Award-winning artist Darius Rucker has been bringing people together with his warm, comforting sound and lowcountry spirit for decades now. His music career first took off as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the multi-Platinum band Hootie & the Blowfish. In addition to playing with the group, Rucker has garnered success as an individual country act with 10 No. 1 hits and multiple No. 1 albums. Yesterday (Oct. 4), the Grand Ole Opry member was inducted into the Music City Walk of Fame, and tomorrow (Oct. 6), he unveils his first solo record in six years, Carolyn’s Boy.
In addition to his Music City Walk of Fame induction, the singer-songwriter gave fans a taste of the highly-anticipated release yesterday at Analog at the Hutton Hotel in Nashville, where he was recorded as part of the “Recorded Live at Analog” series supported by Heaven’s Door and debuting on PBS early next year.
Named in honor of Rucker’s mother Carolyn, the album exhibits his homey vocal stylings with a beautiful blend of feel-good, fun tunes and deeper, moving numbers that remind us that we can always connect to one another in some way and make it through the hard times. He co-wrote 11 of the 14 tracks, and recently shared some stories behind the collection with MusicRow.
Rucker notes that he had always thought about paying homage to his mother with a project, and recalls the moment he came up with the title.
“It was the first day of recording, and I just wasn’t in a good place mentally. I sat down after a take and said to myself, ‘At the end of the day, I’m just my mama’s boy,’ and after thinking about it more, I decided I was going to name the record Carolyn’s Boy.”
The Charleston native knew he wanted to make a living in the world of music as a child. Growing up, his mother was extremely supportive of his passion and introduced him to genres including gospel and R&B. That influence can be detected in tracks such as “Ol’ Church Hymn (feat. Chapel Hart)” as well as his decision to cover Rihanna‘s “Lift Me Up” from the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack.
Rucker cut “Ol’ Church Hymn” almost immediately after writing it alongside Greylan James, Ben Hayslip and Josh Miller. After recording his own vocals on the song, he came across something special that he felt would enhance it immensely. “I was on Twitter and came across these three women singing country music, and they sounded amazing, absolutely amazing. [In that moment], I said ‘I’m going to get these girls to sing on [‘Ol’ Church Hymn’].”
Rucker then messaged the ladies on Instagram and collaboration began. Those three women turned out to be trio Chapel Hart, who would go on to earn the coveted “golden buzzer” on the talent competition show America’s Got Talent. “They really took [the track] to different level. Their vocals are so great, and I love that song so much,” he expresses.
After hearing Rihanna’s stunning work on “Lift Me Up,” Rucker was inspired to cover the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever song and include it on Carolyn’s Boy. When it comes to the current trend of established artists covering songs outside of their genre, Rucker is all for it.
“People have been covering great songs forever, and when it happens in a big way, it’s awesome to see,” he states.
The artist continues to echo encouragement and unity with tunes “In This Together,” “Have A Good Time” and chart-topping single “Same Beer Different Problem.”
“There’s so much division within our country, and we all have to live together. So, I hope people find songs on this record that resonate with them and help them get through the hard times. I want that on every record”
Written by Rucker, Monty Criswell, Derek George and Bobby Hamrick, “Have A Good Time” was also released as a single along with outside cuts “Fires Don’t Start Themselves” and “Southern Comfort.” The artist says he knew he had to cut “Fires Don’t Start Themselves” as soon as he heard it due to it’s ’90s country energy, and describes his love for the feel, speed and story “Southern Comfort.” The album also features “Sara,” which Rucker concocted with fellow renowned entertainer Ed Sheeran, Joel Crouse and Kyle Rife. He recalls witnessing Sheeran’s early days as an artist. Over the years, the two have developed a friendship, and had been wanting to collaborate for quite sometime. Rucker shares that he spontaneously flew to England one day to write with Sheeran.
“Ed asked me who my first love was, and I told him it was my fifth grade girlfriend Sara. He then asked me a million questions about that [time in my life]. In the end, he wanted to write a song about her, so we did,” he reminisces.
Creating Carolyn’s Boy has given the hitmaker a new sense of appreciation for the art of music.
“One thing that really came out of [this record] for me was a better love for what I do. We went through the pandemic and all the hardships of the past few years, and writing through all that stuff made me want to write and perform more. It further solidified how much I love what I do.”
He continues to feed that desire to perform and connect as he readies his personally-curated Riverfront Revival Music Festival for this weekend (Oct. 7-8), following the album’s release. Rucker will also wrap the stateside leg of his “Starting Fires Tour” at Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater on Oct. 14, and make his way back across the pond and to Ireland for a few international dates in 2024.
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