Ronnie Dunn has embarked on a new solo career, releasing his hit single, 'Bleed Red,' and hitting the road without his former duo partner. He spent more than 20 years in the studio and on tour with Kix Brooks, and admittedly, it's just a little strange for the Oklahoma singer not to have the wild Louisiana cowboy come charging out on stage into his line of vision.

"That's just conditioned reflexes these days," Ronnie laughingly tells The Boot. "I was just telling someone on the college football network -- they asked, 'What's different about it?' [I said] 'I don't have a linebacker coming in about to blindside me in the middle of the third song.' I say that with all due respect."

Luckily, Ronnie has some of the same guys backing him up as he did when he was part of Brooks & Dunn, which creates a sense of security and familiarity on stage. "It takes that," he admits. "It would be hard to step out with a complete different group of guys and pull off comfortably what I need to do."

While he feels much more confident on stage having had his vast experience with Kix, this is not Ronnie's first foray as a solo artist. He played numerous bars and clubs for years before heading to Nashville and hooking up as a duo. The first track on his forthcoming self-titled album is 'Singer in a Cowboy Band,' which he co-wrote with Craig Wiseman. The tune describes his life and the sacrifices he's had to make to pursue his dream.

"It's autobiographical. I've played all those bars in Oklahoma and Texas," Ronnie notes. "I've torn down my amps and the sound system, drove to the gig, drove home. I got home at sunup. We didn't make any money. We weren't doing it for money. It would be great if we did. Half the time we were just trying to survive the fight at the end of the night when we saw the bar tab, and seeing who would be coming up with the money to pay for that."

Chasing the dream of being a musician and a songwriter came to Ronnie after a few years of trying to fulfill what he felt was his obligation to do the "right" thing. "My poor mother, I did everything I could to go to school in Abilene and fulfill her dream and my grandfather's, of becoming a minister or something. That wasn't for me. That wasn't what I was cut out to be; I was just trying to make them happy, and it took me years to come to terms with that and overcome that guilt. My favorite line in that song is 'Mama don't get it, preacher don't understand, why I'm a singer in a cowboy band.'"

Ronnie attended Abilene Christian University where he studied psychology, but when he began playing bass and singing with bands in the area, the university gave him a choice of either quitting the band or the university. He chose his passion, left the college and moved to Tulsa, Okla., to check out the music scene.

Recently, the hillbilly troubadour reinforced his status as a singer in a cowboy band by having the word "cowboy" inked on his forearm. "I almost had to go to a priest or an exorcist to get a tattoo, maybe I overcompensated when I did it," Ronnie laughs. "'I meant cowboy, but maybe not that big.' It worked its way into the song. It was part of it."

Ronnie is set to hit stores June 7 with his self-titled album, featuring both 'Bleed Red' and 'Singer in a Cowboy Band.'

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