Country music singer-songwriter Darius Rucker is used to the grind that comes with cranking out albums and hitting the road.
He’s got three Grammy Awards, seven solo studio albums and several hits under his belt and he’s about to deliver his first new album in a handful of years, “Carolyn’s Boy.” While he’s out on his Starting Fires Tour — which hits FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine on Aug. 18, The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on Aug. 23, Gallagher Square at Petco Park in San Diego on Aug. 25 and Yaamava’ Resort & Casino in Highland on Aug. 26 — Rucker said things feel emotionally, mentally and musically different with this forthcoming album release.
“I haven’t had a record out in so long,” Rucker said during a recent phone interview. “It feels good to have new music coming out and being able to play that music for fans. Something about this era for me just feels different, it feels special. I mean it always feels special when you put out a new record, but this one is close to home.”
The album’s title, “Carolyn’s Boy,” holds deep significance for Rucker as he dedicates the project to his late mother, Carolyn, who he said “was my guiding light when it came to my music career.” Rucker plans to take fans on an emotional venture to praise the woman who played a pivotal role in his life while also honoring the feelings that came with losing her.
Set to release on Oct. 6, it’s Rucker’s first record since 2017’s “When Was the Last Time” that birthed the hits “If I Told You” and “For the First Time.” The new album is led by the single “Fires Don’t Start Themselves,” which debuted back in March, and throughout it, Rucker carefully crafted each song with the intention to connect with fans on a more personal and human level, sharing stories that brought him closer to finding peace in his life.
“There was one day I wasn’t in the best place mentally and I was pretty down, but I just remember thinking to myself that at the end of the day, I’m just my mom’s boy,” Rucker said. “That person that she was trying to raise at the end of the day is still here, and this is all for her. It just felt right to give it the name I did because, at the end of the day, that’s who you are, the person that your parents made.”
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Rucker’s music journey is lengthy, beginning in the late ’80s after co-founding Hootie & the Blowfish while attending the University of South Carolina. The band’s unique blend of rock, pop and folk launched them to success and its 1994 debut album, “Cracked Rear View,” received critical acclaim and became one of the best-selling albums of that year.
After experiencing major success with Hootie & the Blowfish, Rucker said that switching gears and going solo in a more country-leaning direction was the right move. It was an easy transition considering that growing up in the south he developed a deep-rooted love for the genre. Turns out the fans and critics agreed with his new direction as his 2008 debut, “Learn to Live,” spawned a couple of No. 1 hits on the Billboard Country charts including “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” and “It Won’t Be Like This for Long.”
“You know, at the end of the day I always knew I was going to do country, it was just a matter of when,” he reflected. “I think as artists, it’s easy to get caught up in the worry of it not working out, but here I am doing what I love.”
Part of what he loves about his job is being out on tour and getting to visit places like Southern California, where he says fans lovingly embraced his venture into country music from the start.
“I’ve been playing in Los Angeles for so long and absolutely love the venues out there and I love the Greek Theatre, it’s actually one of my favorite venues in the world to play,” Rucker said. “So for me, it always feels like home because coming to Southern California is always awesome. It’s not just the weather that is nice, but also just the people and fans I get to connect with. The people are always there for the spirit of music. Any time I have dates in Los Angeles or San Diego, it always gets me excited.”
While he plans to share a batch of new songs on this tour, he’s also making sure to bring along the classics like “Alright” and “Beers And Sunshine.” The country star said he’s also put his cover of Old Crow Medicine Show and Bob Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel” into the set. It’s a song that’s served Rucker well as he brought a new energy to the track on his 2013 record “True Believers.”
With a new tour and record, Rucker said his hope is that fans have a good time as he shares this new era of music and vulnerability with them.
“This is a new season for me, and I’m ready for fans on this tour to sing along and enjoy this new record and the hits as well,” he said. “I’m ready to bring it all to life.”
Darius Rucker: Starting Fires Tour
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18
Where: FivePoint Amphitheatre, 14800 Chinon, Irvine
Tickets: $29.75-$363 at LiveNation.com
Also: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 23 at The Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. Tickets are $28-$244 at Ticketmaster.com; 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25 at Gallagher Square at Petco Park, San Diego. Tickets are $55-$155.75 at Ticketmaster.com; 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26 at Yaamava’ Theater, 777 San Manuel Blvd., Highland. Tickets are $150-$550 for those 21-and-only at AXS.com.