Darius Rucker was rocking long before country music had its own night to.
Over the past six years, the Hootie and the Blowfish frontman has made a successful crossover from pop to country, a big reason he’s part of this year’s lineup for “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock.” Recorded in June during the annual fan event in Nashville, the special fills ABC’s primetime schedule Tuesday (Aug. 5), with the group Little Big Town back as hosts for the second consecutive year.
“It was a blast,” the friendly Rucker tells Zap2it of the June occasion. “It’s one of those parties that’s unbelievable, to put on a big show like that with all those big names. It’s just a lot of fun.”
For Rucker, it’s also more confirmation of his successful career change after winning Grammys on both sides of it. “It’s so egoless,” he maintains of the country-music world. “These guys ‘get’ everything, what it’s about, playing together … I love being a part of it.”
The “CMA Music Festival” telecast also includes two sets of spouses — Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw — plus Carrie Underwood (who performs with Lambert on the show), Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean, Hunter Hayes, the Band Perry, Dierks Bentley and Zac Brown Band.
Proving it truly is a “Night to Rock,” Richie Sambora and Motley Crue also are on board. “We’re all on the road so much, you don’t really get to hang out with them or see them play,” Rucker reflects of other musicians. “Here, you can sit around and watch all your buddies jam, and have a great time doing it.”
Having experienced numerous pop-music audiences during his Hootie and the Blowfish run, Rucker — who envisions another Hootie project in the future — believes any concert crowd has the same aim.
“People are there just to have a great time,” he reasons. “That’s the basic thing about all shows. They’re there to have a party, hear some great music, dance a little … that’s really the common denominator. The Music Fest is so cool because there are so many people there, and not all of them come as fans of yours. It’s an opportunity.”
Rucker tries to use it wisely in his song selection, having such country hits as “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” “It Won’t Be Like This for Long” and “Alright” to draw upon.
“It’s about ‘all killer, no filler,’ ” he muses. “You play your five or six songs and try to keep the crowd interested, because right before you is a big act, and right after you is another big act. You just try to keep them ‘up’ and ready to go.”