Darius Rucker"Wow, what a year!" Darius Rucker exclaimed, beaming as he accepted the CMA Award for Best New Artist.

And what a year it's been indeed. The former Hootie and the Blowfish singer has seen his debut country album, 'Learn to Live,' reach platinum sales status and score three back-to-back No. 1 singles this year, topping it off with this huge industry win.

"Thank you to my wife and three kids who sacrifice everyday," Darius continued in his acceptance speech. "Thank you, Mike Dungan [President, Capitol Records Nashville] -- everybody told you you were crazy and this wouldn't work. To the fans, thank y'all for accepting me. To country radio, you took a chance on a pop singer from Charleston, South Carolina, and God bless y'all for that!"

The Boot talked to Darius earlier in the day and asked if it feels weird to be labeled a "new artist," after being in the business for more than 16 years.

"Not at all, because I feel brand-new in country!" he told us with a smile.

Darius is only the second African-American artist to take home a CMA Award, following Charley Pride, who was named Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist back in 1971.

"I never thought about it that way -- that I was an African-American making a country record. I just thought about making a country record," Darius told reporters backstage when asked about the historical significance of his win. "But I'm proud to be that guy who's taking up where Charley left off and making country music that people want to listen to."