Remember Why Brooks & Dunn Nearly Broke Up a Decade Earlier?
Brooks & Dunn stunned fans and the country music business when they announced they were breaking up in August of 2009, but in reality, it had been coming for more than a decade. In fact, the pair never really wanted to be a duo at all.
Both men had previously pursued solo careers, but had failed to achieve mainstream success prior to joining forces. In an interview with Larry King, Kix Brooks admitted that he and Ronnie Dunn were both very reluctant when a record company executive pitched the idea of becoming a duo to them.
"A record company guy convinced us that we should be a duo," he said. "And we ... on a Tuesday over an enchilada was the day I met [Dunn], and and we're like, 'We don't wanna do this. We don't know each other. I mean, this is just silly.'"
The men ultimately became very close friends, and they insist that rumors about their disagreements are exaggerated. But they acknowledge that they often wanted very different things musically, and the creative tension between Brooks & Dunn intensified to the point that in the late 1990s, they recorded songs for their Tight Rope album in different studios and with different producers.
The album was by far the least successful of their career, and they were on the verge of walking away when the head of their record label brought them a song titled "Ain't Nothing 'bout You." They decided to record it, and it became the most successful single of their career when it was released as the lead single from their next album, Steers & Stripes, in 2001.
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They continued on, and so did their disagreements about song choices.
"Looking back, we should have just taken a break and let all the dust settle under us," Dunn told USA Today in 2009, with Brooks admitting, "There have always been hurt feelings. There have always been opinions."
The end finally came over more conflict about songs.
"Both of us are going — Ronnie for sure — like, 'I wanna make a record without having to look over my shoulder,'" Brooks told King. "I go, 'I totally get it. Go do it, man.'"
"We both knew this was probably it," Brooks told USA Today. "He called back the next day and said, 'I don’t want to do this anymore.' And I was in agreement. I really was. I was willing that day to try and work it out, but when he said, 'This is it, I really think it is,' I said, 'I think it is, too' … I was and still am totally at peace with it. It’s a good time for us to stop."
Both went on to significant success after their split. Brooks released a solo album, New to This Town, in 2012, and Dunn released a self-titled solo album in 2011, followed by Peace, Love and Country Music in 2014. Dunn has placed two Top 20 solo singles, "Bleed Red" and "Cost of Livin’," while Brooks hosts a hugely popular national radio show and has worked extensively in film.
The duo reunited in 2015 for a Las Vegas residency with Reba McEntire called Reba, Brooks & Dunn: Together in Vegas, which has been so successful that it has been extended through 2019, and Brooks appeared on "Damn Drunk," a single from Dunn's most recent album, 2016's Tattooed Heart. Brooks even told Taste of Country in March of 2018 that the trio might eventually take the show on the road to other cities, and with the upcoming release of the duo's Reboot album, which finds them revisiting their past hits in new collaborations with a cast of country all-stars, it looks like maybe Brooks & Dunn aren't so broken up, after all.
That's just one of the stories Taste of Country has chronicled in the new video series The Secret History of Country Music. Each Monday, Taste of Country News host Ania Hammar takes fans deeper inside the stories of country music's biggest hits, moments and figures.
Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood and Kid Rock are among the artists already featured, and episodes about Deana Carter, Miranda Lambert and more are still to come. Be sure to subscribe to Taste of Country's YouTube channel so you never miss a new episode.
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