When Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn exited the stage at Nashville’s Bridgestone arena on Sept. 2, 2010 during their final stop on The Last Rodeo tour, fans thought they’d seen the last of Brooks & Dunn as the duo walked away from their award winning, hit-laden career. But after resurrecting their live show for a Las Vegas residency with Reba at Caesar’s Palace in 2015, the duo have now joined forces with the today’s country hitmakers to reinvent their classic hits on Reboot.
The new collection features Luke Combs joining forces with Brooks & Dunn on the hit that launched their career, “Brand New Man,” as well as Brothers Osborne on “Hard Workin’ Man,” Midland on “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” LANCO on “Mama Don’t Get Dressed Up for Nothing,” Tyler Booth on “Lost and Found,” Brett Young on “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You,” Thomas Rhett on “My Maria” and much more.
Brooks credits their manager, Clarence Spalding, with coming up with the idea for the project. “Luke Combs had a YouTube cut of ‘Brand New Man’ and then Kacey Musgraves was doing ‘Neon Moon’ and Clarence came to Ronnie and I and said, ‘You know, there may be a project here. Would you guys be willing to let me go ask around a little bit to see if there is any interest?’ We were like, ‘Yeah sure, whatever,’” Brooks tells Sounds Like Nashville. “A couple weeks later he came back and said, ‘Man, I’ve got a great album put together if you guys are willing to do it!’ We got excited and jumped in.”
Coming nearly a decade after the duo announced they were calling it quits, Reboot is introducing a new generation to Brooks & Dunn. The duo got their start when record executive Tim DuBois introduced them in 1990 when they were both pursuing solo careers. He encouraged the reluctant singer/songwriters to join forces and signed them to Arista Nashville. Their debut single, “Brand New Man,” soared to No. 1 and launched a successful career that includes two Grammys, numerous CMA and ACM honors, 20 No. 1 songs and more than 30 million albums sold.
Dunn enjoyed working with the young artists in the studio to breathe new life into their classic hits. “Jon Pardi came in and just knocked it over the wall,” he says of Pardi’s rendition of “My Next Broken Heart.” “He did a great job.”
Brooks & Dunn recently received the news that they would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, but even before that good news, they’ve long been considered legends in the country community. Joining them in the studio was likely a bit intimidating, but the newcomers rose to the occasion. “Kane Brown came in and did ‘Believe’ and he killed it. He got on the gas,” Dunn says with a big smile. “I walked away telling my kids, ‘He just hammered it!’ He can really sing!”
Brooks agrees. “The moment that probably surprised us the most was Kane Brown doing ‘Believe,’ which we were a little surprised that he even picked that just knowing his music,” Brooks says. “When he started singing that song, Ronnie and I realized that this album could be really special. Here’s some guys doing stuff that really isn’t in their comfort zone, but they are making their comfort zone. We also realized how versatile they were at that point. We knew they were all good singers in doing their thing, but doing our thing was still a question mark. So as the album progressed we realized these artists were not only great artists, but they were versatile artists. They really made it fun for us and gave us something that we’re really proud of.”
Brooks admits a few songs might throw fans a curve ball. “‘Red Dirt Road’ musically is probably the biggest departure,” he says of their duet with Cody Johnson. “And then Kacey Musgraves does her version of ‘Neon Moon.’ You have to hear it to believe it. It’s really far out there, but it’s very much still ‘Neon Moon.’”
Brooks also had praise for Ashley McBryde’s version of “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone.” “She’s driving to the studio in her car and I’m basically singing ‘You’re Going To Miss Me’ to her and she’s singing it back, figuring her key out. I’m explaining to her in her car how modulation happens in the middle of the song in order for her to get her part in there,” Brooks explains. “By the time she walked in the door, we made a little small talk then we both walked in the booth and started recording it. Just the way stuff came together so quick and so right is really pretty amazing.”
Brooks says they were gratified to see how well their songs had endured after all these years. “After all the crazy stuff we did [in the live shows]—inflatables and confetti and balloon drops and shooting ourselves out of cannons— it’s so neat that nobody is talking about that now. They are talking about the music,” Brooks says. “That was the thing that worried us the most when we were doing all that crazy stuff. We wanted to give the fans a big show and they knew when they came to see us play, there was going to be a lot of fun and games and nonsense going on, but trying to write great songs was always our mission. Now that we are down the road a little bit, people are talking about the music and not all the crazy stuff we did. That was what we hoped would happen, but sometimes you are scratching your head when you are doing all that stuff and you wonder, ‘Are we screwing up here? Are we really getting in the way of the music?’ It’s really nice to see that it looks like it held up.”
“Songwriting is the thing that’s going to last after all else is forgotten,” says Dunn, who was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame last fall. “After we’re dead and gone and the band is forgotten, these songs are the things that we hope will live on.”
As for the future, Brooks & Dunn will be playing select concerts this year, including additional dates with Reba in Las Vegas. And they seems to be popping up nearly everywhere lately from performing with Combs on the ACM Awards to joining The Voice as Blake Shelton’s Battle Advisors.
For fans hoping to hear new music from Brooks & Dunn, Kix dashes those hopes, for now. “We’re not working on anything right now,” Brooks says. “But we’re both writing and who knows what may happen?”