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Ronnie Dunn Learns to Deal With Challenges of Being a Solo Artist

Ronnie Dunn
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

After spending years as half of one of country music’s biggest duos, Brooks and Dunn‘s Ronnie Dunn has taken a leap out into the genre on his own. He has already produced a critically-acclaimed solo album, as well as three hit singles from the collection of new tunes.

While things have always been somewhat smooth for the singer who once concurred the charts, touring scene and country music as a whole, he admits there have been some unexpected obstacles along the way this time around.

“The first would be the label restructuring,” Dunn tells Taste of Country. “Right off the bat we lost Joe Galante and Gary Overton came over. It takes everyone a while to get in the saddle, you know what I mean? We’re working with that right now, trying to get the singles worked out.”

Dunn may be on his third official single from his self-titled debut album, but in his heart his latest release, ‘Let the Cowboy Rock’ is the first. “‘Let the Cowboy Rock’ is the song I wanted to name the CD with,” he says. “That was the first thing I was thinking we would come out of the chute with. The power of the committee felt it was a little to close to Brooks and Dunn, and I thought well a lot of what I’m doing is going to be close to Brooks and Dunn because that’s what I am. That’s the stuff that flies when we play live. I’ve learned over the years, that’s what people gravitate towards.”

“Oddly enough,” he continues, “the last No. 1 record that Brooks and Dunn had was ‘Play Something Country.’ It’s kind of along the same vein. I wasn’t thinking that, but those are the songs that I’ve found that people react to, especially in live shows. They’re there primarily to have a good time. If you stop it with the ‘Cost of Living’ or ‘Believe’ every now and then, you can get away with it, but for the most part, this is the meat and potatoes of what we’re running with – cross of rock and country.”

Dunn co-wrote ‘Let the Cowboy Rock’ with recurring Songwriter of the Year Dallas Davidson. The writing session with the Peach Picker was the brainchild of Joe Galante, dating as far back as before the split of Brooks and Dunn.

“One day, I got the title [of the song] in my head, and I was driving through town,” recalls Dunn. “Joe sent me Dallas’ phone number. I called him and said, ‘Hey man, it’s Ronnie … I got an idea for our first song already!’ He goes, ‘Who?! What?!’ I said, ‘Here’s the title to the song – the first one we’re going to write: ‘Let the Cowboy Rock.’’ He goes, ‘Let the good times roll!’ And away we went. It happened so fast. We went back and forth, and then came back [to my barn] and wrote it here.”

Dunn is quickly learning the ropes of being considered a “new artist” in country music, and knows he still has a way to go to gain the accomplishments he once did with former music partner Kix Brooks. But Dunn is ready to fight any battles thrown his way, all while enjoying the new sense of freedom that comes with it.

“I don’t know how anyone beyond a duo – like a group – gets anything done, from the album cover to the promo shots and anything else that goes with it,” says Dunn. “That tension that Kix and I had, and it’s a certain dynamic that was a healthy thing, but it just wears you out. For us to last as long as we did was a miracle. Looking back at it, the Eagles only lasted what … six year or eight years?”

As far as his solo career, Dunn looks forward to making music on his own for years to come, but for now, will remain focused on his current project. “I want to work this [album] more [before even thinking about the second album],” he says. “I feel like ‘Let the Cowboy Rock’ is the first single, the other two (‘Bleed Red’ and ‘Cost of Living’) I just walked through the process. There are a couple of other songs on there that I would really like to see get to radio after this one. It’s breaking a mold and it’s against the grain, but maybe I can push it through.”

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