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Country music star Ronnie Dunn from the iconic duo Brooks & Dunnrecently (July 29) dropped his fifth solo album, “100 Proof Neon.” Ahead of the launch, the platinum-selling performer caught up with “Today’s Country Radio” host Kelleigh Bannen to discuss what it’s like to chase radio success and dish out her 11-song collection.
Dunn wrote seven of the 11 tracks on “100 Proof Neon.” The well-rounded collection is filled to the brim with 90s-inspired songs that showcase his old-school country rock sound.
With deep roots in Texas, Dunn is called a fast-growing artist Parker McCollum to join him on the “Road to Abilene.” The two flawlessly convey a tale of a lover left behind. The decorated hitmaker also collaborated with the Texas native Jake Worthington on “Honky Tonk Town.” Dunn told Billboard that Worthington’s voice is reminiscent of a classic country singer Left Frizzell. While the project includes several original cuts, like the liquor-infused single “She’s Why I Drink Whiskey,” heartbreak ballad “Where The Neon Lies” and “Two Steppers, Waltzes and Shuffles,” it also features a rocking cover of Ashley Monroe’s “Klingen.”
Dunn told Bannen that he tried to get hold of the song “The Blade” then, but Monroe beat him to the punch.
“It’s one of those songs, like ‘The Dance,’ [and] “I hope you dance.” you’ll hear writers and old pros here in town talk about, ‘It’s an old song. It’s been around forever, but no one has cut it. It’s never beaten through the clouds.’ I tried to get it, well, the last record before this one, and Ashley Monroe got it at the last minute and made it the title of her record. So I won’t take that… But it’s just one of those songs that are few and far between,” he added.
Before exploring outside carvings, he said he would spend every day honing his craft and writing music for Brooks & Dunn.
“I do not want to [get] up to write every day or mostly do it. I tried it once and it was very productive. I was getting ready to come to Nashville and I sat down at a table every day and wrote for 11 days straight,” Dunn told the outlet. “Out of the songs I wrote, I got seven number ones later [Brooks & Dunn] started. It was all the first Brooks & Dunn stuff. “Neon Moon”, “Boot Scoot[in’ Boogie]”,” “Hard Workin’ Man”, “She Used to Be Mine.” Things like that,” he added.
After that quick success, Dunn began writing with country radio in mind.
“Every song [Brooks & Dunn] wanted to choose, we had our radio boots on. It’s like, “Okay, it’s a hit on the radio, it’s a hit, it’s a hit.” But we also had to go through a business cycle where you only got three, maybe four [singles], if the album project with what, 12, 14 songs was really rocking,” Dunn shared. “So we had to back up and I really had to become unconcerned about the process where I… And I’m not a rebel, I mean radio, it brought me here… I earned a fortune. I mean, if that’s what it’s about, but it’s not, then it’s not.”
With notable names and newcomers trying to achieve the ’90s country sound in their music today, Dunn revealed that he feels more inspired than ever to create music for himself and his award-winning band.
“I feel lucky that it’s swinging back to that and it’s right back in my wheelhouse — it also motivates me to keep creating,” the vocalist told Billboard . “So I dig it. We went through a phase in country music where it was pretty much wrapped up in one sound. Now it’s opening up in a big way. We [Brooks & Dunn] chased the ’70s and ’80s stuff back into the ’90s and we incorporated as much rock as we felt we could get away with,” he concluded.
“100 Proof Neon” is available to stream now.