Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
Darius Rucker's throat hurts, and he is tired after a long day of promoting Hootie & the Blowfish's new album, "Looking for Lucky" (released Aug. 9), but the lead singer is not about to complain.
As first single "One Love" climbs Billboard's Adult Contemporary and Adult Top 40 charts, Rucker is simply grateful. "We're surprised because the last years at Atlantic, it wasn't happening for us, so you'd expect that to be the climate" now, he says.
Happily, that is not the case. With its soulful vocals and acoustic guitar bed, "One Love" is vintage Hootie. It marks the group's 12th appearance on the Adult Top 40 chart, tying the quartet with Dave Matthews Band and Matchbox Twenty for the most charted singles at the format.
It is also the first single from Sneaky Long Records, a multi-album joint venture between the band and Vanguard Records. Hootie & the Blowfish own the label, and Santa Monica, Calif.-based Vanguard provides distribution, marketing and publicity.
The band was on Atlantic when it experienced such successes as 1994's "Cracked Rear View," which sold 10.1 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, making it one of the top-selling U.S. debuts ever.
However, as sales went south during the next several years (the last studio album for Atlantic, a 2003 self-titled set, sold 162,000), so did the band's relationship with the label. Rucker says he and his bandmates were looking for something different when it came time to sign a new deal.
"We knew we didn't want to go to another major," he says. "There was no one else better for us than Vanguard. They don't expect the records to come in at No. 1 and forget them. They promote records for a long time."
For "Lucky," Hootie & the Blowfish reunited with "Cracked Rear View" producer Don Gehman, who brought the band to Nashville to record. For the first time, Rucker and his bandmates -— Mark Bryan, Dean Felber and Jim "Soni" Sonefeld —- worked with outside writers, including top Music City tunesmiths Matraca Berg and Radney Foster, as well as Trick Pony's Keith Burns.
"A lot of it happened organically when we got to Nashville," Rucker says. "You get in the room with them for an hour or two, and it brings something different into the mix. We'd been writing songs the same way for 20 years."
And now the band is back on the road, touring and promoting the new release. The two weeks following the album's release, Hootie will be connecting with Wal-Mart shoppers, playing concerts at eight of the retail chain's outlets throughout the Southeast. Vanguard has tied in with Dr Pepper for the Wal-Mart promotion, with the soft-drink company kicking in advertising and promotion dollars for the shows.
Kevin Welk, president/GM of Vanguard's parent company, Welk Music Group, says Vanguard's initial shipment for "Lucky" is 175,000, but he does not expect the album to end there. "They can sell gold, and potentially platinum, for sure. We're taking advantage of every opportunity, and the band is willing to do whatever it takes."
Welk says he has seen little sign of any kind of Hootie backlash, but when he does, he has simply asked people to "give the band the benefit of the doubt, and they've been receptive."
As Rucker says, "We feel renewed. It feels like we're doing it for our success, not for anyone else's, and it's great to see the people we haven't seen in a few years. But you just hope at the end of the day, your song speaks for itself."
Excerpted and expanded from the Aug. 13, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.
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