Grammy nominee Rucker in town this week
CHAMPAIGN — Grammy-nominated Darius Rucker opens his national "True Believers" tour Wednesday at the State Farm Center.
It's a place he's played before. But this is his first solo headlining tour. Joining him on the road are Rodney Atkins, Justin Moore and Jana Kramer.
The former Hootie front man has been doing just fine without the Blowfish, scoring a No. 1 hit that's in the running at tonight's Grammy Awards for Best Country Solo Performance.
"I think it will be a fun night," he says.
Rucker was nominated for his cover version of the Old Crow Medicine Show song "Wagon Wheel," which grew from a ditty by Bob Dylan on the soundtrack of "Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid."
Rucker, who earlier quoted from Dylan in the 1995 Hootie smash hit "Only Wanna Be With You," said he's a huge fan of "Blood On The Tracks."
In other D-related news, he's also a huge fan of Duck Dynasty, whose family members appear on the "Wagon Wheel" video.
"I love that show," he says.
The "True Believer" album features Rucker's No. 1, "Wagon Wheel" as well as a current top 20 single, "Radio."
Rucker said he was thrilled to be nominated for "Wagon Wheel."
"I don't expect to win; just to be nominated is great. That song deserved the attention," he said.
Though he made his name in a rock band, Rucker said he's always loved all kinds of music.
"I used to sit up at night with a transistor radio and keep twisting the dial until I found a song I liked," he says, whether it was country, rock, soul or hip-hop.
To this day, he wants to experiment with other genres.
On "True Believers," he works with Sheryl Crow, Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott.
In the future, his dream team includes an A-Z of music.
Among others, "I'd love to work with Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert. My bucket list includes Sir Paul McCartney and Keith Richards," he said. "I'd love to sing the hook on a Jay-Z tune."
He said all good music is good in its own way.
"I'm a song guy. People have to put everything into categories. It's all the same notes and it's all the same words," he said.
But country is his main squeeze right now. He's proud of being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.
"I'm looking forward to playing in Champaign," he said. "It's a great country fan neighborhood."
A place where he once performed with Hootie and the Blowfish — and might yet again.
"Being by myself is kind of weird after being in band so long, having four people making decisions," he said.
He played a couple dates with Hootie and the Blowfish last year, and plans to do it again.
"There will be a Blowfish reunion, but probably not right away. Everyone's really content with their lives right now," Rucker said.
A few facts about Darius Rucker
He worked with producer Frank Rogers for the third time on his "True Believer" album Rogers' previous songwriting credits include "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)" by Brad Paisley, "Alright" and "This" by Rucker.
Remember when Hootie and the Blowfish played Farm Aid? It wasn't the epic blowout at Memorial Stadium in 1985. They played Farm Aid '96 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C. (A year earlier, they'd been at the Assembly Hall.)
Hootie and the Blowfish were two old friends of Rucker, who announced their entrance at a party more than two decades ago. The name stuck.