By Annie Reuter
“I think with the themes and instrumentation, to me it sounds country,” Rucker tells Radio.com, during a recent chat in Nashville. “This was a fun record. I’m getting close to all those records that made me want to make country records. I’m trying to get closer and closer to them.”
When talking about Southern Style, the word “fun” comes up frequently. And after listening to lead single “Homegrown Honey,” as well as the title track, it’s clear this was the focal point of the album.
“We wanted to have a little more fun with this record,” Rucker says.
“Homegrown Honey” is just one example. Written with Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum, Rucker said the instant they finished writing the song with Nathan Chapman, he knew it was destined for radio.
“[When] we finished it, we were sitting around and I said, ‘This is my single,’” he recalls. “There was no doubt in my mind that that was my first single. This song was so much fun. It’s [about] a guy I’m not anymore, but we can sing about it anyway.”
Title track “Southern Style,” which Rucker wrote with Rivers Rutherford, continues the fun.
“It’s one of those country songs that I love,” Rucker says of the ode to a Southern woman. “It’s such a cool story about everybody. It just felt right for me with this record. The songs I was hearing, the songs I was cutting, it had a cool theme of Southern living going through it so I thought Southern Style would be a cool name for the record.”
Another highlight on Southern Style is a country drinking song song called “Good for a Good Time.” Rucker calls it “a big old barnyard country song.”
Rucker hasn’t left his ballads behind, though. One song in particular, “Need You More,” is a beautifully descriptive love song.
“There was a point with this record when we were getting it all together and I just thought, ‘Man, there are all these songs I’ve got to listen to. Let me go listen again.’ I went back in, got into my studio at my house and just got embedded in these songs again,” he recalls. “I remember listening to what we had already done and the first thing I thought, ‘Need You More is on the record. I don’t care what I pull off, what I do.’ That song. The vivid imagery with that song. I love it. When I listen back to it I’m so proud of that tune. The payoff is so worth it.”
On love songs like “Need You More” and “Perfect,” both featured on Southern Style, Rucker often looks to his wife for inspiration.
“When I’m sitting and writing with guys, even if it’s their idea, once we start writing I take it and put it in context of my life. ‘Perfect,’ that’s all about my wife. She’s so beautiful, but she’s so down to earth she doesn’t see it. I’m like, ‘You’re awesome.’ It’s so easy to put yourself in a situation you need to be in to write that song,” he reflects. “I just love writing a love song.”