Darius Rucker on country, Gamecocks and Hootie

ashain@thestate.comFebruary 19, 2014 

  • If you go

    Darius Rucker, with the Eli Young Band

    WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday

    WHERE: Colonial Life Arena, 801 Lincoln St.

    INFO: wwwLMCtix.com

Darius Rucker comes to Colonial Life Arena on Friday with his first Grammy Award since he was the lead singer of Columbia-bred Hootie & the Blowfish two decades ago.

Rucker spoke with The State days before he won last month for best country solo performance with “Wagon Wheel” off his third country record, “True Believers.” (The 47-year-old Charleston native missed the awards presentation because he was stuck in traffic.)

Rucker chatted about maturing as a country artist, mastering a career change and timing of a Hootie reunion. The former University of South Carolina student also tackled the state’s two favorite sports — football and politics.

How have you matured as a country artist after three records?

“I’m really settling in. I’m not as nervous as I was when I first started. I learned that you have to be true to who you are and what you want to do. That’s what the fans want. They want you to be true to yourself. And so, I just learned to make the records I want to make and see what happens.”

Is there something you have learned after the first two records that helped you with the third?

“Songwriting. … Around good writers, you just get better at it. Before I started doing country records, I never collaborated. I always wrote songs and took them to the band.”

Do you have different inspirations for songwriting than you did with Hootie?

“It’s more about life and living it. The older I get, the more I write about my life over the years than I did with Hootie.”

You have mastered the career change. What advice would you give to people who want to take a risk and try something new with their careers?

“Once again be true to yourself. That was really, for me, the most important thing when I started was to be who I am and not really listen to what anybody was telling me. If I listened to what people are saying, I would have never tried. For me, I would say do what you want to do and take all the good comments and bad comments. And just then keep doing what you’re doing. If it works, it works. If not, you tried.”

You helped with efforts to get the Confederate flag off the top of the State House in 2000. But the flag remains on the grounds near a Confederate memorial. Is it time for the Confederate flag to leave the grounds of the state’s most prominent public building?

“I think getting it off the top of the State House is the good move. I‘m one of those people that believes that you don’t want to forget your past, because you’re destined to repeat it. As long as it’s not on top of the State House, I’m cool with it.”

You’re elected governor of South Carolina. What are your priorities?

“Schools would be my No. 1 priority, getting public schools better than what they are. ... I think our schools could use a lot of help and use a lot of attention. And that takes money.”

How are you involved in politics?

“Not at all. I respect the office of the president of the United States. Probably the thing I’m most proud of is that I have gotten to sing in front of all the living presidents.”

No Connor Shaw. No Jadeveon Clowney. Do the Gamecocks struggle this year?

“I hope not. There’s that big part of me that believes Coach (Steve) Spurrier will fill the holes and move on. He has been doing such amazing job of recruiting and getting people to come play at South Carolina.”

Will Hootie do anything to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the record “Cracked Rear View”?

“We play those five shows that we played every year. I’m sure we’ll do something special with it. There’s no real big plans yet.”

What is the timing on another Hootie record and tour?

“We talked about it and decided this wasn’t the year that we wanted to do it. It’s still a couple of years down the road, but we’re definitely going to do it.”

Do you who took the Hootie & the Blowfish inscribed bricks from USC’s Horseshoe last year?

“Oh God, no. That’s actually I think a little compliment to us that somebody took the time to steal them away.”

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