Darius Rucker's new album recalls his late mother, but there's at least one song on Carolyn's Boy that refers to his ex-wife. He almost didn't record it.

"Never Been Over" is an acoustic ballad that looks back on true love before heartbreak:

"We've never been splitting up friends, splitting up records / Putting up walls, burning our letters / Grass is greener because there's something better / Waiting down the line," he sings to begin the chorus. "We've been a lot of things, but we've never been over." 

Talking to Taste of Country Nights, Rucker — who announced he and his wife Beth were splitting up in July 2020 — stops short of calling this song a favorite, but admits it's one he'll need to perform life this fall and next spring on the European portion of his Starting Fires Tour.

This sobering part of the conversation didn't last long, however. Soon the country hitmaker and famous Hootie & the Blowfish frontman let loose a few long laughs and told stories about the best '90s rock parties, his childhood and moving his kids into college.

The full Taste of Country Nights, On Demand interview is available here or on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Below is a portion of the conversation between Rucker and host Evan Paul. Carolyn's Boy drops on Oct. 6.

Taste of Country: Which song on Carolyn's Boy would your mom have loved most? 

Darius Rucker: "Ol Church Hymn" is the song she would have been most in love with. I did that song with Chapel Hart. It was funny, because I had never heard of them and I'm just going through Twitter and I see these three Black chicks singing country music, so I turn it up and they blew my mind.

We had just finished "Old Church Hymn" and we didn't know what we were going to do with the backgrounds, and I texted them ... and there were like, "Who's this? This isn't Darius Rucker" (laughs).

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Is there one on the album that is so personal that almost didn't make it? 

A song called "Never Been Over" that I wrote with John Osborne and Lee Miller.

Is that the first time you've ever talked about that (the divorce)?

Yeah, that was the first time I wrote a song about it and it was really — yeah, that was a tough song to write. It's a tough song to sing. I love it.

So, when you put out a song like that do you send it to your ex first? 

No, you just put it out (laughs). You just put it out and wait for the phone call (laughs).

"Everybody was your parent. If I went around to Ms. Simmons' house and I acted a fool, she whipped my butt — nowadays you go home and your mom wants to go down and fight. Not then. If she whipped my butt, when I got home, I got my butt whipped again (laughs)."

Let's go back to the '90s. Do any of your rock contemporaries call you up after seeing the success you had in country music?

I've had some people — I'm not gonna say any names — but I've had some people ask me about it and I've actually told them if it's not real, don't do it, because it's not gonna work. I remember an interview with Steven Tyler — who's a friend — when he came over to Nashville for a bit and they asked them why and he said, "Well, I saw Darius' success."

But I'm a Southern boy who's loved country music since I was a kid. This wasn't a joke to me, so it worked. But I tell anybody who asks that it's probably not going to work. They don't play over here.

I thought John Popper (Blues Traveler) could have made it, just with his sound. 

I love Popper, yeah. With his sound and the harmonica I think he could have had a shot. I love that guy.

Which '90s bands did you have too much fun with back in the day?

Oh, Toad the Wet Sprocket. We had way too much fun. I could tell some stories about that. Barenaked Ladies we had a lot of fun with. We had a lot of fun with Sister Hazel.

I love all these bands. 

But back in the day, it was Edwin McCain who ... we've had way too much fun with. So much fun he had to stop having fun. (laughs).

Obviously the new album was named after your late mother. Do you miss her different in 2023 than you did a year after she died (of a heart attack in 1992)?

Oh, yeah. I still miss her a lot. I still think about her all the time, but back in the '90s, missing her was pain and "I can't believe my mom's gone." Now it's more, I miss her and I'm hoping I become the man she wanted me to be. It's a little different, a little more mature now.

What mannerisms did you pick up from her?

When people say I'm a nice guy, that comes straight from my mom. She told me so many times it's so much easier to be nice than to be an a-hole. She told me that a million times, and I live by that.

And my charitable work, straight from my mom. Those are things she taught me as a kid and I still try to do today.

Did you have a good childhood?

I did. We didn't have much. We were poor, and there were times when we didn't eat, but it's like ... I never even thought about that until I grew up.

I'd do my childhood again right now. It was beautiful. We had a neighborhood that was a village. Everybody was your parent — if I went around to Ms. Simmons' house and I acted a fool, she whipped my butt — nowadays you go home and your mom wants to go down and fight. Not then. If she whipped my butt, when I got home, I got my butt whipped again (laughs).

The Top 40 Country Songs of 2023, Ranked

The best country songs of 2023 fit snug over your life and experiences. Each is written from personal experiences, but somehow, that translates as if it were custom to each of us. We've loved, we've longed, we've lost and we've cut loose in the country.

Airplay charts, sales data and streaming numbers helped make this list of country music's Top 40 songs of 2023, but staff and Taste of Country reader opinion were most influential. Songs included on previous Top Country Songs lists were not eligible. A song may have been released in 2022, but it had to have the majority of recorded airplay or impact this year to count.

Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes

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