Darius Rucker's First Christmas Album a Mix of Crooner & Modern

Darius Rucker
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Darius Rucker

Home for the Holidays is the first holiday album from Capitol Nashville recording artist Darius Rucker. The Grand Ole Opry member tells Billboard it was something he had been considering for awhile.

"The label has been asking for the last four or five years if I was going to do a Christmas record. My producer and I were ready to do it. We wanted to do something special, so we got together and made it."

Rucker said he was pleased with how varied the album came out. "We wanted to have a little something for everybody. We wanted to make a crooner record with that old Frank Sinatra/Bing Crosby/Johnny Mathis kind of way, but we also wanted a couple of things that could be for the younger audience. As it came together, I became more and more excited."

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One cut from the disc he says is special to him is the Dr. Seuss classic "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," which features his children Dani and Jack. "When we decided to do the record, that was one of the first ones to come to mind. That's such a part of our childhood growing up. When we cut it, I thought, 'I've got to get my kids on this.' They were so excited, and came in the studio and did their thing. I'm just so proud to have them on one of my records."

When asked about his Christmas memories growing up, Rucker said many of them revolve around the television set he was watching growing up in Charleston, SC. "I remember watching Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and all of them. I remember once Thanksgiving was over, everything that came on, I'd just sit and watch those three channels we had as a kid for everything that was on. Now, those things play all the time," he says. "A Charlie Brown Christmas is another one that tells the story of what Christmas is about so well. Forty years after we're dead, they will still be playing it."

Another guest on Home for the Holidays is Sheryl Crow, who adds her distinctive vocals on a playful version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside," which the two actually recorded together in person. "She and I were in the vocal booth together, and I think that comes across. We could look at each other and hear what each other was singing. We could play off of each other. We've been friends for 20 years now, and it was great to be in there with her and having a good time. It's such a fun song to sing, and I love our version of it."

The title cut is also one that has a special meaning for Rucker. "That's one of those songs that has always been near and dear to me. I've always loved it – almost every version I have heard of it is great. For me, traveling so much, I wanted to put that on as a homage to my family. Christmas is the one time that they know I'm going to be home. I'm not going to play somewhere in Europe or anything like that. Our version sounds like it could have came out in 1960. I love how it turned out."

Home for the Holidays also includes a pair of newly written songs: "Candy Cane Christmas" and "What God Wants for Christmas." Of the latter, Rucker says that he and co-writers Frank Rogers and Monty Criswell were surprised that nobody had written a similar song before. "As we started to write it, I couldn't believe that nobody had ever written the song before. We researched it, and there wasn't any song like it. We wanted to write a religious song and put God back in Christmas. Right now, there is such a big march to take God out of Christmas. What is Christmas without God? We wanted to write a religious song that people could relate to."

As his own schedule slows down for the holiday season, what are some of the modern-day traditions in the Rucker household? "Our biggest tradition is just being together. I don't think we consciously think about it, but all of us are so busy with our lives -- my wife is in school, I'm on the road, so during that period, it's all about family time. We love going around and looking at all the Christmas lights. There's a lot of eating, and it's all about being together as a family."

While they might drive around Charleston looking at the lights, he stresses that nobody is going to mistake the Ruckers for the Griswolds. "We're really boring," he says with a laugh. "We put up our Christmas decorations, but nobody goes gaudy or anything like that."