As the lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish, Darius Rucker has spent the past 20 years realizing one of life's most valuable lessons: you have to "live and learn," so that you can "learn how to live." Consequently, his country debut, Learn to Live, is a cathartic experiment — and a musical foray that few rock stars are willing to take.
Fifteen years after the release of Cracked Rear View, Rucker's positive reception on country radio may come as a surprise. Even so, the evolution of Rucker's career yields solid proof that music is an art form that has the power to transcend cultural lines. With the chart-topping success of "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," Rucker proved that an artist can connect with any audience, so long as their music is genuine and sincere.
Upon review of Learn to Live, Darius Rucker managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on Charley Pride, Back to Then and his Nashville experience.
With the release of "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," you made history, by becoming the first African-American since Charley Pride to have a number one hit on country radio. What special significance does this feat have for you?
When I was making the record, I didn't really think about the cultural or historical significance. But when my record started getting into the charts, I started hearing things and I had to pay attention. Anytime you're mentioned with Charley Pride — and Ray Charles, too — it's a great feeling! To be one of the few African-American men to fare well on country radio, I can't help but feel great about that.
At this particular point in your career, you've done a little bit of rock, you've done a little bit of R&B, and now country. What life events led you to Nashville?
I have been talking about making this record for as long as I can remember, even before I made the R&B record. I remember I was touring and I discovered Lauryn Hill and Notorious B.I.G. at the same time and I'm sold on those records and wanted to do that. After recording Back to Then, I was happy. Then, I started telling the guys in the band, "I want to make a country record. Do you want to make a country record?"