Ronnie Dunn, formerly of the platinum-selling country group Brooks and Dunn, comes to Norfolk Friday, Aug. 12, to do a concert at Town Point Park that's part of Hampton Roads USO Military Concert Series. The show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 general admission, $25 VIP. Admission is free to those with a military ID.
Dunn called to answer a few questions earlier this week. Here's part of the conversation.
What's it like to be a solo act?
Refreshing. Fun. New, obviously. I'm running with a 5-piece band. We just spent 3-and-a-half weeks up in the northwest, Montana, Wyoming. Played a couple of festivals in Canada. I've been having more fun than I can remember in a long time. We're making it up as we go. It's all new. It's nimble. I can make up the set as I go on stage. It's revitalized.
You're coming to Norfolk at a key moment, when the community is mourning the loss of SEALs and other U.S. servicemen killed in Afghanistan last week. Will that change the show you'll perform here?
I don't know exactly what I'll do. I feel a responsibility to say or do something. Kix and I played the Pennsylvania state fair three days after 9-11. We tried to cancel the show, felt it wasn't appropriate. We called up the promoter. Everyone said, "No, man. People are showing up. They're going to expect something." I didn't know what to do until the last minute. I felt almost embarrassed to get off the bus. I didn't think getting up and playing "Boot Scoot Boogie" was appropriate.
I went out and told people before the show, "I think the Taliban and people involved in this war, they want to stifle our society. This is how they're doing it ... If they see they are making headway with that, that's us letting them get a foot up. As hard as it is, let's stick together and fight through this."
That's all you can do. It's sad, but it's war ... It's especially sad to lose this bunch, but I think it's a sure fire sign that the job's not done over there.
Looks like your solo album has been received pretty well.
When I went to release it, sat down with new head of Sony in Nashville ... He said, "I'm not going to put emphasis on the pre-hyped first week sales. We're going to turn the policy around here. We're going to let it build from the inside out." That's my favorite way to do it ... Build it from the ground up. I feel like I'm doing door-to-door campaigning right now, just getting back to grass-roots music, which is what it's all about. Or it should be.
Where did your hit "Cost of Living" come from?
I got it three years ago. I was going to make it a Brooks & Dunn song ... The first comment was, "The economy will be turned around and it will be a wasted song." I was like, "Really? I have no way of knowing. You're obviously smarter than I am." I just tucked it away. When I got ready to do the solo record, it was one of the first songs I pounced on.
Country has been insulated from some of the wrenching changes going on in the music industry. Do you think change is coming to Nashville?
I'm reading some interesting stuff about Spotify right now and how the labels have gone and cut deals with them. It'll be interesting to see how that evolves. They're working on it. But in how it applies to country, the digital realm or issue is set up on a bell curve and that's related to demographics. For the most part, country is going to be on the backside of that bell curve, because of the specific demographic associated with the genre. But it's coming around. It's coming around faster than people predicted.
Are you and Kix Brooks still on good terms?
We're good. We were on vacation together recently ... He's in good shape. All good.
Will there be a reunion someday?
When hell freezes over. (Laughs) We're over that. You've got to be careful to never say never. But it's not on the radar for either one of us. We're real happy to leave it where it was.
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