Ronnie Dunn Talks the Resurgence of ’90s Country Music

by Blake Ells

It’s a good time to be Ronnie Dunn. He’s one half of the iconic ’90s duo Brooks & Dunn, and ’90s country music is having quite a moment. It’s such a moment, in fact, that the Grand Ole Opry is spending the year celebrating the very distinct sounds of the decade. Throughout the year, they’re hosting “Opry Loves the ’90s” events, and they have an exhibit featuring the decade’s most memorable artists. They even aired a special to celebrate it in July.

That’s fine with Ronnie Dunn. He has a new solo record called 100 Proof Neon. And he’s excited that his brand of country music is back in the spotlight.

“I feel lucky that it’s swinging back around to that and it’s right back in my wheelhouse – it also motivates me to keep creating,” Dunn tells Billboard. “We went through a phase in country music where it was pretty much boxed into one sound. Now it’s opening up in a big way. We [Brooks & Dunn] were chasing the ’70s and ’80s thing back in the ’90s, and we integrated as much rock as we felt like we could get away with.”

Ronnie Dunn wrote seven of the 11 tracks on the new album. One of the tracks is titled “The Road to Abilene” and features 30-year-old Texan Parker McCollum. Folks like McCollum are leading the resurgence of the sound. He’s currently on Thomas Rhett’s ‘Bring the Bar to You’ tour, and he and Conner Smith joined Rhett for a cover of “Neon Moon” at a recent stop.

Ronnie Dunn is Enjoying the ’90s Revival

“I went to college in Abilene, Texas and we used to call it the belt buckle of the Baptist belt of West Texas, which is a super conservative cowboy world,” Dunn said of the track. “I got into painting this picture of the music scene in Abilene and dodging the religious, church ethos of the school I went to – and trying to paint pictures of that eternal wind that blows, tumbleweeds and a young guy leaving town and his girlfriend to go chase that six-string dream.”

Ronnie Dunn also teams up with another up-and-comer named Jake Worthington on a track titled “Honky Tonk Down.”

He also pays homage to the new generation of stars with a version of “The Blade.” The song is one of the few that Dunn didn’t write or co-write. It previously served as the titular track on Ashley Monroe’s 2015 album.

“That’s one of those songs that just drops out of the sky,” he says. “Like ‘The Dance’ or ‘I Hope You Dance.’ Those are just magic cred songs.”

Brooks & Dunn is still touring as a duo and hits several festivals this August. Check out all of their tour dates and get ticket information at their website.

100 Proof Neon is available on Friday, July 29.