POSTED ON JANUARY 25, 2012:
Doin' What Comes Naturally
Darius Ruckerís effortless crossover to country stardom
When Darius Rucker takes the stage at BOK Center this Friday night, many still think of him as the front man for Hootie & the Blowfish, the pop-rock band that found mega-stardom in the ë90ís. In recent years, however, he has retooled his sound and established himself as a major country artist.
Granted, his brand of country falls into what Iíd call the ìpop countryî category, but somehow his songs arenít nearly as contrite or formulaic. In fact, Ruckerís music has as much or more in common with classic artists like Charley Pride, Ronnie Milsap and Charlie Rich as any of the new breed pop-country artists. The common ground that he shares with those classic artists is a natural ease with his lyrics that makes them instantly relatable and a soulful touch that fuses his southern roots with the country elements to make his songs translate across genres to a variety of fans.
When asked about making the transition from pop to country, Rucker shared that ìMusically, it was all pretty smooth. As far as I was concerned, I was just writing again. It didnít feel like I was doing anything that different than what Iíd done before.î
ìThereís always a little fear in the back of your mind when you do something new: ëWhat if the fans donít like it?í, but you just put it out there and see what happens and itís gone well,î he said. ìItís not like itís all that different ñ I always felt like Hootie was about as close to country as you could get and still be pop.î
That transition actually proved to be incredibly smooth as Rucker has landed both of his albums at the top of the country charts and scored No. 1 singles from each album. High profile tours with top country artists like Brad Paisley havenít hurt any either, but have also yielded new friendships and even a guest appearance by Paisley on ìI Donít Careî off of Ruckerís last album, Charleston, SC 1966.
That measure of success has also made Rucker a sought-after artist as well, leading him to win a CMT performance of the year award for his duet with Adele on Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" on the CMT. He will also make an appearance on Lionel Richie's forthcoming country album, Tuskegee, trading lyrics with the pop icon on "Stuck on You."
With his last album released nearly a year and a half ago, Rucker has already begun work on a new release. When I spoke with him the other day he shared that "The producer just left yesterday and I think we got a good start. We'll go back to it when we get a chance and get it done, sometime this year."
As for now, however, Rucker is taking pause to go back out on the road as direct support for Lady Antebellum as the tour kicks off at BOK Center this Friday night, Jan. 27. When asked about the opportunity, which seems like another natural fit, Rucker explained that "I'm a big fan of theirs and we've been friends for a while, so when I got the call, I thought 'Sure, why not?'"
The tour not only pairs Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker, but also rolls in Thompson Square, who are riding high off the success of smash single "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?" Comprised of husband/wife duo Keifer and Shawna Thompson, the duo are up for a number of country music awards this year, including Best New Artist and bring the bill an Oklahoma tie as Keifer Thompson hails from Miami, Okla.
Perhaps more impressive than the success that Rucker has found in the pop and now country genres, however, is how he has used his good fortune. Over the years, Rucker has continually been involved in charity and fundraising events. In fact, his last appearance in Tulsa was actually as part of an unadvertised, sold out charity event at The Joint, back on Memorial Day of 2011.
More than that, however, Rucker has had a busy year, appearing on the PGA tour charities single "Together, Anything's Possible" and the Radney Foster single "Angel Flight," with proceeds from the latter song going to Texas National Guard family support. Rucker also hosted the 2nd annual "Darius and Friends" concert at Wildhorse Saloon on Nashville to raise $50,000 for St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. and the 17th annual Hootie Monday after the Masters charity golf tournament, which supports South Carolina education and music programs.
When asked about his involvement in so many charity events and projects, Rucker explained that he feels "it's just the thing that you're supposed to do. If I'm asked and I can do it -- if it doesn't take away from family or other obligations -- then it's kind of a no brainer for me. The hardest part is when you have to say no -- and there are a lot of things that I have to say no to. That's hard because you don't want to say no to anything or anyone if it's a good cause, but sometimes you have to."
The thing that ties it all together is how naturally it all seems to come to Rucker, from the songwriting to the projects he gets involved in. In the end, it all comes together and only adds to Rucker's appeal. Perhaps what comes most naturally to Rucker, however is performing and that's were Friday night's show comes into play.
When asked what to expect from the show this weekend, Rucker said "You'll get about an hour of my country music with a few Hootie songs and maybe a couple of covers. It will be a lot of fun. That's what I want people to get out of my show, I want them to say 'That was fun, I'm ready to do it again.'"
Should that come as surprise? Probably not. After all, it seems only natural coming from Rucker.
Darius Rucker will provide direct support as Lady Antebellum headlines BOK Center this Friday night, Jan. 27 with Thompson Square opening the show. Tickets are still available, ranging for $27-$72.50, for the concert beginning at 7pm.
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