Darius Rucker on Why Travel Matters, How it Connects to Music, and an Insider’s Scoop on CharlestonBy Valerie Conners
Singer and songwriter Darius Rucker first shot to fame in the mid-’90s as the front man for the rock band Hootie & The Blowfish. Today he remains solidly in the spotlight, as one of country music’s biggest stars. As a musician and writer, the shift in styles came naturally.
“The thing that always drew me to country was the storytelling,” says Rucker. “You get to write a little movie in a two and a half, three and a half minutes. Plus, the instrumentation — the guitars and the slide and the fiddle and the mandolin … I love everything about that. When you’re telling great stories and you have that bond, I think it’s awesome.”
Rucker recently brought his talents to the Denver area, performing at the grand opening of the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center and taking part in a special VIP meet-and-greet for Marriott Bonvoy members.
We connected with Rucker before the show to chat about the link between travel and music, why it’s important to explore, and his insider eating tips on his hometown, Charleston.
People often associate songs with a sense of place, or a memory of a particular place. How would you describe the relationship between music and travel?
Music and travel. Music is a soundtrack of travel. I mean, you think about some place you’ve been or some place you were, and usually it’s some song that was playing, or some song that was big then, or some song that you listened to a lot then that comes to mind. I think that’s great. When you … look back on your memories, and a song triggers that or a song helps that, I think it’s great.
Are there any places you’ve traveled that have influenced any of your songwriting?
You know, I don’t know if any place has really influenced my songwriting so much. I think most of my songwriting influence just comes from growing up the way I did and listening to what I listen to.
But I think my travel has helped me … I think it’s definitely helped me as a person and helped me as an artist [to] just appreciate more.
It’s so easy to get pigeonholed and get so into where you’re from or where you’re at or what’s going on in your world, but when you go someplace else and you see it, and you see the beauty of it, you meet the people, you realize the world’s a great place.
You also announced that you’re going back out on tour with Hootie in the fall. On the “Today Show,” you said that you were doing it for “those people that planned their vacations around the … tour.” Loads of people travel for their favorite bands. Do you have a favorite memory of traveling to see another band perform?
Oh, goodness, yeah. I traveled about eight hours to go see Men at Work and also traveled eight hours to see The Police with R.E.M., back when they were doing the Synchronicity Tour.
That’s why I said that [on the “Today Show”] because I talked to so many people back in the day that every year, they would take a vacation, go see Hootie a couple places on the weekend; I thought that was cool.
And so I remember being a fan, you know, always being a fan, and still traveling to see bands because you love them.
You covered “Wagon Wheel,” which is a pretty classic road song. What are your favorite songs to rock out to, or chill out to, while on the road?
There’s so much different stuff. One thing I love to do is just go on my phone and then let it play random, ’cause you always hear a song you probably wouldn’t have put on, but you’re so glad you heard it.
Like the other day, I was riding down the road, and “Jazz (We Got)” by A Tribe Called Quest came on. I probably hadn’t heard that song in 10 years, and … the smile on my face, I was just so happy that they came on. You know, that’s what music does to you; it takes you back to a place that makes you happy, usually. Or it can make you sad, too. But it’s a happy sad.
I know you get to travel a lot, especially when you’re on tour. Do you have a chance to play tourist when you’re on the road?
I definitely do when I leave the country. Because when I leave the country, I get to go there so rarely, most of the cities I go to here in the states, I’ve already, you know, I’ve been to so many, so many times; I’ve seen so much of it, just being [a] tourist. Now, you just go to the places you like.
But when you go to a place you’ve never been before, or you’ve only been once or twice, you definitely are the dorky tourist.
Most places, you already know what you want to see or some things you want to see, so you look them up and you try to plan your day. You wanna see as much as you can.
How has touring changed for you from your early days as a musician to now?
I’m a good traveler; I’ve always been a good traveler. I wouldn’t say it shifted. I’ve always been a great sleeper. I can go to sleep right now if I wanted to, and that helps a lot.
I have kids now, and my son’s always … he always gives me crap because, I mean, I get on the plane and I’m sleeping. Even if I just slept eight hours and I’m up and I’m getting on the plane, I’m going to sleep. But that’s such a great way to travel for me because when I get where I’m going, I’m usually refreshed.
Is there anything that you pack when you’re touring on the road that might surprise people?
I used to pack a bunch of comic books. That would surprise people, I think. Wolverine’s my favorite, ’cause I have quite a few, quite a few, titles.
When you are not on tour and you’re free to travel, what does an ideal vacation look like?
There is such a thing? [laughs] You know, just taking the family somewhere, usually with beaches, but there’s also great golf because my son’s a golfer, too, and he loves to play … One of the greatest things in the world I get to do is play golf with him … So that’s really what it is, beaches, great golf and relaxing. That’s a great vacation to me.
You are Charleston born and raised, and you still call it home. Any tips for how visitors can get the best sense of the town?
Just come and walk. It’s a tourist town, but there’s not a lot of touristy places. But you know, it’s so easy, just go downtown and go up to someone and ask somebody where to eat, or where to have a beer, or what tour you should take, or something like that because there’s such great things here and the people are so nice in this town.
That’s one of the main reasons I love it so much; just come and talk to people. People are great. We love our tours here.
It’s also a total foodie town. Do you have any favorite spots to eat when you’re home?
FIG is my favorite. I eat there a lot, and the food is good. There’s a place called The Obstinate Daughter — it’s out on one of the beach islands. It’s awesome. The Ordinary, which is also downtown, is awesome … And TBonz is great for when you just want to go out to dinner with your buddies. The food’s amazing; service is great.
And finally, to wrap things up, why should people travel?
When you get away from home, and you see different places, it just gives you a different perspective, and you don’t only appreciate where you’re from and what you have, but you also appreciate the world and the differences in different people, and it makes you see that the world is a really great place.