Before Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn formed Brooks & Dunn, both singers wanted to be solo artists. The two would have never even met, or formed a duo, if not for a music industry executive, who saw the potential long before either of them did.
“We were kind of tricked by Tim DuBois,” Dunn admits on Apple Music Country’s I Miss…90s Country Radio with Nick Hoffman. “I don’t know if he even knew what he was up to when he introduced us. He probably did, but he made it seem very innocent. He played a few of Kix’s songs for me, and I liked them. And then the next thing we know, he’s asking us to write a few songs together.”
“I don’t think either one of us had a lot to say,” Brooks adds “I think we were both pretty skeptical of the idea. We were both grown men, had kind of been around the Nashville block more than once. We both had kind of record deals that didn’t pan out to be much, and so when he suggested we write some songs together, we both know enough about how things go around that you got nothing to lose. So we said okay.
“And we screwed up that week and wrote what became our first two No. 1 songs,” he continues, referring to “Brand New Man” and “My Next Broken Heart.” “Next thing we know we’re like ‘This didn’t make any sense at all, just never should have worked.’ A duo; we still don’t sing harmonies very good.”
Not only was Brooks hesitant to be part of a duo, he was also reluctant to give up lead vocals to someone else.
“It’s human nature. Obviously. I wanted to sing, but Ronnie’s such a good singer,” Brooks says. “And I think it was just, you take a bruise on your ego and you go, ‘Okay, we got a band here. Are we in business or not?’ It’s not like I didn’t get a lick in here and there. And I think it gave us, as a duo, a little depth. It still does.”
Brooks & Dunn not only made a name for themselves with their music, but also with their elaborate stage shows, something that very few artists were doing at the beginning of their career.
“We talked about it recently: with all the thousands of dollars worth of confetti that we blew in the air, and stuff we blew up, and inflatable girls, and awful looking clothes, and through that period when it was just how much nonsense can we create in one roll the dice, to think now that people are talking about the music and none of that stuff,” he reflects. “Occasionally a flame shirt comment will come up, but it was a lot worse than that on that end of things and the music is what people are talking about. I think that’s the greatest compliment to both of us.”
From the moment Brooks & Dunn released their freshman Brand New Man album, they remained one of the most prominent acts in country music, with a career that spanned two decades before they decided to take some time away and work on other endeavors. No one, especially neither Brooks nor Dunn, imagined how much of an impact they would leave on country music.
“From day one, if there’s one thing you want to, years from now, look back and say, and we always said it, was that music would be timeless,” Dunn says. “The music would define it. And that’s all you can ask for, because you know you’re going to get older, you’re going to look older, you’re going to do whatever. But if that music can hang around and do its job, then you made your mark.”