Country music star Ronnie Dunn from iconic duo Brooks & Dunn, recently dropped (July 29) 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 chasing radio success and to dish on his 11-song collection.
Dunn penned seven of the 11 tracks on “100 Proof Neon.” The well-rounded collection is filled to the brim with ’90s inspired songs, that displays his old-school country-rock sound.
With deep roots in Texas, Dunn called in fast-rising artist Parker McCollum to join him on “Road to Abilene.” The two flawlessly convey a tale about a lover that was left behind. The decorated hitmaker also collaborated with Texas native Jake Worthington on “Honky Tonk Town.” Dunn told Billboard that Worthington’s voice resembles classic country singer Lefty Frizzell. While the project includes several original cuts, like liquor-infused single “She’s Why I Drink Whiskey,” heartache ballad “Where The Neon Lies,” and “Two Steppers, Waltzes, and Shuffles,” it also has a chilling cover of Ashley Monroe’s “The Blade.”
Dunn told Bannen that he tried to snag the song “The Blade” back in the day, but Monroe beat him to the punch.
“That’s one of the songs, like “The Dance,” [and] “I Hope You Dance.” you’ll hear writers and old pros here in town talk about, ’That’s an old song. It’s been around forever, but no one’s cut it. It’s never punched through the clouds.’ I tried to get it, well, the last record before this and Ashley Monroe got it at the last minute and made it the title of her record. So, I’m not gonna take that… But that’s just one of those songs that they’re few and far between,” he added.
Before exploring outside cuts, he said he would spend every day honing in on his craft and writing music for Brooks & Dunn.
“I’m not going to [get] up to write every day or, for the most part, do that. 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,” said Dunn to the outlet. “Out of those songs that I wrote, I had seven number ones after [Brooks & Dunn] started. That 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.
Following the rapid success, Dunn began writing with country radio in mind.
“Every song [Brooks & Dunn] would pick, we had our radio boots on. It’s like, “Okay, that’s a hit on radio, that’s a hit, that’s a hit.” But we also had to go through a corporate cycle where you were only given three, maybe four [singles], if the album project of what, 12, 14 songs was really rocking,” Dunn shared. “So, we had to back up, and I had to really become unconditioned to that process to where I… And I’m not a rebel, I mean radio, it brought me here… I made a fortune. I mean, if that’s what it’s about, but it’s not, it’s not.”
With notable names and newcomers trying to achieve the ’90s country sound in their music today, Dunn revealed that he’s feeling more inspired than ever to create music for himself and his award-winning band.
“I feel lucky that it’s swinging back around to that, and it’s right back in my wheelhouse — it also motivates me to keep creating,” the vocalist told Billboard. “So, I’m digging that. We went through a phase in country music where it was pretty much boxed into one sound. Now, it’s opening up in a big way. We [Brooks & Dunn] were chasing the ’70s and ’80s thing back in the ’90s, and we integrated as much rock as we felt we could get away with,” he concluded.
“100 Proof Neon” is available to stream now.