Brooks & Dunn Were ‘Primed for Failure, Not Success’ When Their Career Began
On Monday (March 18), the Country Music Hall of Fame announced that Brooks & Dunn are members of their Class of 2019, in the Modern Era inductee category. The duo, comprised of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, has ridden to the apex of country stardom since the outset of their career together, garnering 20 No. 1 hits and becoming the CMA's most-awarded duo of all time. However, according to Brooks & Dunn, being honored still never feels normal.
"It's real big, you know? I was just talking about awards we've won, which we've never been very good at," explained Brooks after Monday's ceremony. "If you've ever watched us at awards shows, [our 'thank you' speeches are] probably the shortest, goofiest, never-mention-anybody-we-should [things]."
However, he goes on to say, a lifetime achievement, like becoming a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, resonates a little differently: "Whenever you win an award, it's your whatever of the year ... and you can kind of ... move on and see what happens next year or at the next awards show," Brooks explains. "This is not like that at all ...
"When you get a pat on the back like this, you just don't know what to say," he adds. "You don't know how to digest it, because it's kind of the culmination of everything you've ever done as far as country music goes."
When the pair started out in country music, both men were nearly 40, with enough experience in the music industry to know that their chances of making it in the business were slim. "We knew what a long shot it was," notes Brooks. "We'd been kicking around for a long time, as solo artists or songwriters or whatever, so it did make any sense that we'd hook up and -- the last thing [on our minds] was that this was gonna work."
Dunn agrees: "We were primed for failure, not success."
Brooks & Dunn Through the Years
Brooks & Dunn got the news that they would be joining the Country Music Hall of Fame just two weeks before Monday's announcement. "We were in my barn, a couple weeks ago, and two sweet ladies came up," Dunn recalls. "It was storming like mad, raining like crazy, like all get out. Clarence [Spalding], our manager, was with us, and he said, 'Do you know why these ladies are here?' ... And they said, 'You're the newest inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.'
"We didn't know how to take it," he continues. "And then they sat there and stared at us for about 30 seconds. They were like, 'How does that make you feel?' Neither one of us knew."
While Brooks and Dunn began their work together knowing that the odds were stacked against them, even today, the level of recognition they have achieved together is almost unfathomable to the two musicians. "It's never made any sense to us, and this'll make as much sense as all the rest of it," Brooks relates with a laugh.
"It's really emotional, and something like this, it's a slow burn," Dunn adds. "It'll creep up on us."
Part of the reason that the duo has never really known how to react to awards is because their focus has been on creating the best possible music for so long. In fact, Brooks points out, if they had set out to win awards and garner prestigious titles, the group would probably never have gotten to where they are today, as 2019 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
"You don't ever just start playing music -- and dedicate everything you do to it -- for money. Or because we wanna get to an awards show. That's never your motivation, you know? You're driven by something totally different," he explains. "I guess I only say that because it wasn't like, 'We're gonna work 'til we get into the Hall of Fame.' That's not words you ever speak or think about, or, honestly, I don't think there's any chance you'd ever be sitting here."
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