Rucker settles in as a country star

Adam Wagner / Newsday /

Despite leading Hootie&the Blowfish for 22 years, Darius Rucker was not sure that he’d be able to find a label for his solo country album when he began looking in 2007.

Now, almost four years later, Rucker has released two country records and is a familiar name on country charts, reaching the No. 1 spot five times with songs such as “This” and “It Won’t Be Like This For Long.”

Rucker recently spoke with Newsday from Oslo, where he is wrapping up a European tour before returning to the States.

Q: What are the differences between playing solo and playing with Hootie and the Blowfish?

A: I don’t feel like I’m doing anything that different right now than I was with Hootie and the Blowfish. We were about as close to a country band as you can be without saying you’re one or being called one, so when I started to do this, I really wasn’t trying to do anything different, I was just being me, doing what I had always done — and it worked.

Q: When was the first time you remember hearing country music?

A: It goes all the way back to listening to the AM radio when I was 5 and 6, flipping through the channels and hearing Buck Owens come onto the radio like nobody else, just sounding so differently and so bright. And you’re like, “Why does that guy sound so bright and everybody else doesn’t?” I’ve always been a fan. I’ve always been blessed that I’ve never really let myself get pigeonholed. I’ve never let somebody say, “You can’t listen to this because you’re black.” I always listen to whatever I want.

Q: Going with that, there obviously aren’t a lot of major black country artists. Do you feel like you’re a torchbearer at all?

A: I don’t know if I’m a torchbearer. When I was making the record, we didn’t expect a whole bunch of success, so I didn’t think about it ... . I don’t know if I’m gonna change everybody; I’m not gonna change the industry. Like when Tiger came into golf, and people thought there was gonna be this huge influx (of African-American golfers), and it didn’t work out that way.