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DETROIT (Billboard) - Darius Rucker is about six songs into his second country album, which he plans to release later this year.
The project marks the follow-up to 2008's "Learn To Live," which spawned three chart-topping hits and netted Rucker the Country Music Association award for best new artist.
But he says the pressure this time is markedly different than what he and his Blowfish bandmates experienced in following up 1994's smash hit "Cracked Rear View." Their second album, "Fairweather Johnson," quickly disappeared and three subsequent releases fared even worse.
"Oh God, no, it doesn't feel like that at all," Rucker, who's currently on the road opening for Rascal Flatts and pushing his fourth single, "History in the Making," says with a laugh. "That was a different animal. Now I feel like I'm making a record to solidify my career in country music. The pressure is finding songs; I've got a relationship with country radio, so I think if I deliver great songs, they'll play 'em."
Rucker says he's writing with many of the same collaborators he worked with on "Learn To Live," including producer Frank Wilson, and that even more folks are coming out of the woodwork this time around.
"Everybody's pitching songs and calling me to write," Rucker notes, "and Frank says he's never had a record that more people want to get on than this one. I'm writing with as many people as I can, and if I hear something amazing, we'll cut it."
Rucker plans to stay on the road for much of 2010, but he says Hootie & the Blowfish are not a dead concern. The group has some annual charity shows lined up for March and April -- including the March 19 Party Animal fundraiser for the Animal Mission of Columbia, S.C. -- and Rucker says that "sometime down the road there'll be another Hootie record and tour. I don't know if it'll be soon, but it'll happen. I'm sure (the other members) want to be out playing, but I think they understand my situation and I think they're pretty happy and proud of me."