced so much worse than I ever would.

Your cover of the Ketch Secor/Bob Dylan-penned "Wagon Wheel" is now nine times platinum and ranks amongst the five highest selling country music singles of all time. Do you think that song’s immense impact helped open the door even more for black country music artists to be accepted and heard within the country music community? That stat still blows my mind. I was always such a fan of that song and Old Crow Medicine Show’s version, so to be able to put my own stamp on it and then watch it become what it has over the years is just a dream come true. I think any time people can see someone who looks like them having success, it gives them encouragement to know that they can have a chance too. And for radio and record labels, the more success they have with people of all backgrounds, then the more doors continue to open.

What instantly comes to mind when you see such a diverse range of black country music talent from Jimmie Allen, Mickey Guyton and Brittney Spencer to Blanco Brown, Reyna Roberts and Kane Brown all having commercial and artistic success in the same era? I’m so excited for them. There are so many talented artists who deserve to be heard, and I’m just so happy they’re getting that chance. I can’t wait to see where their careers go, they all have such bright futures ahead of them.

You are set to be the recipient of a 2022 ASCAP Pop Music Award. What does it mean to receive such an accolade three-plus decades into your professional career?
It’s always an honor to have your music recognized, however it’s extra special when it’s a nod to the songwriting from an organization like ASCAP. I wrote “Beers and Sunshine” over Zoom with Ross Copperman, J.T. Harding and Josh Osborne and during a really uncertain time. We just wanted to add a little bit of joy and uplifting energy to the world – so to be able to do that and then also have it recognized in this way is really special.

Photo Credit (top): Jim Wright
Photo Credit (bottom): Todd & Chris Owyoung