It’s been about 7 years now since one of country music’s most iconic duos, Brooks & Dunn split. Even after 20 years together making music and touring the country, Ronnie Dunn knew his journey wasn’t over quite yet. Since then he’s released solo albums in 2011, 2014, and most recently in 2016 called Tattooed Heart.
I got the chance to talk with Dunn about his most recent single, “I Worship The Woman You Walked On” off Tattooed Heart, the evolution of country music over the years, and advice for the younger aspiring artists and writers.
“I Worship The Woman You Walked On” is a powerful song with words of hope, to the broken hearted that one day someone will take care of their heart and love them right. The song went through a few changes in the early stages to get to where it stands today. After hearing the song originally, Dunn decided in his opinion it’d be best to get straight to the chorus with this one. “As you well know, the subject matter of the verses are pretty harsh, relating to actual physical spousal abuse. I was afraid if I were to take it as is, no element of the song would see the light of day,” Dunn explains. He wanted to get straight to the chorus and still deliver the same message just without the literal harshness of the verse content. Dunn ultimately rewrote the verses to focus on the chorus and ran with it which made the piece what it is today.
A few different things come into play when artists choose their singles. For Dunn in this case, he decided to go the more traditional route straying away from the contemporary country sound. “I just thought it was a great song. I did like how it had a tinge more of a traditional vibe. I kind of miss that.” Dunn went on to say, “After your Whiskey Riff article came out and received such a strong response along with a few other factors, I decided to stop trying to chase the mainstream, commercial, what’s hot at the time stuff and come up with a song that represents what brought us to the dance in the first place.“
As some may or may not have seen, a few months back I wrote about “I Worship The Woman You Walked On” simply because I thought the lyrics were beautiful and the chorus “a smash” as Dunn would say. At the time, I wasn’t sure the kind of response it would receive from our younger readers, but regardless I was interested to see. Little did I expect, the post took off among our young readers, receiving nearly 150k shares. With that, I was curious to see if Dunn had ever expected my generation to pick up on a song like this. “Well, no not really. I mean in my mind I guess I’m still 28. Music really does keep you young. But no, I thought it was a great song with an important lesson to learn. You don’t break the heart of a woman who loves you.”
When asked about the changes and ‘definition’ of country music over time, Dunn makes the point that yes, it’s changing but that’s really just the younger generation growing up. “It’s the sign of the fact that this certain generation is growing up…just like we did. I mean we listened to rock, we listened to Skynyrd, we listened to Eagles, all that as well as Merle Haggard and George Jones.” He goes on to note that this is nothing new. “Music and art never stop being that way (changing). You know, I was at a museum in France a few months back and there’s something Picasso said to the effect of ‘Art always has to make way for the young and the next wave of artists to come along.’ That’s Picasso back in the day. Change is nothing new and it’s something it will continue to do. But at times it’ll circle back too. I think as long as we come back to what we can define generally as country (yes, that’s hard and complicated), then we’ll be okay.”
Dunn’s final response offers a piece of advice for the young aspiring country music artists and writers out there. “Be aware and respectful of our history of where we come from in terms of country music alone.Even though we all listen to different kinds of music, we are being marketed as country music artists and that’s for a reason. It’s coming out of Nashville, there are a certain sensibility and certain thing that you find in the lyrics that centers us and give us a defined genre.”