While much has changed since his days on the road with partner Kix Brooks, Dunn’s distinctive vocal talent is still in top form. And according to the passionate singer-songwriter, his creative process is still the same, too.
“Just listen to the songs and get excited about them. Let the song take you where you want it to go,” Dunn tells CMT Hot 20 Countdown about choosing material for his new album. “Once you get to the point where you feel like you have the right songs and it kind of says what you want it to, just push the [record] button, and they squirt out.”
Though that part of his routine hasn’t changed much, Dunn says his way of discovering new music has.
“I’m still at that point where I’m trying to uncondition myself to listen with radio ears,” he admits. “I catch myself going there and have to pull back every now and then. I go ’Oh, that’s a hit.’ Well, what’s a hit? It gets played on radio. You know, it’s not necessarily the best song.”
With musical authenticity in mind, Dunn says there’s a sense of freedom in being an independent artist with the ability to choose the tracks that work best for him, regardless of their mainstream appeal.
“I just think it’s kind of where I’m at,” he says. “I really had to hold back. You know, as an artist, you’re always trying to push the limits. And I would catch myself on songs like ’Country This’ or ’Kiss You There’ getting feedback from people … going, ’I don’t know about that. That’s rap,’ so I had to be sensitive with that.
“I had this discussion with Reba [McEntire] down in Mexico. … She’s listening to songs and loving some stuff. It’s just fairly progressive, you know, and there’s a couple of songs on there that I always wanted to do.”
For more, tune in to CMT Hot 20 Countdown this Saturday and Sunday (April 19-20) at 11 a.m. ET/PT.