It’s been about a year since Darius Rucker started making the rounds at country radio and awards shows — and he’s shown up for everything. That’s not always the case for new acts or even established artists. So it’s no surprise he reached the top of the chart with his first country single, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” and ultimately landed an opening spot on Brad Paisley‘s tour.
Just this week, Rucker found out he has a second No. 1 country single with “It Won’t Be Like This for Long,” a song he wrote with Chris DuBois and Ashley Gorley. This summer, he’ll be touring with Rascal Flatts.
Asked about his strong work ethic, Rucker gives credit to the way he was raised.
“It comes from growing up in South Carolina the way I did,” he says. “My mom and my grandmother were real, real hard workers. They were people that worked hard every day of their lives, and I think that’s where I got it from.”
In this recent interview with CMT.com, Rucker talks about his wife’s response to his country music ambitions, his aunt’s favorite country singer and the precise moment his 13-year-old daughter finally got excited about his country career. (Hint: It involves Rascal Flatts.)
CMT: Was there a moment when you said, “I really have to push myself to make this happen.”?
Rucker: When we first started talking about the radio tour was when really I realized it. When we started talking about the radio tour, I sat my wife Beth down and said, “For this to be really successful, I’m gonna be gone a lot.” She was cool, and we talked about it, and she realized that. That’s the way it’s gonna work for me to work, so we’re all cool with it.
What did your wife say when you told her about making a country record?
Oh, she’d heard it for so long. … She was glad that I finally got a chance to do it when it all came along. She had heard it for long time — since she’s known me. We’ve known each other for about 11 or 12 years, and since she’s known me, she’s heard it.
What are your memories of your aunt and her listening to Willie Nelson?
I think I was in high school when I got in the car with her and Willie was playing. I was surprised! (laughs) I was like, “Wow, Aunt Jeanette, you like Willie?” and she was like, “I love Willie!” From that point on, whenever she and I talked about music, we talked about Willie. She was such a big supporter. She was always telling me to go out and catch my dream and do what I want. It was great. That was the day that made it easier for me to like what I wanted to like. To see somebody else in my family liking country music — or liking something that wasn’t R&B — was big for me.
Did you ask her what it was about Willie Nelson that attracted her?
Yeah! I remember saying, “Why do you like Willie?” and she said, “Do you hear him sing?” I think it was the songs. It was Red Headed Stranger. She listened to Red Headed Stranger so much. It was the songs that she just loved.
You’ve been known to play covers in your set, too. What does that bring to your show?
I just like to play covers because I play songs that I love. I’m playing it more for me than for them [the audience]. I’m glad they all like it. (laughs) I play it because I want to play it, more than anything. I’m glad that I like songs that a lot of people like. You pull out “Guitars, Cadillacs,” it’s great. You pull out “Family Tradition,” it’s great. Everyone loves it. … The first show that Mark [Bryan, Hootie & the Blowfish’s guitarist] and I ever played together in ’84 or ’85, “Family Tradition” was the second song we ever sang.
What was the first?
I don’t even remember what the first song was. I just remember seeing the set list and “Family Tradition” was the second, and there was a bunch of guys on stage singing it with us, and I’ve got on a “No Fat Chicks” shirt. (laughs)
What is it about joining the Rascal Flatts tour that appeals to you?
I’m a huge fan, and their audience is so big. I guess because I’m gonna get to play in front of so many people, that was a no-brainer. My daughter, Carey, loves country music, but when I told her I was making a record, it wasn’t a big thing. So she was listening to the radio with her aunt one day, and they were riding around. A Rascal Flatts song was on, and right after, my song was on. She called me and she was so excited. That was the first time I was validated as a country singer, so that was big for us.
What do you remember the most about making the video for “It Won’t Be Like This for Long”?
I remember it was cool to be working and hang out with my kids. It’s something that I get to do so little, you know. I remember just hanging out and running around the beach and stuff. It was work, but it was with them, and that was pretty awesome.
What’s the message that you really hope to convey in that song?
Enjoy it while it’s here. We take so much for granted. We can do that with our kids. I try to enjoy every moment because I’m gone so much and when I come back, they’ve changed. Things are different, so I try to enjoy as much as I can.