Before performing a surprise show for CMT Instant Jam in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, this week and then traveling to New York City to headline Today‘s summer concert series, Darius Rucker celebrated the Number One success of his single “Homegrown Honey” on Monday during an industry event at a distillery in Nashville.
Written with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley, Rucker tells Rolling Stone Country the song was hatched on the links. “We were playing golf one day and he said, ‘Dude, we’ve never written a song together.’ So we set a date and went and did it. The great thing for me about writing with him is he’s got that voice that’s like mine. But he’d sing a part I would never sing.”
Kelley reveals however that Rucker almost bailed on the session.
“He said, ‘I don’t know if I can write tonight; I’m fried.’ I said, ‘You’re not backing out!'” Kelley says, laughing. “It worked out, and after we wrote it, he said, ‘This is my first single, I just know it.’ We caught a little magic with that idea. I told him, ‘You’re known for a lot of serious stuff, like [Lady Antebellum], but you also need some fun, light-hearted [songs] to play.”
Rucker admits “Homegrown Honey” isn’t heavy fare. “It wasn’t meant to change the world. It was meant for people to enjoy it,” he says. He’s also eager to write with Kelley again, perhaps after Lady A wraps up its tour next month. “I’d work with Charles Kelley anytime. I’d go do a Pancho and Lefty record with Charles,” Rucker says. “He is class, man.”
With “Homegrown Honey” behind him, Rucker is turning his attention to a more personal song, current single and album title track “Southern Style.” It’s a love letter to his upbringing, even though the lyrics focus on a woman, one who likes “Lil Wayne and Lynyrd Skynyrd” and always makes time for famous preacher Billy Graham.
“It is me. I know her,” Rucker says of the character in the song. “I remember a reporter asked if I thought the Billy Graham reference was a little political. I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. When I was a kid, we stopped everything we were doing and watched the Billy Graham Crusades.’ Billy Graham isn’t about politics — Billy Graham is about God. For me, [the character is] my mom, my sister.”
“Southern Style” is also very much an ode to Charleston. Rucker is still processing the June mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. For him, the tragedy was an attack on family.
“My son goes to school directly across the street from Mother Emanuel. I mean directly across the street. I park in the parking lot to pick him up sometimes,” he says, pausing. “That was . . . home. That was right in the heart of where we live, of our community.”
Since then, he describes the vibe in the city as one of unfailing love. Says Rucker: “It’s just love, coming every day and every minute.”
The singer is currently on the road with Brett Eldredge, Brothers Osborne and A Thousand Horses, running his Southern Style Tour into November. The tour makes a stop in Raleigh tonight.