Darius RuckerWhen Darius Rucker decided to take a break from Hootie and the Blowfish to launch his solo country music career, he didn't look back. He didn't have to. His first country album, 'Learn to Live,' spawned three No. 1 hits right out of the gate and earned platinum sales status. Add a CMA Award win for Best New Artist and and Mr. Rucker now has very little reason to glance in his rearview mirror. In fact, the 44-year-old South Carolina native is full steam ahead on his second solo country album, due this October.

The Boot recently caught up with Darius at a tour stop in Chattanooga, Tenn. for a little lighthearted chat. We talked to the notoriously good-natured singer about everything from his upcoming duet with Brad Paisley to his ongoing obsession with golf.

The upcoming album's first single, 'Come Back Song,' is about a guy who has really messed up. Is there a true story behind that song?

No, not really. It was just a little idea that turned out to be a cool tune ... But I've been married for a long time, and I've messed up a lot. [laughs] My wife is a saint; she's a wonderful woman.

Can you say "I'm sorry?"

All the time! I'll say it before I do anything.

What's the one thing your wife loves about your career and what's the one thing she wishes would just go away?

I'm sure she loves seeing her husband being successful. I'm sure she wishes the rest of it would go away -- like traveling, having to live our lives in the media, and I'm sure she wishes groupies would go away, too! [laughs]

How about your three kids? Are you even cooler in their eyes now that you've scored a Teen Choice Award nomination?

A little cooler. I'm still not cool ... just a little cooler. [laughs] My kids are 15, 9 and 5. They were pretty excited. I'm going to take them to [the show].

What's the latest uncool thing that your kids have called you out on?

Everything I do is uncool to my nine year old right now. I went to a field day the other day, and my daughter told me to chill out. They were running around, and I was standing up. She said, 'Daddy, go sit down!' But I do cool things like I dropped her off at school in the tour bus. That was awesome. I was on my way out of town so I made sure I timed it perfectly to drop her off before I left.

Did she give you a kiss goodbye in front of her friends?

She still does that, but I used to be able to walk her right to the gate of the school. Now I have to park at the corner of the street, get out, give her a kiss on the corner, then she walks [the rest of the way] by herself. I'm not cool enough to walk her there anymore.

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In the big picture, how important is it for you to win awards in your career?

It's not a make or break for your career, but just getting nominated for those things shows that you're being recognized for what you do. Your peers or the people who vote think you did something special.

Given your incredible success in this genre, do you think your Hootie bandmates are sorry they didn't cross over to country with you?

I don't know. A couple of the guys were actually interested and would have done it; one of the guys didn't want to do it. I'm not sure if it would have been as successful if we had done it together.

So who would you like to say "I told you so" to? Did anyone try to discourage you from going country?

Oh, I'm not that guy ... My accountant, I'd just say it to her. [laughs]

Is it possible to describe the elation you feel when you're performing and you look out to see everyone singing along to every word of your songs?

I just feel like Sally Field: "They like me, they really like me!" I want to make sure those people have fun, because they paid a lot of money to get in.

You were handpicked by Brad Paisley for his H2O tour. You'll certainly be headlining your own tour soon, so who would you choose as opening acts?

I like where I am right now, opening up. But if we decide to headline again [and] if I could choose anybody? Miranda Lambert ... even though she's bigger than me. [laughs] I'd love to have Lady Antebellum as a cool double bill -- not so much one guy opening up, but just switch it off. I'm a huge fan of that band, and I think we'd be great together.

What can you tell us about the duet with Brad Paisley that will be on your upcoming album?

We just cut it the other day. It was awesome. He was part of the band. He's one of those guys that gets it. He gets what he's done, who he is ... It's a song called 'Don't Know, Don't Care.' It's funny, it's about two guys out on spring break having a good time.

You've got a tough act to follow given the incredible success of 'Learn to Live,' so do you get a little nervous about the sophomore slump curse?

Absolutely, I get nervous. But you let it go because all you can do is make the record the best that it can be. I'm going to work my butt off, I'm going to do all the radio [promotions] that we're supposed to do, but it all comes down to the record. If I made a record that people will love, then we'll be fine. If we didn't, then we messed up. I'm excited about it.

You have well-justified career confidence. How about personally ... how's your vanity meter?

I don't really have one of those ... other than being in shape. I think I'm an OK looking guy who God gave a nice voice to. That helped me out over the years. I mean, I've been bald for 20 years! [laughs]

What are you sick and tired of?

Nothing really. I'm a real laid back guy. OK, I am sick and tired of playing bad golf. I'll be out there [practicing] as soon as we're done.

What's your worst temptation?

My worst temptation knocked on the door last night, and I answered.

What was it?

Candy! I'm working out a lot, trying to get in better shape. When you see Brad and Dierks [Bentley] and all those guys, they're in great shape. They work out all the time, so I'm busting my butt to try to get in shape. But I ate a bag -- not a little bag, a big bag of candy corn yesterday. That's not cool.

How about Twitter, have you gotten addicted to it yet?

No, I don't tweet. Nobody wants to know that I'm putting on my golf shoes right now!

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