Ronnie Dunn’s Country This: Big Trucks, Big Radio and the Meaning of Country Music
Ronnie Dunn is a country music legend with nearly as many awards under his belt as road miles. Twice a month he’ll provide his thoughts on country music, the music industry, or life as he sees it in a feature called Ronnie Dunn’s Country This, exclusively on Taste of Country.
“Think these things over carefully. Followers want to follow real, valuable people who contribute to their lives. Why are YOU valuable?”
Ghandi? Sophocles? Merle Haggard or Jay Z?
I’m sounding like a broken record, but I like country music. I like the culture, the lifestyle that comes with it. The music used to be defined by a small field of criteria, but it’s broadened dramatically over the years. I like it, but I have to stay on my toes or I’ll lose sight of what it is that defines what "country music" is to me. Once that happens, the genre loses its core identity, then where do I go to hear the music that I like?
I read once that a CIA tactic for breaking a society apart is to give the culture an option to overload. Have you ever sat in front of the television with so many channel options that you gave up and walked away?
I need to stay on point here ... What constitutes "country music"? It’s more than the just the music -- that’s the "what" so, where is the "why"?
I like "country" gadgets: guns, cookouts, fishing, hunting, bonfires, fireworks, fiddles, steel guitars, string bending guitars, loud guitars, etc. -- but I like the people and the core beliefs that a lot of us seem to share the most. As a whole, we believe in God. We believe in our country -- flaws and all. We drive pickup trucks and American-made cars, drink beer, whiskey … tequila every now and then.
Camouflage is on the flag of which state?
We aren’t perfect by strict church standards. Some of us aren't perfect by loose church standards, but we believe in God. I really hope that that one holds true or, I'm in for a righteous spanking when I go to knock on the Pearly Gates. I rhymed pieces with Jesus in a song one time, then threw something about beer in really close to the "J" word. I expected flack, but the song ('Red Dirt Road') was a hit. It must not have offended too many people.
These days, I like the kick-drum boosted and even "tuned," because my kicker sound system rattles the tailgate. I like to physically feel the music. I like to feel emotion in the words. Change is going to happen, but we should have the right to exert the freedom of choice when it comes to the music that we listen to. When radio stations go big business on us and use analytical research to attempt to force crowd control over us, it’s time for big business to take a hike. People sense it. They wander off.
My wife gets mad when I buy a truck and jack it up. She says that it makes it hard for her to climb up into, but I can’t help myself -- it’s the "wannabe" badass cowboy, redneck, peckerwood in me. I only put a six inch lift on the new one, but it has those cool automatic stealth running boards that come down and light up when I open the door.
Speaking of trucks … Ford, Chevy or Dodge Ram? You can get a whuppin' by driving the wrong truck in some parts of the country.
Did you see the Super Bowl ad with Paul Harvey’s voiceover talking about the farmer? It wasn't about a farmer as much as it was about a truck. Ingenious! They proved that it's more about the 'why' than the 'what.' My good friend Jim Arndt (Santa Fe, N.M.) photographed the farmer’s hands. Touchdown!
In the end, I wanna make music, but I wanna be in the throws of a world and culture that is about the 'why,' so I started a label. It’s called LITTLE WILL-E Records ... until Willie sues me. It’s about the lofty idea of trying to make music that isn’t manufactured to feed the machine of music. Time will tell whether I pull it off or not. The machine is sure going to fight back, because all of the gatekeepers are convinced that they have it figured out. In the meantime, labels are taking anyone willing to sell a soul for fame. Google 360 record deals. Those kinds of conflicts of interest used to be against the law.
Streaming radio, the great savior, is under heavy scrutiny for royalty manipulation. Big mainstream radio stations are playing as few songs as they can because their operating expenses are so high (Google conglomerates) that they can’t afford to stay in business if they don’t sell nonstop advertisement. That means less music and more advertising. It’s all about money.
Here it is in a nutshell: Everyone and everything got too big. They borrowed massive amounts of money to buy more and more stuff, and then, they hit a wall. Game over.
Now, it’s coming down.
... you think this blog is weird, just wait!
LITTLE WILL-E Records ... "come play with us."Peace Love and Country Music,
#kissyouthere (coming soon to a radio station near you, or not…)
Ronnie Dunn was part of Brooks and Dunn for more than 20 years before embarking into a solo career in 2011. As a duo, Brooks and Dunn won more CMA and ACM Awards than any other act in country music history, including four Entertainer of the Year awards. Dunn is currently working on a new album, the follow-up to the 2011 self-titled project that featured the Grammy-nominated single ‘Cost of Livin” (buy it here). His new single is called 'Kiss You There' (buy it here). All opinions expressed here are that of Ronnie Dunn himself.