Carolina's very own Hootie & The Blowfish are heading back to Daniel Island for the fifth annual Homegrown Concert — a regular feature for the Hootie & The Blowfish Foundation, a private nonprofit organization that regularly donates money toward music programs at S.C. schools.
"For several years now, we've tried to help where we can with education in the state," says curly-headed guitarist Mark Bryan, speaking by phone from the band's first week back on tour up in Michigan. "We've given money to various schools and projects on a case-by-case basis, which is a good thing for sure. But I think we've been able to raise more awareness with this Homegrown Concert Series."
Fortunately, all of the members of Hootie will take part in this year's event. A frightening situation popped up earlier this summer that nearly threw all of their summertime plans off track. Lead singer Darius Rucker went to the hospital for a routine knee surgery and caught a very serious staph infection. He managed to perform a set at the CBS Early Show's live broadcast in Charleston at the Battery on Fri. July 20. But the band cancelled six weeks' worth of summer shows to prolong his rehab and allow for a full recovery.
"He's good," assures Bryan. "He's been off the antibiotics and his knee's on the rebound. No running or golfing or anything [laughs], but he's on his feet and playing rock music."
It's been over a decade since Bryan, drummer Jim "Soni" Sonefeld, lead singer-guitarist Darius Rucker, and bassist Dean Felber shot out of Columbia's tight band scene with the 16-million seller Cracked Rear View (Atlantic) and the hit singles "Hold My Hand," "Let Her Cry," and "Only Wanna Be with You." The tunes established them as a sturdy, melodic, clappable, romance-minded pop/rock band with a hint of Southern twang.
"When I was younger, I kept it simple and listened for cool hooks," says Bryan, who cites The Who's Pete Townshend and R.E.M.'s Pete Buck as two of his top influences. "As a songwriter, I played the song and tried to play what best fit the songs, as opposed to trying to get guitar chops in. It's more about what fits the song and knowing how to arrange well. Over the years, I've realized that as a strength, and that's what got me into producing and that sort of thing. I think I've worked harder on that than anything."
After the 2005 release of their fifth studio album, Looking for Lucky, Hootie toured for months. In 2006, they followed with the release of an album/DVD package titled LIVE in Charleston: The Homegrown Concert Event.
The Homegrown series has been an enormous success every year. Fans have donated enough school supplies to fill three school buses for local students. This year, a new feature called "Homegrown Roundup, Back 2 School Basics" will assist four elementary schools in the Ravenel area with services and products for children to better prepare themselves for going back to school. These include dental exams, haircuts, book bags, T-shirts, and other items.
"When you ask people to actually bring school supplies and get everybody involved in the giving, more people talk about it and really feel a part of it," Bryan says.