Darius Rucker Opens Up About Switching to Country Music: ‘I Wanted To Be on the Bottom of the Rung’

by Josh Lanier
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Darius Rucker said he was glad he had to struggle to find his footing in country music. The Grammy Award-winner singer/songwriter felt he had to earn his place, or fans wouldn’t accept him.

Rucker came to country music through a circuitous route. Before he was singing “Wagon Wheel” he was belting out “Only Wanna Be With You” as the lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish. The little band with the funny name had some serious hits. And one of the biggest albums of all time with 1994’s Cracked Rear View. So, when Rucker began playing country music in 2008, he didn’t want to be Hootie. He wanted to be Darius Rucker.

“It was doing what I would want to do because I didn’t want to come in here telling everybody, ‘I’m Hootie. I’ve sold all these records. You’ve got to play my record,'” he told Kelleigh Bannen on Apple Music Essentials. “I wanted to come in and be on the bottom of the rung and work my way up.”

He even volunteered for a radio tour where he barnstormed the country playing at any station that would have him. Up-and-coming artists normally do this kind of promotion, not established acts. He explained why on Clint Black’s video podcast Talking in Circles.

“For me it was, if we’re gonna do it on this level, I was going to give it all I had,” Rucker said per People. “I knew the best way I could do that was to let everybody that were the people playing the songs to know that I know I’m not anything in this genre. I’m just trying to get on the radio like everybody else. If you play my song, great. If not, hey man we had a beer, it was cool.”

Darius Rucker Knew It Would Be an Uphill Climb

Darius Rucker was a black, former pop-rock singer walking into country music stations in earnest. He knew things wouldn’t be easy. But he went into this with eyes open, and he wouldn’t be deterred.

“I was not hesitant. I was just going to do what we were going to do, but I was ready for anything,” he said. “You’ve heard the stereotype. You know, there’s no Black folks in country music on the radios. There’s not going to be anybody on the radio.”

But Darius Rucker thrived. In the past 13 years, he became one of the most dominant solo country artists of his generation.

“When I would visit the radio the first time, there was three guys who are now great friends of mine, champions, and I don’t think they were trying to be mean,” he told Bannen. “They were being honest with me, who said to me that I don’t think the audience will accept a Black country singer. I mean, straight up. ‘I love the song, I’m going to play the song. I’m going to play it. I’m going to add it, but I just don’t think it’s going to work.’ I was like, ‘Okay, thank you for playing it. Let’s see.’ They’ve all come to me and said, ‘I’m glad I was wrong. I’m glad I was wrong.'”

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