Darius Rucker Reveals Ed Sheeran Helped Him Write a Song for an Ex He Hasn’t Seen in 40 Years (Exclusive)

Darius Rucker hasn’t seen his fifth-grade girlfriend Sara since, effectively, fifth grade. However that didn’t cease the childhood romance from inspiring a music on his new album — and it’s all because of an unlikely supply: Ed Sheeran.

The pop famous person, 32, has a writing credit score on Rucker’s new albumCarolyn’s Boy (out Friday), and the nation star tells PEOPLE on this week’s difficulty that he and Sheeran really return years, having first met when the Brit opened for Taylor Swift on tour.

“We met then, and I simply needed to jot down with him. I at all times needed to jot down with him, and eventually acquired to do it,” Rucker, 57, says. “I keep in mind writing the primary music and he requested me who my past love was, and I mentioned it was my fifth-grade girlfriend. We simply began speaking about it, and in between each music he’d ask me one thing, and we’d discuss it, after which once I thought we had been achieved he was like, ‘I’ve acquired yet another thought, man.’”

That bolt of inspiration was “Sara,” a mid-tempo rumination on the hopes of in search of friendship and luxury in a long-lost connection. Rucker says Sara is certainly the identify of his past love, and that whereas he has “no thought” whether or not she’s married now, he’d “like to see her once more.”

“Writing that music was so enjoyable as a result of Ed is such an incredible songwriter, however to jot down a music that’s actually about your fifth-grade girlfriend who you haven’t seen in 40 years, it was an expertise,” he says. “It was one thing that I by no means considered writing, and after we did, I used to be so blissful we did as a result of I beloved the music, and the music was true.”

Darius Rucker and Ed Sheeran red carpet
Ed Sheeran; Darius Rucker.

Jerritt Clark/Getty; Paul A Hebert/Shutterstock

Staying true to himself in his lyrics is one thing Rucker took significantly on Carolyn’s Boy, which marks his first solo album in six years. The report is filled with “very private songs,” he says, and can also be named after somebody close to and pricey to his coronary heart: his mom Carolyn, who died in 1992.

“She’s been gone for therefore lengthy, however I nonetheless take into consideration her day-after-day,” says Rucker. “She was my largest champion… I hope I’m making her proud.”

The singer-songwriter says the choice to call the report after Carolyn — who raised Rucker and his siblings as a single mother in South Carolina — got here after one notably robust psychological well being day within the studio. The rut Rucker discovered himself in pressured him to look inward, and, he says, “I mentioned to myself in my head, ‘Effectively, on the finish of the day, I’m simply my mama’s boy.’ And I assumed, ‘Alright, it’s time to call a report after my mother.’”

Dropping Carolyn earlier than he achieved mainstream success with Hootie & the Blowfish was robust on the star. The daddy of three remembers the 1996 Grammy Awards, the place the band took house wins for greatest new artist and greatest pop efficiency by a gaggle, as bittersweet.

“When she died, Hootie went from being one thing that I actually needed to one thing that I needed to have, to make her proud in heaven,” he says. “I keep in mind the primary Grammy night time, when it was throughout and I acquired to be alone. It harm that she didn’t get to see me have that sort of success, however I imagine she’s seeing it some other place, so it’s OK.”

Darius Rucker 's mother Carolyn when she was roughly 25
Darius Rucker’s mother Caroyln ca. 1965.

With mother watching from above, Rucker has caught to his weapons. Although he rose to fame as a rocker with Hootie (their 1994 debut Cracked Rear View stays one of many best-selling albums of all time), he broke into nation music in 2008, and has since established himself as one of many style’s largest stars.

Although he’s gained a solo Grammy and been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, it hasn’t been the best for Rucker, who says breaking into the style as a Black artist, with solely Charley Pleasure to look to for a blueprint, was tough.

“I actually didn’t assume I may get a report deal. It was like, ‘Who’s going to offer the Black rock and roll singer a rustic report deal?’” he says. “You might have a look at nation radio for 25 years and never see one Black face. Each time one thing [about my race] was mentioned, it made me extra decided to make it — and to work even more durable, simply to show folks flawed.”

Darius Rucker in 2023
Darius Rucker in 2023.

Jim Wright

Now that he’s made it, Rucker says he’s made it a precedence to be current as a pillar of assist for different younger Black artists within the style, like Chapel Hart (who’re featured on the brand new report), Kane Brown and Mickey Guyton.

“I attempt to be a mentor and a pal. All of them know they will name me, and so they do,” he says. “I had Charley to assist me out, however he was the one one that would relate to what I used to be going by. When Chapel Hart or Kane or Mickey need to name and ask a query and discuss, I’m at all times right here for them, and I might be, as a result of I get what they’re going by.”

For extra on Darius Rucker, choose up the newest difficulty of PEOPLE, on newsstands all over the place Friday.

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