Darius Rucker did not have it easy becoming a successful country artist.
In 2008, Darius announced that he would take time away from his band Hootie & The Blowfish to pursue a career as a solo country artist. The move was bold. Hootie was still a strong draw for their live performances and they albums were still selling well around the world. It’s difficult for artists to leave a band and become successful solo acts. It’s even more difficult to leave a band and change genres.
Darius overcame all the odds in the past two years to become a star in country music.
Let’s take a look at his journey…
Darius Rucker’s Career History
Darius Rucker was part of the founding members of Hootie & The Blowfish. In the latest 80s the band began making music and touring their hometown state of South Carolina. The group became a well-known college band. The groups fist major label release was ’94’s Cracked Rear View. The first single Hold My Hand slowing worked its way up to the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The second single Let Her Cry followed into the top ten in 1995. The third single Only Wanna Be With You vaulted the band into superstardom. Cracked Rear View went on to sell over 10 million copies while shipping over 16 million in the US alone (Diamond+ certified).
As the lead singer, Darius Rucker was at the center of the band’s success. He was the face of the band. The four members were all equally talented musicians and the combination of all four is what led to the enormous success. Darius, however, was often at the center of PR and marketing efforts. The band became known as the garage band that hit it big in the pop and rock world. The group helped define the unique sound of the ’90s.
As a result of the band’s unique name, Darius is often known as Hootie to the listening public. This would later prove significant as Darius would venture into the country music world as a solo artist.
Darius was raised in the southern US. He had the typical southern upbringing. Also, he says that while his family was poor, he has positive memories. Being from the south, his roots in music span country, soul, pop, and other regional genres. His voice is unique. It has a raspy quality that sounds almost as if it’s soaked in whiskey, bad experiences, and yearning for love. The soulful quality of Rucker’s voice attracted listeners during Hootie’s rise to fame.
All of the influences would shape the singer Darius Rucker has become.
Pop Music Background
After the success of Hootie, Darius Rucker’s fate as a pop singer was pretty much set. Hootie’s sound was distinctive to the pop sound of the ’90s. The garage band sound was big as grunge took its hold on the pop charts in the early nineties. Hootie helped bring a more pop feel to the grunge sound by adding positive lyrics and upbeat melodies. There were many artists with similar sounds during the mid-’90s but Hootie seemed to be an original.
As the ’90s faded into the ’00s, boy bands, Britney Spears, and post-grunge rock bands dominated the charts. Hootie’s sound moved from the main pop charts to the Adult Contemporary charts. Hootie’s fans had always been a mixture of kids and adults. Their music was something Mom and Dad could put on in the car and not worry about their kids in the back seat. Usually the kids would be singing along to the melodies right along with the parents.
As the shift in pop music happened, Hootie’s popular faded somewhat, but the demand for their music was still strong. The band continued touring, releasing albums, and releasing singles to the Adult Contemporary charts. By the mid ’00s, Hootie and lead singer Darius Rucker were forever linked to pop and adult contemporary music.
Darius Rucker Country Music
In 2008, Darius Rucker temporarily left Hootie (with the blessing of his bandmates) to pursue his dream of a solo career in country music. The dream was ambitious. Coming from a pop background would be difficult for Rucker. He eventually convinced the execs at Capital Nashville to sign him to a deal. He got to work with producer Frank Rogers and together they created the album Learn To Live. The album was full of good songs. Not just country songs, but good songs with relevant lyrics and catchy melodies.
The albums first single was released and fans didn’t know quite what to make of Darius’ attempt. Was it a gimmick? After all, Darius had appeared a few years earlier as a funny looking cowboy in a Burger King commercial. Fans didn’t know what to think.
Despite the questions, Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It continued climbing the charts. Fans continued requesting the song to be played on radio stations. Fans purchased the album. People that weren’t even aware Darius was from Hootie & The Blowfish began taking notice. This was when those in Darius’ camp had to know he was breaking through.
The first three singles off the debut album went to #1 on the country charts. A fourth went all the way to #3. All of a sudden, Darius is a country music star.
Country Music and Black Artists
Writers often tip-toe around the fact that Darius Rucker is a black country superstar.
Whatever the situation or thought surrounding that simple fact, one thing is clear – Darius Rucker overcame difficult barriers to find success in country music. Preconceived notions surrounding his heritage exist today and he was able to show people the person he was through his music. He broke down barriers in country music.
Not since the great Charley Pride had their been a black country artist with such success. Darius Rucker is a unique figure in country music even today. When it comes to being black, he has no peers in country music at the same level as he is.
Despite the intolerance of some, Darius Rucker has been able to grow an audience that loves him and his music for what it is – great music.
Good Songs Always Win
The lesson in Darius Rucker’s success story are clear – good songs, talent, and hard work win no matter what the barriers.
Darius Rucker overcame issues of race in a musical genre to become a star. He overcame the existing definition of his music as being pop and adult contemporary music. He even overcame the existing thought that his nickname was actually Hootie.
It’s been two years since Learn To Live was released. Darius Rucker now has 3 number one country singles to his credit. The album has sold nearly two million copies and Darius is touring with country’s biggest headlining acts.
It will be exciting to see what the future holds for Darius Rucker. His talent is undeniable. He overcame great odds to become a star in a musical genre he loves.
What are your thoughts on Darius Rucker and his music?
Are you a fan?