Interview: Darius Rucker talks playing The Royal Albert Hall, being an Opry Member, going Straight to Hell, his charity events and more

Darius Rucker has been such a large part of my life music wise ever since I was a teenager. Being a fan of Hootie and The Blowfish, I along with many others was ecstatic when he embarked on to a solo career within country music.

Darius is one of a kind. A distinctive, rich, baritone, Darius vocals are infectious and he could quite frankly sing the song book and I would buy it. If loving Darius’ music wasn’t enough, he also has such a wonderfully warm, loving personality. In person I am sure he is a hoot to hang with (or shall I say hootie?) and on stage he is completely loveable with not just his singing and personality but also his adorbale signature dance moves.

We love having Darius play in the UK – he is a must-see live act. If you haven’t yet seen him, then you need to do something about that! Nothing is boring about his shows – the energy and atmosphere that he creates is second to none. I nearly fell off my chair when he was announced as Brad Paisley’s support act back in 2012 at the O2 Arena. Two high calibre acts on one show was unheard of for country music in the UK back then. This was a year before the inaugural Country 2 Country Festival so the moment meant even more. Never in our wildest dreams did we expect these big names in country music to come over let alone witness the growth of the genre to what it is now. I had to mention that show he played with Brad as it was such a strong memory. It was also the first time that Darius had played the UK as a country artist rather than as part of Hootie and The Blowfish. I asked him if he was nervous about playing country music in the UK back then because at that point, it was still a relatively small market and did he ever expect the growth of country music to become so big in the UK like it is now?

Oh absolutely not! That first year that I came over with Brad in 2012, we didn’t know what was happening. Brad just said “Hey man, I am going to England do you want to go?” and I was like “Yeah, I love it over there, let’s go and see what’s happening”. So we go over there and it was so successful and it was so great and now that I have been back a few times including C2C again last year, we can see how big it is getting – people are just really loving country music in the UK and I think it’s great. I have talked to all the artists back home and everybody wants to come over and play now and it is a great thing.

As he said, Darius has been back to the UK a few times since his first show with Brad Paisley. Having played the first ever C2C Festival, Darius has also headlined a show at Shepherds Bush Empire and returned to the C2C Stage in 2017. Darius returns to the UK this month for a headline tour which includes the Royal Albert Hall. I asked Darius how playing The Royal Albert Hall must be a bucket list moment for him?

It is! This whole tour is planned around that. It is one of the last places that I have always wanted to play that I haven’t got to play yet.  I said to my management that I wanted to play The Royal Albert Hall and they were like “Ok but we played Shepherds Bush last time…” and I said “Yeah, well lets just see if they book me”. They called and got us booked and it sold out in less than an hour. The venue called us about a week after asking if they could sell the seats behind the stage and we of course said yes. So I am pretty excited about this show.

The Royal Albert Hall is a bucket list moment for many artists if not all. It has been a great host for country artists over the last few years with the likes of Carrie Underwood, Kacey Musgraves and Little Big Town so having Darius Rucker is not just a bucket list moment for him but his fans too. I asked Darius as the Royal Albert Hall is such a special venue, would he be doing anything extra special for the show?

Oh yeah! I do have something that we are probably only going to do at The Royal Albert Hall but I can’t tell you what it is haha, but I have a song that I am only going to play at the Royal Albert Hall because I am dying to play there and it is going to be great.

I did get a bit more information on the song but will not spoil that for anyone.  As Darius explained how much he wanted to play the Royal Albert Hall I was keen to know if he, like us fans, photographs such moments and puts a photo or sold out poster of his favourite shows up on his wall?

Oh absolutely! This is one of those nights that is like playing Madison Square Gardens. I saw The Black Crowes at The Royal Albert Hall in 1994/1995 and it just blew my mind. I said this place is awesome and I have just got to play. I have seen a couple of shows there since then and I am so excited.

Eager to know if the show will be filmed, I asked him that very question.

I think they are going to film it yes.

I hope we get a dvd, how amazing would that be? With a massive career like Darius’ who has played some impressive shows over a 25 year long career, it is nice to hear him still be excited about certain venues. It made me wonder about other shows he has played that he will treasure forever? When asking him about that he said;

Oh gosh! Playing Apollo Theatre, that was awesome haha! Playing country music in the Apollo Theatre was something I thought I wouldn’t be doing and I got to do that and it was awesome. Being asked to be a member of the Opry, that is huge for me. Playing the Garden with Hootie (Madison Square Gardens) playing two nights at the frickin’ Madison Square Gardens haha, those are moments that I will always remember.

Being asked to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville is one of the highest honours in country music. I often wonder if artists ever expect to be asked to be a member? I also wondered if after all these years, he still remembered his first time playing the Opry?

No I didn’t think I would ever be a member and I remember playing the first time as if it was yesterday. It was really one of those surreal out of body experiences. I love to tell the story of how at the time, my favourite song on the radio was George Straits Give It Away. I just loved it, loved it!  I would play it about ten times a day. I finished my set and I was freaking out that I just played the Opry. I was on cloud nine and was hugging my manager and were talking and laughing and right as I turn and walk away, Bill Anderson starts singing Give It Away because he was one of the writers on that song. I really thought to myself “This is a movie”. It really couldn’t have been more appropriate than that haha – it was awesome!

Five solo country albums so far, Darius has had us up and dancing with the likes of Alright, Come Back Song and Radio; he had had us in tears for It Won’t Be Like This For Long; had everyone rockin’ with Wagonwheel and had everyone going straight to hell with er Straight To Hell. On his albums I asked if he looks to do better than the last or just make an album on how he is feeling in that moment.

I never look at it as a competition with my albums. It is always how I feel and where I am right then, what songs I am writing and how I feel and what I want to say with that record. I just take them all individually.

Darius writes most of his own material and also often with co – writers. Across all his albums he has some regular co-writers and some he has never written with before. Asking him about co – writing Darius says;

I love writing with the guys that I write with – they are all my friends now. As we are all old friends, we just get together and write. I love all the cats that are coming up in Nashville right now, there isn’t anybody that I wouldn’t sit down and write a song with because it is such an artform there but it also a job – that is what guys do for a living. I Iove getting together with writers old and new and seeing what we come up with and we try to make great records.

Darius recently put out his single Straight to Hell which featured Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Charles Kelly. Alongside the single, he released a hilarious video. One of my favourite parts of the video is when Charles Kelly is asked for a password to get into the club and he answers “Dolphins Make Me Cry”. Now of course any Hootie fan will know that is a lyric from I Only Wanna Be With You. Asking about the video and especially wanting to know whose idea it was to say “Dolphins Make Me Cry” as the password, Darius replies.

Oh that was Charles Kelly’s idea haha. He came up with that part for the video. Straight to Hell is a song that I have been wanting to cut for a record for decades. When I started in country music, every record I was making I said that I should do Straight to Hell and I never did. I was making this last record (When Was The Last Time) and I get this text message from Charles Kelly out of the blue saying “Hey man I just heard that Drivin N Cryin song Straight To Hell and I think you should cut it.” I laughed and right before I could text him back, a second text came through and it said “and you should let me sing on it too”. Haha so that is when it all started. Me, Charles, Luke and Jason are pretty tight. They are all Georgia boys and we all hang out any chance we get so it was a no brainer. I called up Luke and he was on tour and I told him that I was doing Straight to Hell and asked if he was in and he said “I’m in”. I called Jason and said “are you in?” He said “I’m in”. After that they just came down and we cut it.

Speaking of friends of Darius – Darius hosts a very special event every year during the week of CMA Festival. The event, titled “Darius and Friends” is in aid of the charity St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Asking him about the event he said;

St Jude is a charity that I really love being a part of helping out. I went to see them for the first time with Dierks (Bentley). It was actually during the same tour that you were talking about earlier. It was my first tour in country music with me, Dierks and Brad. Dierks and I ended up going to St Jude’s together and it just blew my mind and so I started Darius and Friends. The thing we try to do with that show is almost like an Opry show. We want some young new talent, some talent that is really big right now and we want some more traditional older guys who were huge and will come out and play those big hits. It works out every year and we sell out before we have even announced who is going to be there, it is a really cool thing.

With five solo albums out and numerous hits, I was curious to know what songs of his his family favoured the most?

Oh goodness, goodness goodness gracious. A lot of them like It Won’t Be Like This For Long still because so many people use it for father and daughter dances and stuff like that so that seems to be one that everybody seems to like a lot.

With that, it was time to wrap up! I could have spoken for hours. Darius was a joy to talk with and very gracious. As I have mentioned above, he is one of the best live acts you will ever see so if you haven’t got a ticket yet, then what are you waiting for?

 

 

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