From his kind-hearted laugh to his rugged charm, a conversation with Ronnie Dunn was every bit as warm and genuine as I imagined it would be. He’s one half of country music’s most-awarded duo Brooks & Dunn (together they’ve earned 28 ACM Awards, 19 CMA Awards, and two Grammy Awards), but the recent inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame is a true artist in his own right. RE-DUNN is his first solo album since Tattooed Heart in 2016. It’s something unexpected that, as he puts it, is his ”Dunn for fun” album.
A healthy, balanced mix of country and classic rock, RE-DUNN features 24 hit songs that have shaped Dunn’s life and career. The first singles released are his renditions of “Amarillo By Morning” and “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress).” Leading up to the album’s launch in January 2020, he’ll drop two new songs every four weeks.
The inspiration behind the album is a story in itself. “A record executive asked me if I was interested in picking three classic rock songs to cover—songs that a Brooks & Dunn fan would listen to. I thought that sounded fun because I pop from country to classic rock in my playlist,” Dunn explains. “I grabbed three songs and called the players that I thought would meld with the music…and by the time I got to three we were moving on to five, and then it morphed into 24 songs. I lost control. The record guy just threw his hands up and left the room,” he tells me with a chuckle.
Fans will be treated to tunes from all over the musical map. “We recorded “Against the Wind” by Bob Seger, Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton—the song “How Long” by Ace. From choosing the songs to recording them, it was a completely unorthodox experience,” Dunn admits. “When you have the business monkey off your back you’re turned loose to just create and do things for the love of music. It’s a dangerous thing to be turned loose and ungoverned with.”
Nashville’s finest rockers are sprinkled throughout the album. “It surprised us when some of these guys sat down to do the guitar parts. These cats are hip,” Dunn says. “Brent Mason is probably one of the most famous country session guitar players in the world, but when he sat down to do “How Long,” he stopped the room. Everybody in the room just froze. There were moments like that throughout the entire project.”
Ronnie humbly admits that the biggest challenge was covering iconic rock songs like Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” As he puts it, “I had to tell myself every now and then to sing it like Ronnie Dunn would sing it—don’t try to chase Tom Petty because you don’t have a chance.”
I asked what he does when he’s not recording or performing. Dunn finds time to be a dedicated photographer with an eye for western imagery. He started shooting sunsets in Santa Fe, New Mexico and went on to discover the beauty of rodeos in Miles City, Montana. What started out as a hobby quickly turned into his own photography endeavor called the Lensmen Project. He describes one of his favorite shots—a muddied female rodeo star.
“I was shooting her ride and about two minutes later I walked behind the rodeo arena,” Dunn recalls. “She was getting ready to wash the mud off her face and I said you’ve got to let me shoot your face before you do that please! She was a great sport.”
See Ronnie Dunn’s tour dates at ronniedunn.com.