Darius Rucker recently shared about his early career days with Hootie & the Blowfish and his journey from leading a superstar band to a solo country artist during an interview with Kelleigh Bannen for Apple Music Essentials.
“People always ask me if I miss when we were the biggest band in the world and I always say, ‘No,’” Rucker said. “I miss when it was us against the world. When we were playing those clubs and it was just five of us showing up and doing what we do. I miss those days. And we were actually making a pretty good living just doing what we were doing. And, so we weren’t even really fretting about a record deal and anything. But it was just us against the world. I mean, it sounds so cliché but that really was. All we knew was we had to be to the next town the next night.”
That is, until they appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman in 1994.
“We played ‘Hold My Hand’ the first time on Letterman, and our lives changed overnight. And that’s not [an] exaggeration. Overnight. Nobody was trying to add us. Some stations in the south were playing us because we were playing their towns in the clubs, but nobody was trying to play our record. And we went on David Letterman on Friday and on Monday everybody added it. I mean, it was crazy,” Rucker explained.
The band's 1994 debut album Cracked Rear View went on to be certified 21x multi-platinum, spurred on by hits such as "Hold My Hand," "Let Her Cry," and "Only Wanna Be With You."
In 2008, Rucker inked a deal with Capitol Records Nashville, intent on following his love of country music into a career as a country music artist. In introducing his music to country radio, Rucker went on a radio tour, making it clear that he was willing to build his career from the ground up in a new genre of music, regardless of his superstar status.
“Instead of just sending somebody a record, I took it to them,” Rucker said during the interview. “It was doing what I would want to do because I didn’t want to come in here telling everybody, ‘I’m Hootie. I’ve sold all these records. You’ve got to play my record.’ I wanted to come in and be on the bottom of the rung and work my way up.”
He was also aware of the obstacles he would face as a Black artist in country music.
“You’ve heard the stereotype, you know--'There’s no black folks in country music on the radios. There’s not going to be anybody on the radio.' When I would visit the radio the first time, there was three guys who are now great friends of mine, champions, and I don’t think they were trying to be mean [but they said] straight up, ‘I love the song, I’m going to play the song. I’m going to play it. I’m going to add it, but I just don’t think it’s going to work.’ I was like, ‘Okay, thank you for playing it. Let’s see.’ They’ve all come to me and said, ‘I’m glad I was wrong. I’m glad I was wrong.’”
"Don't Think I Don't Think About It" became Rucker's first country No. 1, and he's since followed it with hits such as "It Won't Be Like This For Long," "Alright," and his latest No. 1, "Beers and Sunshine." But Rucker says one of his most loved moments was when he was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2012.
“That day, when Brad Paisley asked me if I wanted to be a member [of the Grand Ole Opry], is just still one of the great days of my career,” Rucker said.