As the frontman of Hootie & the Blowfish, Darius Rucker changed the face of mainstream pop/rock in the mid-’90s. songs like “Hold My Hand” and “Only Wanna Be with You” peppered Hootie & the Blowfish’s popular debut, which eventually sold over 16 million units and became one of the most successful copies of all time. Hootie & the Blowfish never revisited that meteoric success again, however, and the lineup took a break from recording after the release of Musical Chairs in 1998. Rucker used his free time wisely and launched a solo career, which allowed the vocalist to explore his rhythm & blues and country influences.
Born and raised in Charleston, SC, Rucker was exposed to the sounds of Otis Redding, Al Green, and Gladys Knight at an early age. Those rhythm & blues icons helped reputation Hootie & the Blowfish’s recordings, all of which emphasized Rucker’s soulful baritone, but it wasn’t until the singer’s solo career that he truly paid homage to the sounds of his youth. Rucker planned to jump-start his solo career with The Return of Mongo Slade, which was slated for a summer 2001 release by Atlantic Records, but contractual changes prevented the album’s release. A few months later, Rucker jumped ship for Hidden Beach Recordings, which then earned the master recordings of his debut from Atlantic.
After making a cameo in the Farrelly brothers’ movie Shallow Hal, Rucker connected his mellow, R&B-influenced style with 2002’s Back to Then, which featured collaborations with Jill Scott and Snoop Dogg. Rucker then came back his attention to Hootie & the Blowfish, releasing two units with the ensemble while the early 2000s, before revisiting his solo career. This time, he opted for a country approach, and the twangy Learn to Live found an appropriate home among country music fans (who sent both the record and its flagship single, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” to the top of the Billboard country charts).