Ronnie Dunn’s new solo album 100 Proof Neon is out today. He stopped by The Bobby Bones Show to talk about the new project, share some stories from his Brooks & Dunn career, and the way he writes songs.
Since high school, Dunn has been a musical kid. He recalled being a really skinny kid in his early years until about senior year of high school. He wanted to play sports, but none of the coaches thought he should so he was sent to do band. That’s where he learned to play the saxophone, though he can’t play the instrument now because he never kept up with it.
Fast forward to Dunn becoming 1/2 of the Brooks & Dunn duo. Things took off almost immediately for them, they had 4 number 1s on country radio in a row. When they were on the road, they would sometimes stop and write songs, one of those was their hit “Red Dirt Road.” But being part of the duo was difficult because the label wouldn’t allow them to do any individual projects, and they had limited free time. So that all finally came to a head when the duo decided to call it quits many years ago. They didn’t reunite as a duo until their manager called them and told them they should do the Reboot album. He gave them a loose list of people to collaborate with, and whoever they wanted, he would make the calls to all of the artists. Everyone their manager called said yes, and that’s when the duo realized people would still be excited to work with them all these years later. So the duo was reignited. Currently Brooks & Dunn are on tour together and finishing up their last dates. Dunn said he may do a solo tour with 100 Proof Neon, but added that there aren’t any rules and he would likely play some of Brooks & Dunn’s hit songs on the solo tour.
This new project was several months in the making. Dunn admitted it takes him 3 to 4 months, sometimes a year to write a song. He’ll often leave a started song in his folder, and then come back to it later. “Neon Moon” was one of those songs for Dunn that took him a long time to write. He loves seeing other songwriters be able to pop out a song in a few hours, but that’s not how he likes to work. Dunn’s wife pointed out that every song on his new project says something about neon. She had asked him to come up with some other songs that don’t have a neon reference in them, but he decided to lean into it instead. Which is why he went with a neon-inspired name for the album title, 100 Proof Neon. He believes he gravitates to all things neon subconsciously. Also on the new album are a few collaborations. One of them is with Parker McCollum on the song “Road To Abilene,” who Dunn originally thought had the whole subtle Texas stand-offish thing, but McCollum turned out to be a super nice guy to work with on the song. Whenever Dunn is looking for a collaboration, he admits he just finds someone he likes to work with. He actually got a call the other day to do a duet project, and he said yes. There hasn’t been a time he’s turned down a project recently, though he is still careful and wants to make sure he likes the song first.
Bobby Bones also learned some fun facts about Dunn. He is an interior designer for airstreams, he actually did one for Reba McEntire while they were on their Las Vegas residency. Reba isn’t his only close famous friend, Dunn spends a lot of time with NASCAR guys like Dale Earnhardt and Roger Penske. Dunn goes down to Daytona every year and he spends time on their massive yachts. He’s a big lake guy so he enjoys being on the water if it’s with the NASCAR guys in Daytona or sitting in a party cove on an Alabama lake. And Dunn left us with the fun fact that he doesn’t ever keep any cash on him, maybe $20 every now and then. And he’s also been known to over tip people whenever he’s out and about.