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“I’m more excited about music than I have ever been,” says Ronnie Dunn, two-time BMI Country Songwriter of the Year. “There are no longer any rules. It truly is the wild West.” Given his fascination with new technology and the digital frontier, it’s no surprise Dunn chose to set up his own label, steer his own course and release daring new music.
One might expect that an artist who’s earned 20 CMA Awards and 28 ACM trophies as part of a four-time Entertainer of the Year duo would be all about sticking with the status quo. But you’d be wrong if you’re talking about Ronnie Dunn, the tall lanky half of legendary duo Brooks and Dunn. The pair has dominated the country music charts almost since the day in 1990 when Arista Records head Tim DuBois brought them together. In 2010, about 20 years and 30 million records later, the pair launched its monumental Last Rodeo farewell tour and then welcomed a new era of solo careers.
Ronnie Dunn’s amazing artistry as a solo performer hardly skipped a beat producing hit songs like “Bleed Red,” “Cost Of Livin’” and “Let The Cowboy Rock,” but he also wanted to take advantage of opportunities to engage more closely with fans made possible by today’s digital marketplace.
“I’ve started my own label, Little WILL-E Records so I can control hands-on how my business is conducted,” Dunn explains. “The music business is in a crazy place these days. More than ever, every nuance of an artist career has to be micromanaged in order to become properly branded. But you can’t expect that kind of attention in an environment where fifty other artists are jammed into a conduit and sent down the same pike.”
While so many of the tools for nurturing careers have changed, one fundamental part remains the same. It must all be built upon a solid musical foundation. So naturally that’s where Dunn started.
“A few months ago, six music publishers came to my barn and took turns playing songs in round robin fashion while I was in the process of finding material for my new CD project,” Dunn remembers. “My new single, ‘Kiss You There’ was not played, but got left on a CD with 20 other songs on it. I took the CD and listened after everyone left. I thought ‘Kiss You There’ had a lot of potential. I especially liked the infectious crowd chant in the choruses which gives people the opportunity to sing along. That’s always fun during concerts. Maybe they thought it might not appeal to me because the demo had a different vibe and the verse lyrics were spoken in pseudo-rap style. But they were wrong. I liked it right off the bat. I took the creative liberty of switching around the first and second verses because I moved to Nashville from Oklahoma so, having the lyric start out with the line, ‘Sittin’ on a tractor in Oklahoma,’ resonated better for me and of course I also opted to sing the verses.”
“Kiss You There,” written by Don Schlitz and Josh Kear, soon started taking on a life of its own.
“Shortly, after Jeff Balding and I finished producing the record,” says Dunn, “I was contacted by John Marks, head of programming for The Highway on SIRIUSXM. He asked to hear the project so, we played him all of the songs. He got very excited and asked if he could have two songs to put on the radio to test. I agreed and we picked ‘Kiss You There’ and ‘Country This.’ After the first week John contacted me and said, ‘You have two hits here.'”
With encouraging test results in hand, the next big decision was to plan the launch of Little Will-E Records, orchestrate taking the new song to country radio and continue work on the new album set for release later in 2013. Dunn acted quickly. “Thanks to John Esposito, I was allowed to bring in the radio promotion team from HitShop Records which is distributed by Warner,” Dunn notes. “It’s headed by Skip Bishop who helmed the overall Sony Promotion departments and oversaw radio and promotion for Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisely, Carrie Underwood, Alan Jackson and Miranda Lambert, etc. while Joe Galante headed the label.”
“Ronnie’s undoubtedly the most recognizable voice in Country music,” shares Bishop, President of HitShop Records. “He’s raised the bar with this remarkable, cutting-edge material and production. Working together again feels like a natural evolution of our belief in his unmatched talent!”
“Kiss You There” impacts country radio July 29