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Brooks & Dunn ride along the red dirt road

By Jeffrey B. Remz, January 2004

Page 3...

That was on a Monday. On Wednesday, they met to write for the first time with "Brand New Man" the result. On Thursday, they wrote "My Next Broken Heart ."

"Within a couple of weeks, we had about four songs," says Brooks. That was writing together, but Dunn already had penned "Boot Scootin' Boogie" and "Neon Moon," while Brooks had "Lost Found ."

"They say you got your whole life to write the first song," says Brooks .

Despite the flurry of songs they wrote together, Dunn was not used to writing with people, according to Brooks. "Just sitting down and throwing ideas back and forth, I could tell he was not really comfortable with that process," says Brooks. "He just hadn't done it. And I had done it every day ."

DuBois liked what he heard and inked Brooks & Dunn .

"Brand New Man" was released Aug. 31, 1991 with their first 4 singles hitting the top - the title track, "My Next Broken Heart," "Neon Moon" and the 1992 hit that sent their career sky high, "Boot Scootin' Boogie," during the line dance craze .

The albums and hits kept right on coming including "Little Miss Honky Tonk," "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone," a remake of "My Maria," "How Long Gone" and a duet with Reba McEntire, "If You See Him/If You See Her ."

But they later hit a rough spot with the release of "Tightrope" in 1999. The lead single was a remake of John Waite's pop hit, "Missing You." It only reached 15 on the country charts. Only one - "You'll Always Be Loved by Me" - of four singles did well .

No doubt about it - Brooks & Dunn were worried. "Yeah sure," says Brooks. "'Missin' You' was a mistake, and Ronnie will admit that. I encouraged him to sing the song because he wanted to. He always loved that song. Finally, he said, 'I just want to do this,' and I said, 'do it. Sing it.' People at the label, producers encouraged us to put the song out, but it didn't work. It was one of those bumps in the road, one of those hiccups that was overcome ."

"It was a simple case of a song that you really liked and sang, but it didn't necessarily fit a Brooks & Dunn thing," Brooks says .

Another factor was Arista folded into RCA, meaning that the "record just got kind of swept under the rug...It was a kind of a funky time ."

But the ship got righted with 2001's "Steers & Stripes." "It was very gratifying that it came together. Everybody went into the project with so much enthusiasm. We really felt like we made some good work. If it didn't work, we would have been real disappointed ."

"Believe me, we were crossing our fingers," he says. "We weren't feeling sure of ourselves ."

Now with a second straight hit album and the lively Neon Circus & Wild West Show tours under their belts, Brooks & Dunn will go on a scaled down tour starting Feb. 12 in Reading, Pa. until late April and then again this fall, hitting smaller venues instead of sheds .

"The biggest thing is there are a lot of great markets that we get tons of fan mail and emails (saying) 'hey don't forget about us'. You realize when you're doing these big amphitheatre shows with five Brooks & Dunn show with the support acts...and get back and get back into some middle level buildings ."

Next time out, Brooks & Dunn might follow through on Brooks' threat to do a honky tonk album .

"We've been actually toying with real traditional ideas. Gary Stewart's passing has sort of inspired us. This should be an inspiring go round ."

"I don't want to commit to that because sure as I say that, we'll make something that isn't stone country traditional. I will say this - (we are) definitely starting to dig around in that trench. Definitely we do love it. Both of us have an affinity for barroom music ."

For now, of course, the focus is on "Red Dirt Road." "And people don't seem too upset about it," says Brooks, "Which is good ."

Photograph by Pamela Springstreen

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