“Have fun! You’re going to rehearse your butt off, but go have fun with it because if you don’t, it looks like you’re not having fun with it,” he says.
Rucker knows what he’s talking about. He and Reba McEntire hosted the awards ceremony, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, last year. The only thing he is sad about for Bryan is that he doesn’t have McEntire as his co-pilot. “The thing I remember the most from last year is all through rehearsals and and the whole show how giving Reba was,” Rucker says. “She was so awesome to work with. She was an amazingly professionally wonderful human being.”
Rucker is already looking past the awards to 2022. The three-time Grammy winner will hit the road in February, playing 3,000-4,000 seat theaters, including New York’s Beacon Theater and Detroit’s Fox Theatre. Tickets are on sale via Ticketmaster. It will be his first time to play many of the classic venues. “Hootie & the Blowfish never played these size theaters, because we went straight from clubs with Hootie to arenas. When I moved to country, I started straight away opening for people in big places and doing festivals and places like that,” he tells Billboard. “There are so many places that I haven’t played that are these iconic theaters that I’ve wanted to play.”
The tour is also a chance to Rucker to reconnect with his audience after the pandemic shut down in a smaller, most intimate way: “When you play the big places — and I want to make it very clear, I love playing big places — but you can only see so many people even when the lights are up. With the theater, at the right moment, you can see the whole theater. We’re not going to worry about anything for this tour. We’re just going to play and know that every night is going to be packed and have a great time.”
Though Travis Tritt recently made headlines by cancelling some shows because they required COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandates, which he opposes, Rucker says his tour will abide by any local and venue regulations. “We’re going with whatever the mandates are,” he says. “This thing is so crazy. I’m going to play whatever the rule or law is.”
Rucker adds he’s not surprised that the mandates and vaccines have brought out differing, sometimes divisive opinions among country artists and fans, but believes that “artists are just dealing with the same things the country’s been dealing with. I believe everybody can believe what they want to believe or do what they want to do.”
On the road, the “Beers and Sunshine” singer will likely be performing music from his new album, his first since 2017’s When Was the Last Time, which he hopes to release before the tour starts. The new project’s first single, the upbeat “My Masterpiece,” has been climbing Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, and is bulleted at No. 41 this week.
As usual, Rucker has mined his own life for material, which now includes his moving to Nashville from Charleston, S.C., and splitting with his wife of 20 years. “Of course there’s stuff on there about that,” he says.
He adds that he tried to keep from editing himself as he wrote, but would later go back and review. “There are some songs you write that you go, ‘OK, I can’t put that on the record, but that’s part of the whole hearing and dealing with the situation, especially as a songwriter. I always write about what’s going on in my life — but, of course, I edit a little bit when I’m done. I wanted to write about this, because I wanted to stop thinking about it.”
In addition to “My Masterpiece,” Rucker can be heard on Lady A’s rollicking fun album track, “Friends Don’t Let Friends” alongside Thomas Rhett and Carly Pearce. Rucker calls the trio’s Charles Kelley “my best friend in the business, we are really close… In 2018, we co-headlined a tour together. We’re just family.” Unbelievably, Rucker says he doesn’t get many phone calls asking him to appear on records, but adds, “when Charles and Lady A call, it’s a no brainer.”
See Rucker’s tour dates below.
Darius Rucker’s 2022 Tour
February 17 Philadelphia, Pa. | The Met February 18 Pittsburgh, Pa. | The Benedum Center February 19 Columbus, Ohio | Palace Theatre February 24 Boston, Mass. | Wang Theatre at the Boch Center February 25 New York, N.Y. | Beacon TheatreFebruary 26 New York, N.Y. | Beacon Theatre March 3 Milwaukee, Wis. | Riverside Theatre March 4 Minneapolis, Minn. | The Orpheum Theater March 17 St. Louis, Mo. | The Fabulous Fox Theatre March 18 Indianapolis, Ind. | Murat Theatre at Old National CentreMarch 19 Indianapolis, Ind. | Murat Theatre at Old National Centre March 24 Chicago, Ill. | Chicago Theatre March 25 Detroit, Mich. | Fox Theatre April 1 New Orleans, La. | Saenger Theatre