After Seeing the Show, Darius Rucker Requested Slot on Brad Paisley Tour

Solo Set List Includes "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," Hootie Song

His distinctively deep voice helped sell 20 million albums for Hootie & the Blowfish, yet Darius Rucker is completely satisfied with being an opening act for Brad Paisley this winter.

“The funny thing is, I really wanted to do this tour. I asked for it a long time ago,” Rucker said during a backstage interview on opening night near Memphis. “I’ve done the little club thing and made that run, but now it feels like I’m really starting the touring side of my country career.”

After reaching No. 1 last year with “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” Rucker is back on the country charts with “It Won’t Be Like This for Long.” In this conversation with, he talks about the first time he saw Paisley’s show, his friendship with tourmate Dierks Bentley, his goals for the tour and how cyber-fans influence his set list.

CMT: When you asked for a tour, did you ask for this one specifically?

Rucker: Yeah, I asked for Brad. I wanted to go out with Brad for a while. I saw him play in Charleston (S.C.), and I was really blown away by him. Actually, on the way home from that show, I called my management and said, “I don’t care what it costs me. I want to go out with Brad for a little while.”

What was it about his show that struck you as different from other shows you’ve seen?

It was a show, you know? It was a big rock ’n’ roll show with this great country music. The thing that really shocked me — I live in Charleston and I know how fans are there — I saw 12,000 people standing up from the first song through the last song, I didn’t expect that. I was blown away.

How were the fans at that show different from your fans? Or how were they the same?

Ahhh, I think the way they’re the same is that they all like great music. I remember at that Brad show, seeing a lot of people that I knew that would come to see us play. That’s the one thing that helped me a lot, was that blurry line that might have been between Hootie & the Blowfish and country music. More than critics or tastemakers, I think people weren’t that surprised. Like, “Oh, that makes sense.”

Have you had the chance to meet Dierks Bentley before this tour?

Yeah, I’ve known Dierks a long time. Dierks is a great guy. The thing about being on this tour for me, as I’ve said before, is that I would pay to see those two guys together. I’ve seen Dierks, and he’s incredible, and I’ve seen Brad and he’s incredible. The show right there was worth every penny that everybody’s paid to get in. I’m just added on as fluff, and I’ll take it.

What are your goals for this tour? Is there anything in particular that you want to achieve?

I want most people who see me to say, “Man, I can’t wait to see him again.” That’s what I’m trying to do. We only play 30 minutes, so we’ve got to show them something and make them want to come back.

How do you decide which songs to put in?

We have to play our two singles! (laughs) After that, there are songs that I like to play live, and you’ve got to play a Hootie song. You’ve got to. So we went with that, and we’ll figure it out from there.

You don’t want to overthink it.

No, you just want to play songs. Like “Alright.” I’m only playing it tonight because so many people asked for it online. So we’ll play it if they want to hear it.

How does that work? Do fans send e-mail requests to your Web site?

People are cool. Like, when you go on MySpace, people will say, “Play this at the show,” “Play that at the show.” I always listen to the fans, man. Always. Absolutely.

Anything else you want people to know about your involvement with the tour?

I want to say thanks to Brad for figuring it out and making it all happen. They’ve been so cool to us already. It’s been amazing how cool people are toward us. If anybody’s coming out to see me, thank you!