Interview: For Brooks & Dunn, Country Music Hall of Fame Induction Is a Slow Burn
Brooks & Dunn are admittedly uncomfortable accepting awards, mainly due to the fact that they didn't anticipate the overwhelming amount of success they've achieved as a duo. The acclaimed collaboration of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn can add another unimaginable honor to that list, as they've been tapped as part of the 2019 class of inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
"It’s real big, you know?" Brooks says, reflecting on the moment he and Dunn learned of their Hall of Fame induction when two representatives from the CMA came to Dunn's barn to share the news, leaving both singers dumfounded.
Their impending induction — happening this fall — is a culmination of 20 No. 1 hits, a dozen platinum albums and several accolades. Since forming in 1990, the duo has become the most decorated duo in CMA Awards history, winning Vocal Duo of the Year 14 times. Yet no matter how many awards they've accepted together, the longtime duo prove that humility never goes away.
"We’ve never been very good at it. It’s never made any sense to us and this’ll make as much sense as all the rest of it," Brooks says of accepting the many awards they've received in their nearly three-decade career, beginning with their first honors for Vocal Duo of the Year and Top New Vocal Duo or Group at the 1991 ACM Awards.
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"We had gotten the first award and just had to walk in different directions after that," Dunn recalls.
Both Brooks and Dunn say they couldn't process their emotions after learning of their HoF induction, and they are still trying to put into words what the honor means to them. For Brooks, it brings to mind his lifelong passion for country music and his beginning days in Nashville as a songwriter.
"You think about how you started playing music ... your whole life kind of leads up to something like this that’ll never happen," he describes. "When you get a pat on the back like this, you just don’t know what to say. You don’t know how to digest it because it’s kind of the culmination of everything you’ve done as far as country music goes."
The induction elicits early memories for Dunn, like performing alongside his father in a country band growing up in his native Texas and singing gospel music while attending college. "My father just dreamed of becoming a country music star, and that’s what he was doing when I was born, in Abilene, Texas," he says, "And I can just imagine him standing here right now going, 'What the hell?' A lot of your perspective comes from that vantage point."
What makes Brooks & Dunn's career particularly unique is how the duo united through an outside source. Though they'd written songs together prior, it wasn't until Tim DuBois — songwriter, producer and founder of the duo's label Arista Nashville — suggested that they become a duo. They admit they didn't believe they'd find success as a twosome.
"We’d been kicking around for a long time as solo artists or songwriters or whatever. So it didn’t make any sense that we’d hook up, the last thing was that this was gonna work," Brooks notes.
"We were primed for failure, not success," Dunn adds.
But being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame — country's most prestigious acclaim — is an honor they hold in the highest regard. "You don’t ever start playing music and just dedicate everything you do to it for money or because we want to get to an awards show. That’s never your motivation, you’re driven by something totally different," Brooks explains. "It wasn’t like, 'We’re gonna work til we get into the Hall of Fame.' That’s not words you ever speak or honestly ever think about, or honestly, I don’t think there’s any chance you’d ever be sitting here."
"We get pretty slapped down and just humbled by it, just the success along the way, step by step. It was really emotional, and something like this, this is a slow burn," Dunn adds. "It’ll creep up on us."
Brooks & Dunn will officially be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October. Other new inductees include Ray Stevens and producer Jerry Bradley.
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