The Southern Style singer talks about aging, fatherhood and his long career

By Steve Helling
Updated March 31, 2015 02:20 PM
Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

Darius Rucker remembers where he was the last time he felt really old. It’s the same place he usually feels like a rock star – onstage.

“I was performing in Houston, playing a show,” Rucker tells PEOPLE. “There were these two girls in the front row, probably 15, 16 years old. And they were singing along with every word. And I’m thinking, ‘Wow! They know every song!’ I’m doing deep album tracks and they keep singing along.”

“It’s all going really well, so I decided to play a Hootie and the Blowfish song,” he continues. “So I sang ‘Let Her Cry,’ which of course was one of our biggest hits.”

“The two of them just froze,” he laughs. “They stared at each other, with a confused look on their face. Then they sat down quietly. And that’s when I realized how old I really am.”

Rucker, 48, is a suburban dad of three living in Charleston, South Carolina – and he’s fine with aging. “I love to do a bunch of stuff with my family – sitting around playing a game, doing karaoke, that type of stuff,” he says.

“I love everything about fatherhood: school plays and basketball games, visiting my daughter in college,” he says. “I learn something new every day hanging out with them. For me, I truly believe that’s why I’m here, to be father to those three kids, to take care of them, get them educated. That’s the stuff that I’m supposed to do.”

Rucker, 48, was in his 20s when Hootie and the Blowfish took the mid-’90s by storm. Their album Cracked Rear View sold a staggering 16 million copies and spawned four top 20 singles.

Now fully ensconced in a successful country career, Rucker has released his newest album, Southern Style.

“I wanted to have fun with this record,” he says. “I wanted to show the big ol’ honky-tonk side of me. It’s not as serious as [2013’s] True Believers.”

Rucker’s country success has earned him a legion of new fans, but there are some people – mostly in their 30s and 40s – who insist on calling him by the band’s moniker.

“It really doesn’t bother me when someone calls me ‘Hootie,’ ” he says. “It happens occasionally, always from somebody who thinks they’re being really funny. Guess what? They’re not! But, honestly, I’m just glad they remember me.”