Rockin' country

Pop music lightning has struck twice for Darius Rucker, and this time he's seasoned enough to enjoy the ride.

Mr. Rucker became a star in 1995 when his band Hootie & the Blowfish's Cracked Rear View became a hit-spawning smash .

Now, Mr. Rucker is in a similar situation, with his solo country debut Learn to Live going platinum and still shedding hit singles after nearly a year . He will perform tonight at Bell Auditorium.

"When Hootie hit, it felt like we instantly went from being a big band in Columbia to the biggest band in the world," Mr. Rucker said in a recent telephone interview. "This has felt a lot like that. I know, because I have seen the other side. I've been there. So this is one of those things where I'm happy because I'm at a point where I can enjoy it."

Learn to Live combines classic and contemporary country with the soulful Southern rock that Mr. Rucker practiced with the Blowfish.

"It's who I am and where I am as an artist," he said. "I love all that California country - Gram Parsons and Dwight Yoakam and the Bakersfield stuff. But I also love Brad Paisley. I wanted to make a record I would listen to, I would buy, and for me that meant all of those things."

He said he had seen his writing migrating toward Nashville for a long time and made Learn to Live as a response to that.

"The thing that was crazy for me is I would bring these songs into the band (Hootie & the Blowfish) and they would laugh because it was another country song," he said. "I'm sure it will be even worse when I go back."

Mr. Rucker is quick to assure Blowfish fans that, although he's taking his country career seriously, it in no way spells the end of the band.

"This is my day job now. I'm writing the next record right now, and we're recording next month," he said. "But there will be another Hootie record and another tour. But I have some records to do before that happens."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

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