Imperfect Circle

Imperfect Circle

For some bands, the 25th anniversary of a breakthrough album is a time to get reflective about legacy, but that’s not Hootie & The Blowfish’s style. For their first album together in 14 years, frontman turned country star Darius Rucker, guitarist Mark Bryan, bassist Dean Felber, and drummer Jim Sonefeld are well aware that they’ve reactivated their roots-minded alternative-era pop-rock outfit in a much-altered musical landscape. Instead of dwelling on where they fit a quarter century on from their 1994 juggernaut Cracked Rear View—that would be “overthinking” it, Sonefeld tells Apple Music—they took pleasure in simply playing to their collective strengths again on Imperfect Circle. “We never went in and said we're making a country record,” Rucker says. “We just went in making a Hootie & The Blowfish record.” They started the process the way they always have—pooling and polishing ideas as a band—before welcoming collaborators culled from their '90s pop-rock past and Rucker's hugely successful Nashville tenure and selecting Jeff Trott as the album's primary producer, partly based on his work with Sheryl Crow. The quartet narrowed a pile of 70 or 80 compositions down to the hookiest 13—songs that weave personal and social optimism through earthily tuneful hooks, Rucker's hearty and sometimes rhythmically playful performances, Bryan's jangly guitar figures, and Felber and Sonefeld's buoyant grooves. The results are a reminder of what easygoing Southern-tinged craftsmen they’ve always been. All four band members talk Apple Music through those 13 tracks. New Year's Day Sonefeld: “Jeff really helped us stick close to our ’90s rock roots there. It was a straightforward rock song with some strong melodies and sort of a celebratory feel to it. So maybe this one alludes to our roots a little bit more than some of the other stuff.” Bryan: “And it is a fun guitar song. Dean wrote those chords with open tuning that I got to play, and that was fun for me. It's a little different—different sound, different tone.” Miss California Rucker: “That's a Hootie song extraordinaire right there—the harmonies and the way it flows, and just writing a song about a girl in the past that was in and out of your life. That's one of my favorite songs I think that we've ever done.” Felber: “David Ryan Harris wrote that with us; he was in a band in Atlanta called Follow for Now when we were coming out that we all thought was a really outstanding band. I think that kind of brings a little bit more of that ’90s feel to it as well, since we have that connection with each other.” Wildfire Love ft. Lucie Silvas Rucker: “I've known Lucie for a while; I toured with the Osborne Brothers a while ago and met her through them. And Trott knew her, and texted us one day that he was putting her on the song. I just thought it was a great idea. And when I heard it, I even thought it was a better idea.” Sonefeld: “It takes us a long time to make some decisions. If you asked us, ‘What female would you like to be on your record on a particular song?’ it might take us weeks to figure that that stuff out. And Jeff just says, ‘I know who you need for that.’ And we're all like, ‘Yes, you nailed it.’” Hold On Bryan: “The minute we started playing that one, it just felt like a Hootie song. It had the same sort of uplifting vibe as, say, ‘Hold My Hand’ or some of our earlier stuff. The guitar riff is another one that's really fun to play and has a nice energy to it. It just fits right in with what we do, there's no question about it.” Turn It Up Bryan: “It ended up sounding like Carolina beach music to me in a really cool way. I guess that soul-pop thing lends itself to that. It is a little bit of an islandy feel, too. And that's one where we all dug in on the lyrics together too, the four of us.” Not Tonight Bryan: “That's another one that David Ryan Harris helped us write, and it always felt funky to me—almost like Jackson 5 or something. It just feels like a good party tune.” We Are One Sonefeld: “That was a song that came in pretty early—just the four of us sitting around with Jeff, and I think it originated from Mark. We all loved it. We just weren't sure where it would land. Would we have a full band arrangement? Would it be more campfire-y? But it really is one of those ones that's infectious and upbeat and sort of just positive in nature.” Everybody But You” Rucker: “When that song came in, I was really excited. I remember Mark playing it for me and I knew that was one of the ones that was going to be fun to sing. And it is.” Lonely on a Saturday Night Bryan: “A lot of fun to write with Eric Paslay, just a monster hook. I think the moment I heard that chorus I was like, ‘I would love to be able to sing that for years to come.’” Sonefeld: “We just had to get out of the way of something that was great out of the box. That was more about ‘Let's not screw this one up.’ It's simple and straightforward, and very catchy.” Why Felber: “It kind of has a different feel from the rest of the album. I thought we were kind of done with the album at that point, honestly, and then that one came in and it just kind of took up space that wasn't there before.” Sonefeld: “And leave it to James Slater, our buddy who we wrote that with, to be the only one who could include three questions in one chorus line.” Rollin’ Rucker: “We've been playing that live, and I say that's our Allman Brothers song, because it's such a big Southern rock song.” Half a Day Ahead Bryan: “The rhythm section is real tight on that one. We were kind of going for a little bit of an ’80s kind of synthed-up feel—Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ was one we talked about with that. You can really hear the rhythm section locked in on that one.” Change Sonefeld: “You have to be in your fifties to write a song that looks back that many years. It was fun to see Jeff Trott and the guy who was playing keyboards and some other instruments in there, Ian Fitchuk, really bring that song to another interesting place. It was just a piano and vocal song originally, but they really add some elements that make it a little haunting at times.” Bryan: “It does feel like a great song to end the album on. And if you go back to Cracked Rear View and listen, we ended that with the song ‘Goodbye.’ We definitely felt like this was that song for this album, for the 50-year-old version of Hootie. And so it definitely fits that spot very well.”

Other Versions

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada