The latest episode of CMT Storytellers gives music fans up close and personal access to Darius Rucker, as he and his country band perform some of his best-known songs.
Recorded in a small studio outside Nashville, it offers an intimate setting as Rucker reflects back on some of his biggest hits. He shares entertaining stories behind the writing and creation of songs like “Let Her Cry,” “It Won’t Be Like This for Long” “Alright,” and many others.
One interesting story he shares involves a Hootie & the Blowfish hit Rucker initially did “not” want to record. He recalls a meeting where they talked about which songs would end up on one of their albums.
“This song comes up,” Rucker tells the audience, “and I gave an impassioned speech about how much I did not want this to be on the record. And I’m looking at my boys and I know they’re going to back me up. I finished and I sat down, and we took a vote and I lost.”
He laughs as he admits he later apologized to his fellow band members, then launches into a rousing rendition of the song.
The hour long show features one dynamic performance after the other, with Rucker relaxed and engaging in-between. At one point he even asks the audience, “How do you get tickets to this? Is there an ad or something?”
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After an hour jam-packed with music, Rucker wraps things up by taking time to answer questions from some of those audience members.
When he got the invitation to appear on CMT Storytellers, Darius Rucker immediately began thinking about which songs to perform on the show. With a career spanning more than four decades, first as lead singer with Hootie & the Blowfish, and later as a solo country artist, the Rucker had a long list to choose from.
“The gist of the show is being able to tell a story about the song,” he explains, “so I started thinking about songs that have a funny story about writing them or a funny story about performing them. I’m lucky I’ve got enough hits to where I can do that.”
Getting the chance to headline CMT Storytellers comes as a full-circle moment of sorts, for Rucker.
The show is part of music history. For nearly two decades music fans tuned in to watch Storytellers on VH1 to see their favorite artists perform their hits and tell never-before-heard stories behind the songs that made them famous. The popular franchise, which ran from 1996 to 2015, featured some of the biggest names in music including Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, and many more.
Earlier this year, MTV Entertainment Group, which owns MTV, VH1, CMT, and a number of other brands, brought Storytellers back to life – on CMT (Country Music Television). The first episode featured country duo Brooks & Dunn, with the second one now highlighting the music of Darius Rucker.
Rucker, who watched the original series, was honored to be invited to do it.
“Storytellers has always been for legends,” he says. “It’s for people who’ve had careers and hits, songs that have moved people, made them happy, made them sad. And to be the second person to bring it back and revive it is huge for me. It’s such a sign of respect and a sign that what I did made a difference. Here I am getting to do this thing that’s for legends and it’s awesome!”
The show not only allows Rucker to celebrate his incredible career, but also think back on what it took to get to where he is today.
The three-time GRAMMY winner first reached multi-Platinum success with Hootie & the Blowfish, the group he and his bandmates formed in college at the University of South Carolina. In the years since, Hootie sold 25 million albums with Cracked Rear View among the Top 10 best-selling studio albums of all time.
Then, during a Hootie hiatus, Rucker decided to make a country album, something he’d thought of doing for a long time.
“It was a labor of love, he says, “I would have done it even if I hadn’t got a record deal. I was doing it because I wanted to be Radney Foster and make a country record. The success part of it wasn’t why I was doing it; I was just happy I was going to make a record.”
In fact, he was warned success wasn’t likely at all. At the time, it was rare for an African American artist to make it in country music.
“The thing that was said to me when I was doing a radio tour was that the country audience would never accept a black singer. But those people were my biggest champions and as soon as it broke through, everybody realized how wrong they’d been.”
He would go on to make history. When his first single reached the top of the charts, he became the first African American to have a No. 1 country hit since Charlie Pride’s “Night Games” in 1983. Rucker has since paved the wave for many others in country music.
“Country music has come so far,” he says, “when I came along 15 years ago, not only was there no one looking at me, there was nobody that even had a chance. And now you look at what’s happened with Kane Brown, Breland, and Jimmie Allen. You see what’s happening with Chapel Hart on America’s Got Talent. I call it the black renaissance in country music You had labels that wouldn’t even listen to an African American singer, now all looking for African American artists.”
Rucker has made music history in another way, too, by successfully crossing from one genre to another, and still performing in both. After all of his continued success with Hootie & the Blowfish, he’s at the top of his field in country music with ten No. 1 hits (so far). He’s also a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
“You know, the best thing about it for me,” he says, “is it’s all music. So, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything different when I sing with Hootie or when I’m singing country music. I guess I am, but I don’t feel like it.”
Throughout the many years of doing both, he’s also set a high bar as a philanthropist. He co-chaired a capital campaign that generated $150 million to help build a new children’s hospital in his hometown of Charleston, SC SC , and he’s raised more than $3 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through his annual Darius & Friends benefit concert and golf tournament. He’s also advocated for over 200 charitable causes through the Hootie & the Blowfish Foundation.
“It’s important to me to give back. That was something instilled in me by my mom when I was a very young kid – to help people who are less fortunate, if you can. And it’s really good to do it over a long period of time to where you can help a lot of people.”
He’s also at a point in his life where after so many years as a singer, songwriter, and musician, he’s found himself in the role of a mentor to other up-and-coming artists.
“It’s kind of cool to be at that age where I can actually give some advice they might use and that might help them. I’ve been doing this since I was 19 and I’m 56 now, so that’s more than 40 years of making music. I always feel blessed when young artists come and ask me anything.”
As he celebrates his many years in music and marks his latest career milestone by performing on CMT Storytellers, Rucker is always looking ahead to what comes next. He’s currently touring with his country band and heads to Mexico in January for HOOTIEFEST 2023 with Hootie & the Blowfish.
“I’m excited about being able to continue do music at this level after doing it for so long,” he says. “I’m having a blast and loving every minute of it.
CMT Storytellers: Darius Rucker premieres tonight on CMT at 10pm ET/9 CST.
If you miss it, you can catch it again Sunday, September 4th at 12pm ET/11am CST and later in September on CMT Music.
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