You may remember Darius Rucker as the lead vocalist of the '90's pop-rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, but in the last few years, he's broken from his rock roots, dabbled in R&B and made a smooth transition as a solo artist into country music.Rucker's 2008 debut country album, 'Learn to Live,' produced three consecutive number-one hits including "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" and garnered him the Top New Artist award at the 43rd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in 2009. At this year's 46th Annual ACM Awards, airing April 3, Rucker will perform a song with 25 disabled youth to benefit the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.
If you're not hip to Rucker's music, listen to some of his songs, and soon you may be calling yourself a country fan. The singer took some time to talk with BlackVoices.com about his music and career.
Black Voices: How do you feel about being compared to the legendary Charlie Pride?
Darius Rucker: Anytime I'm mentioned in relation to Charlie Pride, I think it's awesome.
BV: You will be performing 'Music of the Heart' with 25 teens from the ACM Lifting Lives music camp who have developmental disabilities -- how did that come about and what does that mean to you?
DR: My biggest cause is kids, their education and their well being. It's definitely a cause I'm glad to advocate for. It's going to be a cool moment, and the song is just a cool song. I heard the recording of it and it's good stuff. It's going to be great; I have no idea how they chose me, but I'm glad they did.
BV: Are you still in contact with your band mates from Hootie and the Blowfish, and have you considered inviting them to collaborate with you on some country tunes?
DR: Yes, we just performed together at a show about two days ago. Two of us actually wrote a couple of songs together for my last record -- it didn't make it, but I'm sure a couple of us will write a song that will make one of my records. I actually love all our songs;they're like your kids.
BV: Who are some musicians you admire and feel have influenced your music?
DR: My biggest influence is Al Green, and also Kenny Rogers is a huge influence. I'm that type of guy; when I love you, I love you. I'm a records guy, and there are certain albums that are dear to me. Al Green was played a lot in my household.
Every time my mother would walk into my room and there was a KISS record on or some rock or country, she'd take it out and put Al Green on. He was always the "go to." My favorite song is 'For the Good Times,' and the funny thing is, I didn't find out until years later that it was written by the country singer Kris Kristofferson. So it's funny that one of the biggest names in country music history wrote my favorite Al Green song.
BV: Are you as anxious for spring as us New Yorkers?
DR: I'm in Charleston, S.C., and today's a cool day in the 40s, but it's going to be about 64 degrees. It's definitely not like the weather in New York, but I'm looking forward to the spring and warmer weather.
Rucker's latest album, Charleston, SC 1966, is in stores now.