Q and A: Darius Rucker
By Megan Sexton, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-1421
Country music artist Darius Rucker spoke to graduates at the University of South Carolina’s commencement May 11. Rucker, a USC alumnus who met his Hootie and the Blowfish bandmates while he was a Carolina student, also received an honorary doctor of music degree. We caught up with him by phone to talk about commencement and his time at USC.
What’s it like to come home to Carolina for commencement?
Darius Rucker: It’s amazing. I’m a Gamecock through and through. I’m a big Miami Dolphins fan, and my son is a Packers fan. I said, ‘That’s OK. But when it comes to South Carolina, you don’t have an option.’ I love the University of South Carolina. If it wasn’t for that place I would have never met the guys, it would have never happened for me.
And you’ll be receiving an honorary degree of doctor of music. How does that feel?
Rucker: I’m blown away by an honorary degree in music. That’s amazing. When I was living on fifth floor Moore, I dreamed about life many a day. I dreamed about being a famous singer, making it, making a gold record, a Grammy. But I never let myself dream I’d be asked to come back and speak at graduation and get an honorary degree. That happens to generals and the president and governors. I couldn’t believe it when I was asked. … And I’m excited about all the positive stuff I’ve heard. About how excited the kids are. I can’t wait.
What will you tell the graduates at commencement?
Rucker: I’m going to talk about my time at South Carolina. The main thrust of my speech is to find that one thing that makes you want to get up on your day off to go help. You need to find that one thing that makes you want to give back to your school or your community or your charity.
How did your time at USC shape you and your music?
Rucker: There were so many things. Singing in Carolina Alive -- that was so huge for me. It was one of the things that kept me in South Carolina. I went from being a popular guy in a small high school to one of 25,000 students. That first semester was tough for me. Carolina Alive was one of the reasons I stayed there. And being No. 2 in football part of that year didn’t hurt. But if Mark (Bryan, Hootie guitarist) hadn’t moved onto my dorm hall, who knows what I’d be doing right now. The guy with Carolina Alive let us borrow what we needed from the band room and we’d use it and put it back. Without stuff like that, I’d probably be a bartender today.
Is there a class you took at Carolina that stands out?
Rucker: I took a poetry class that I remember so vividly. I learned so much about words and writing words together. It was such a help for me as a songwriter. And my journalism law class. I loved every minute of that class.
Tell me what you remember about Hootie’s MTV concert on the Horseshoe
Rucker: I remember when they asked us to do Unplugged, we said we wanted to do it at the university. They weren’t hip to the idea. They hadn’t ever done one outside. But we wanted to showcase our school, to show the world what a great place South Carolina was. They agreed to do it. I remember after it was over, I was on Cloud Nine, we pulled it off.
It’s not unusual for you to wear Gamecock gear on stage. What kind of reactions do you get to that?
Rucker: I wear a Gamecock hat almost every night on stage. You go to Georgia and Florida, they have some fun with me. But it’s who I am. I throw that hat into the audience every night and nobody ever throws it back.
You earned plenty of kudos from the ESPN GameDay crew for being a knowledgeable guest picker. So what’s your prediction for the upcoming football season?
Rucker: Oh, we will win the national championship. This is our year. This is going to be the greatest year in Gamecock football history. I say that every year. But we have the best football player in the country at defensive end. We have one of the three best coaches in the business. I really think we could go 12-1 and win the national championship.
Twelve and one? Who are we going to lose to?
Rucker: I don’t know, but it sure won’t be Clemson.
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