Darius Rucker on Defining Country and Living ‘Southern Style’
When Darius Rucker is onstage, his mind sometimes wanders back to those heady Nineties days when bands like Hootie & the Blowfish and the Black Crowes ruled the earth. The Crowes, in fact, were Rucker’s inspiration when writing some of Hootie’s biggest hits and remain a motivator even today.
“Everything that I do on stage comes from seeing the Black Crowes in ’95 in Charlotte. For ‘Let Her Cry,’ I was just trying to write ‘She Talks to Angels,'” he tells Rolling Stone Country. Seated on the front bench of his bus in late May, while a Clint Eastwood Western plays on the flatscreen TV, Rucker is in Camden, New Jersey, headlining Philadelphia radio station WXTU’s annual anniversary concert. Yet he can’t stop talking about the Robinson brothers’ rootsy and unfortunately now defunct group.
“That band was very important to me,” he continues. “I’m a big Black Crowes guy. I think they are one of America’s greatest rock & roll bands ever.”
So much so that when it came time to record the title track to his fourth solo country album, Southern Style, Rucker and producer Frank Rogers reached out to the Crowes’ Rich Robinson to play guitar. Robinson obliged, and, in the album’s liner notes, Rucker thanks the guitarist for “hearing something different.”
“Southern Style” is now the LP’s second single, and despite its regionally specific title, has been warmly received on the northeast dates of Rucker’s tour, including this stop in Philly.
“It’s not just a Southern sound. I’m sure there’s a lot of people that live in Pennsylvania and listen to country music and consider that they live in kind of a Southern style. People are taking it that way instead of as a song about living in the South,” he says.
Which Rucker himself does. A Charleston, South Carolina, native, the singer was rocked by the June 17th shootings at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. While he hasn’t made any official statement, he has tweeted words of support for his fellow citizens — “Incredibly proud of my city for handling this tragedy with love. Thankful to be part of a community that can come together in a time of need,” he wrote on June 19th — and performed an a cappella version of “Amazing Grace” in honor of the victims at a recent tour stop in Texas. For Rucker, his hometown has always informed his music — he titled his second album Charleston, SC 1966.
Southern Style then, and tracks like “Low Country” and the title song, is a love letter to home. It’s also his most hardcore country album to date. The irony that a former rock singer is making some of the more traditional music in the genre isn’t lost on the 49-year-old, who became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2012.