DARIUS Rucker sounds slightly embarrassed when asked if he sees himself as something of a role model.

But it’s a fair question. For a start he has moved across from having a successful career as lead singer with the rock band Hootie and the Blowfish to becoming one of the hottest singers in country music. Then as a black artist he has continued to change perceptions in the country world.

“Man, Charley Pride was was the pioneer,” he said. “I’m the guy who came after the pioneer and just tried to make some more roads. I don’t think my success has changed country music.

“But my success might make that A&R guy sitting in his office if he gets a CD and there’s a black guy on the cover, he’s not just going to throw it away now. He might just give it a listen to hear what it’s like.”

Darius, who plays Manchester’s Albert Hall tomorrow night as part of a UK tour, has had a major impact since his decision 10 years ago to move to country music. He’s had four number one albums in the country charts - his most recent release, When Was the Last Time, reached the number two slot - numerous number one singles and even won a Grammy.

Darius has a simple explanation for being accepted into the country family.

“I have a genuine love for country music,” he said. “I think one of the things that happened for me when I did early radio tours and met the people who programmed the stations and the music writers, they soon realised that I truly have a love for country music.

“This is a small thing but I think it helped me so much in America. When people come over from pop music and they go on the radio and are asked ‘who’s your favourite country singer?’ they’ll normally go ‘Willie Nelson’ or ‘Dolly Parton’.

“Don’t get me wrong I love both of them but I was asked that question and my answer was Radney Foster. A lot of people were surprised that I even knew who Radney Foster is. But he’s my idol. Every time I sing country music I’m trying to be Radney Foster and I think stuff like that made people realise I wasn’t there trying to carpet bag or to just get success. “

It wasn’t all plain sailing.

“I know people were sceptical at first,” he said. “I was in the room when people played my first country records and they were surprised.“I think they were expecting Hold My Hand (a major Hootie and the Blowfish hit) with a fiddle but they got a genuine country song.

“I was told actually told in one radio station ‘I don’t think my audience will ever accept a black country singer’. Thankfully everybody now sees how ludicrous that sounds. That thought about an audience not accepting things is definitely changing.

“Hopefully I’ve helped that a little bit. About six weeks ago (fellow country star) Kane Brown had a number one and the next week I had a number one. That was the first time in history that two black artists had back-to-back number ones in country radio.”

Now accepted as one of their own by country fans - Darius has twice been invited to play the C2C festival in the UK - he admits his initial success in a rock band has helped his compelling live shows. He regularly includes a version of Purple Rain in the set in tribute to one of his idols, Prince.

“When I get out there, even though I’m making country music I’m going to dance my butt off and make every girl in there look at me,” he said. “My goal every night I play is to make those folks say ‘I want to see that again’.”

Darius Rucker, Albert Hall, Manchester, Friday, October 26.