Darius Rucker performs at the Taste of Country at Coca Cola field on Friday in Buffalo, N.Y. Associated Press photo.
Darius Rucker is no hayseed in the music industry. In 2008, the former baritone frontman of multi-platinum, pop-rock group Hootie and the Blowfish made his fledgling appearance on the country scene. Now an award-winning country artist, he is in the midst of his True Believers Tour and will make a stop at Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greeneville on June 23 for a special benefit concert for Niswonger Children’s Hospital. Show time is 7:30 p.m.
Rucker won the Country Music Association’s New Artist Award in 2009 after the songs “It Won’t Be Like This for Long” and “Alright” off his first album, “Learn to Live” topped the charts.
Prior to that, his song “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” made him the first black artist with a number one country song since Charley Pride in 1983.
He was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2012 and performed on the “Conan O’Brien Show” and at the CMA awards ceremony.
He and Lionel Richie were nominated for a CMA Award in 2009 for Musical Event of the Year for their duet “Stuck on You.”
His latest album, “True Believers,” was released in May and has already topped the Country Billboard Album chart. Offering relatable insight into married life, the album is filled with uplifting lyrics about overcoming the struggles that can arise and being grateful for loved ones.
The lines “We are one heartbeat in the darkness/We are one lasting answered prayer/We are one unbroken promise/And we are two, true believers” from the song “True Believers” show the heartfelt query that inspired this album.
On it, he covered “Wagon Wheel” with Lady Antebellum, a song that has gained extraordinary popularity in the Tri-Cities area and which quickly soared to number one on the Country Billboard Singles chart. Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor expanded on the tune, which was originally a Bob Dylan outtake from 1973 called “Rock Me Mama.” This is one of the only two songs that Rucker did not co-write on his new album.
The other is “Love Without You” featuring Sheryl Crow, with whom Rucker has hoped to record for almost 20 years.
“Learn to Live,” Rucker’s first studio album marketed towards the country crowd, went platinum and stole the spotlight with three number one singles, including “It Won’t Be Long,” which spent three weeks at the top of the charts.
His follow-up album, “Charleston, S.C. 1966,” released in 2010, is certified gold and includes the singles “Come Back Song,” “This” and “I Got Nothin’.”
Rucker said his second country album leads right into his third, which is something he had never done before.
His years of experience in the music industry helped him overcome many of the doubts and fears that new artists experience.
“I didn’t even know if country radio was going to play my song, but you can’t think about things like that,” he said in an interview.
A native of South Carolina, Rucker and the other members of Hootie and the Blowfish met during their freshman year of college. Their first album, “Cracked Rear View,” sold more than 16 million copies and was followed by “Fairweather Johnson,” with sales of 3 million copies, and “Musical Chairs,” which was also certified platinum.
After a successful run with the group, he decided to focus on more personal ambitions, as did some of the other members, although he said the group will likely cut another album at some point in the future.
Rucker has played numerous benefit concerts to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City is one of six St. Jude affiliate clinics, serving more than 200,000 children in 29 counties in four states.
Balcony level tickets are $75, orchestra level tickets are $150 and VIP tickets, including access to the pre-show reception, are $250.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.greenevillenpac.com or call (432) 638-1679.