Darius Rucker explains the motive behind his IHOP surprise, looks back on Country-crossover success

'I just really didn't think this would be newsworthy'

RADIO.COM's Katie Neal welcomed singer Darius Rucker to our airwaves as this week’s co-host for the Superstar Power Hour on all your favorite RADIO.COM Country stations nationwide.

With the football season now in the past and weather not exactly suited for golf being that the nation is in a deep chill at the moment, Katie wondered what the musician, who's also known for his affinity for the outdoors, will be doing to keep himself busy in the coming months.

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Aside from reminiscing about some serious snowman-making he did years ago in his backyard in Nashville, this is the time of year Darius likes to call "waiting for football season."

"The good thing about Charleston, it's never really too cold to golf," he tells Katie. "We usually play all year round. So, I'm gonna do that for the next month or so. I like college basketball and everything, but I'm waiting for football season."

Although Katie was well-aware that Darius wasn't in it for the headlines, she had to ask about his generous gesture last month when he picked up the tab, as anonymously as possible, for a full IHOP breakfast crowd.

"I just really didn't think this would be newsworthy," Darius laughed.

Explaining what led to that moment, he says "I go into that IHOP all the time. I've been going there since my kids were babies... I know all the wait-staff and everything. I was on the way to the golf course to play with my son and I was in there by myself having breakfast and looking around I saw a bunch of families and stuff sitting in there."

"As I was leaving, the guy I know who runs the place was there... I was like, 'hey man, how long would it take you to calculate all these tickets in here?' He said, 'a minute,' so I paid 'em all and gave the wait-staff some money and left. I just didn't think it was that big of a deal."

It's not lost on Darius that acts of kindness like that can have a snowball effect, giving others that gentle nudge to pay it forward. But it was simply seeing all of the families together in the context of current events that sparked his kindness. "Knowing what the economy's like, and knowing that I'm so blessed," Darius says, "I just wanted those people to have a nice meal on me."

Rucker's latest hit, "Beers & Sunshine," released in summer 2020 -- his first since 2017's "For the First Time" -- is continuing to keep everyone in a positive state of mind as we all ponder the past year and what's in store for 2021.

"It's so weird to have a song doing what it's doing and not be out playing it," he admits. "This is different times and trying times. The thing that I always say about this is when it's back to normal, which it will be at some point, we're gonna appreciate the things that we wish so much more."

For Darius, the new year means a new album is in the works. "It's pretty much done," he says, with only one more studio session to knock out some new arrivals before he wraps. "I'm real happy, excited, and ready for the next single to come out, he says, while longing for a return to touring. "I'm ready to get back on the road like everybody else... start playing shows for people, you know. Play these songs out live."

Known as the singer for chart-toppers Hootie & the Blowfish since 1986, Rucker's first Country hit was 2008's "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" from his solo album Learn To Live. The single marked the first time since Charley Pride's "Night Games" in 1983 that a solo Black artist had a number 1 on the charts.

"It was amazing," Darius says looking back. "Those are days I'll never forget. I really came into Nashville because I wanted to play Country music. When I say this people don't believe me, but I truly didn't expect any success. I was just really happy that somebody else was gonna pay for my record."

The day it officially went number 1, Darius remembers being at a radio station in Florida giving an interview on camera, when one of his friends casually dropped the news to him. "No one had told me," he says with a smile. "So, there's a famous video of me losing it a little bit. But it meant the world to actually do something that I just wanted to do for me and to have it affect people enough that it was the number 1 song in the country was amazing."

Another notable number one of Rucker's is his 2010 single "Come Back Song," co-written by Casey Beathard and a lesser-known-at-the-time Chris Stapleton. After being nudged by his producer during the recording sessions for his second Country album Charleston, SC 1966, Darius finally admitted not wanting to cut the song because of how incredible Stapleton's demo was.

"The last day of recording he goes, 'hey man, why don't you want to record the song? I think it's great song, I think it's a hit.' I was like, 'man, have you heard the demo?! I could never sing it like that! He kills that song. I could never open my mouth and sing it like that because it's too great.'"

Finally after more prodding and some key changes, Daruis finally recorded the track. "Of course, it was the first single off the record."

Watch the full interview with Darius and Katie above and tune in every week to the Superstar Power Hour with Katie & Company on your favorite RADIO.COM Country stations.

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