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Kix Brooks Didn’t Let His First Time on the Radio Go to His Head

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Kix Brooks pursued a solo career in country music before teaming up with another then-solo artist, Ronnie Dunn, in the early 1990s — a move that turned out to be a fantastic one for both artists’ careers. Throughout their 20-year career, Brooks & Dunn produced more than 50 hit singles, 20 of which went to No. 1; since 1991, they’ve won more than 30 Vocal Duo awards, from both the ACM and the CMA.

But also among Brooks & Dunn’s career highlights is the first time they heard themselves on the radio. Below, Brooks recalls that moment.

It’s a little bit unfair, because when you record your album, if you’re on a major label, which most artists are, they take you around to radio stations, and most of the time, they play your record while you’re there. That’s part of the deal. I mean, that makes you feel good, but it’s not quite as exciting as just out of the blue hearing it.

For me, it was in Nashville in about 1982, and it was actually a song on an independent label that’s not even in existence now — Avion. It was a song I wrote called “Baby, When Your Heart Breaks Down,” that the Oak Ridge Boys and some other people recorded later on. I was driving in my car on Wedgewood Avenue in Nashville, and I got a big ol’ grin on my face. It made me feel like the hopes and dreams were coming true. A lot of [my dreams] fell through the cracks after that, before the big one started happening.

My first Brooks & Dunn record that I heard was “Brand New Man,” and I got to hear that one a lot. The first time all happened so fast for Ronnie and I. That was the first song that we wrote. We had so much enthusiasm and energy around that, and so many radio stations saying they were playing it, including Nashville. It made me feel good, but it wasn’t nearly as surprising to me because we had gotten a real good buzz going around town with that one.

I was just driving along by myself when I heard it. By no means did I feel like I had made it yet. I don’t know where that comes from. I don’t know if humility is the right word, but I think a lot of it comes from so much failure in the music business, that you don’t trust any success. You just go, “That’s great, that worked, and now I’ve got to work on whatever comes next.” I know that Ronnie would say the same thing.

I think that’s why both of us stayed together for 20 years and worked so hard at it: We had both experienced so much failure and hard knocks along the way that when it started happening, it was just like, “Okay, this is just a stepping stone to do something else hopefully that will work again and again and again.” You never pick any time to stop and celebrate and go, “Hey look at us.”

This story was originally written by Pat Gallagher, and revised by Angela Stefano.

NEXT: The Band Perry’s Reaction to Their First Radio Airplay? Silence … Then Screaming

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