Grammy-winning musician Darius Rucker headlines at State Farm Center


Although loyal to his alma mater, University of South Carolina, musician Darius Rucker said there is a chance he might root for the Illini in the future. Rucker’s current “True Believers” tour will be coming to State Farm Center on Wednesday evening. With his recent 2014 Grammy win in the “Best Country Solo Performance” category for “Wagon Wheel,” Rucker’s musical career continues to see success. Rucker sat down with The Daily Illini to discuss his current solo tour, his band, Hootie and the Blowfish, and a little about his own time in college. 


The Daily Illini: We’re really excited to have you performing here. What brings your “True Believers” tour to our University?

Darius Rucker: I love playing at colleges; it’s always a lot of fun. It was fun when the band (Hootie and the Blowfish) played there, and I don’t get to do it as much as I would like to, so when we get the opportunity, we play. 


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    DI: I’ve read that you grew up in a very musical family. How did that influence your decision to pursue a career in music?

    DR: Music’s been around my life so much. Ever since I was a little boy, all I ever wanted to do was be a musician and be a singer, get a band and see if I could make it in the music world. 


    DI: You have attributed much of your success, mainly starting Hootie and the Blowfish, to your time at the University of South Carolina. Can you tell us a little bit about your time in college? 

    DR: It was awesome for me. I went to the University of South Carolina and it was great. My second year, Mark (Bryan) and Dean (Felber) came to school and I met those guys, and we started playing together and that changed everything, once I started playing in the band. I didn’t play in a band before so when I did finally get one, it was just … I always knew I wanted to be a singer but being in the band was awesome. And we started playing around, we realized we were doing pretty good, so all the sudden we were out trying to get a record deal.  


    DI: I’m dying to ask, and I’m sure others would like to know, how did the band come up with the name “Hootie and the Blowfish”? 

    DR: Oh, I used to give people nicknames all the time. My first year, I sang in the show choir at USC and there were two guys. One guy had really big eyes and wore glasses and kind of looked like an owl so I started calling him “Hootie.” His best friend had these huge cheeks and did this thing were he pushed his cheeks out, so I started calling him “the blowfish.” One day, they walked into a party and I said “Look, Hootie and the Blowfish,” and we named the band about a week later and decided we were going to name it “Hootie and the Blowfish.” 


    DI: Something I’m sure a lot of college students can relate to is the idea of transition. What was it like transitioning into a solo career after just working with your band for so long? 

    DR: It was different, after being in the band for almost 30 years, or however long we had been together. You know, we were such a band, and the four of us made every decision together and we did everything together. When I decided to go off on my own, it was weird to be up there making all those decisions myself. And all those things you have to do to put a show together all myself was different but it was fun — every decision was mine. 


    DI: You have collaborated with some huge stars, such as Brad Paisley and Sheryl Crow, on a variety of projects. What is it like working with other musicians of such a high caliber? 

    DR: It’s awesome. It was really great to have somebody who is as talented as those people coming around. And you’re getting their ideas, because everybody sees things differently and it’s really cool to talk and come up with things that you think sound great. It’s also fun because they’re friends. I’ve known Sheryl forever, so it was a lot of fun to just get together and see what you can come up with.  


    DI: You were just nominated for a Grammy for “Wagon Wheel” in the “Best Solo Country Performance” category this past December. Is it still just as exciting as when you first started out? 

    DR: It’s just as exciting. You know, anytime you get a Grammy nomination it’s just very exciting, it’s very humbling. The Grammys are the ultimate in music when it comes to award shows so … anytime you get a Grammy nomination, it feels really cool. 


    DI: I’ve also read that you’re a sports fanatic and are especially loyal to the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Is there any hope of you rooting for the Illini anytime soon? 

    DR: (Laughs) Sure! You know, I’m very loyal to my Gamecocks, but I root for other teams a lot, too. I love a good game. You never know, if the Illini are playing the right team, I’ll root for them a lot. 


    DI: Finally, if you could give your college self one piece of advice, what would it be?

    DR: I would tell myself to stay in touch with what is going on in life. That’s probably the one thing about all that happened to me that’s the wildest. I was in the middle of a fun party and since I was in the middle of things happening, I guess I never stopped to smell the roses or stop to really look at what was going on around me. That’s the one thing — really pay attention to what is going on around you and enjoy it a little more.

    Samantha can be reached at [email protected].