Darius Rucker may have a flourishing country career in front of him and a catalog of Hootie and the Blowfish hits behind him, but he’s also been part of the less fortunate crowd.

“We went through a lot of years when there wasn’t a lot of food, there wasn’t a lot of eating, and we did what we could do,” the two-time Grammy winner, 43, tells me. “We were fortunate to have friends at the restaurants that were always there to hook us up if we got really bad. It never really got bad, but there were a lot of lean times in my life.”

How does having money change things?

“Money can’t make you happy, but it makes being miserable a whole lot easier,” the Alright singer says with a laugh. “If you’re smart and you’re cool and you like who you are before you have money, money changes the things it’s supposed to change. You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to eat next week, you don’t have to worry about your kids going to college, you don’t have to worry about that stuff. I didn’t feel any different when I had money, I don’t think I was a different person. It just changed the things I could do for the others and the way I lived. It didn’t change anything else about me.”

In these hard times, the father of three shares this advice for the downtrodden.

“Just keep your head up, and work hard. That’s the way to get out of hard times – just working hard to get out of them. It’s easy to get down on yourself. You’ve gotta keep your head up, and work hard.”

And, remember the best things in life are free.

In fact, he and his wife Beth, who married in 2000, rely on each other through good times and bad.

“I really believe in keeping each other laughing,” he tells me of their secret to a happy marriage. “Everything else comes and goes. Everything comes and goes in waves, but if you can make each other laugh you can stay together because you’ll always be laughing.”

Despite the accolades, Darius stays frugal and sets a good example for his three kids.

“I buy a car every couple years, and my wife always yells at me. She says ‘what do you need a new car for?’ That’s my biggest splurge.”

How many?

“I always trade them in,” he says. “I don’t need twelve cars. I just need one car at a time. I traded in my Hummer. Who needs a Hummer? That’s my biggest purchase. I just went and saw the Hummer on the lot and said ‘man, I really want that car.’ I got it, and after a couple years, I realized it was killing me on gas. It cost $130 to fill up, and it can only go for three or four days. That’s not cool. [laughs] It was time to get rid of that.”

Instead of the car dealership, you may find Darius in the freezer section of his local Charleston, S.C., grocery store.

“I’m a simple guy. The one thing I have to have is popsicles.” What flavor? “Whatever you’ve got. I like popsicles.”

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