Kix Brooks Takes Control on New to This Town

Kix Brooks Takes Control
on New to This Town

Kix Brooks  

Photo credit: Robert Ascroft

By Deborah Evans Price

© 2012 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

Few people on Music Row, if any, possess a more diverse résumé than Kix Brooks.
He can be heard weekly as host of the syndicated radio show “American Country
Countdown with Kix Brooks.” He co-owns Arrington Vineyards, an award-winning
winery just south of Nashville in pastoral Arrington, Tenn. He answers fan questions
in a column for Country Weekly. He has launched an acting career and
started a film company, Team Two Entertainment, in partnership with his son, Eric,
director/producer Dustin Rikert and actor/producer William Shockley.

of course, there’s his music career, which these days finds the Louisiana-born
entertainer embarking on a new path. After 20 years as one-half of the multi-award-winning,
multi-Platinum duo Brooks & Dunn, he amicably parted with partner Ronnie Dunn
in 2010. Dunn released his self-titled project last year, and on Sept. 11 Brooks
issued his own 12-song collection, New to This Town.

Kix Brooks  

Photo credit: Robert Ascroft

Brooks actually
came to Nashville as a solo artist. He had released a single on Capitol Records,
“Sacred Ground,” which peaked at No. 87 in 1989, and was establishing himself
as a songwriter when he switched gears and paired with Dunn in 1990. Now, in striking
out again on his own, he began by gathering material. Eventually, he wound up
with 12 songs, nine of them with his credit as co-writer.

“I had a couple
of songs that, being from Louisiana, were pretty rocky and swampy that I wrote
early on,” he said. “I just felt they were me and how I was feeling right
now. Then I started looking for songs that would complement that stuff and kept
trying to write things in that vein. They seemed to have a continuity to them,
so I tried to build an album around that that made some sense.”

musicians was next. “I cut with the same guys I’ve been working with for a
lot of years. I’ve known (bassist) Michael Rhodes for over 30 years; we even
played with rival bands down in Louisiana. I’m sure with a lot of new artists,
especially if you have studio players, trying to explain to them what you are
about and where you come from can be difficult. But I’ve made so much music
with these guys, so it was fun to bring some new songs in and they lit up and hit it real hard.”

Brooks produced the entire album except for the title track, which he wrote
with Marv Green and Terry McBride. “Jay DeMarcus (of Rascal Flatts) and I are
doing a soundtrack for a Christmas movie,” he explained. “We got done a little
early. The players were sounding good and the studio was rockin’, so I asked
Jay if I could do ‘New to This Town.’ We produced that song together, since
we were already working. It came out really good and turned out to be the first single.”

The Eagles’ Joe Walsh added his legendary guitar skills to the track. “That
kind of happened by accident,” Brooks said. “Lonnie Napier (Associate Producer,
‘American Country Countdown’) suggested adding ‘some Joe Walsh-sounding
guitar,’ so I took a chance. I had met Joe when I was doing those stadium tours
with Kenny Chesney. I took the liberty of calling Joe’s manager, Irving Azoff
(Chairman/CEO, Front Line Management Group), and asking him if it would be inappropriate
to get in touch with Joe about playing on it. He really liked the song and he
said, ‘Heck, send it to him.’ And I did.

“Joe was in rehearsals with
Paul McCartney at the Grammy Awards at the time,” Brooks continued. “He listened
to the track when they were on break, called me up and said he wanted to play
on it. He went home that evening, put those great slide tracks down and emailed
them to me. I just dropped them in and we were done.”

“New to This
Town” peaked at No. 31. “Obviously, I would have wanted it to go multi-week
No. 1,” noted Brooks’ longtime manager, Clarence Spalding, President, Spalding
Entertainment. “That didn’t happen, but some people who hadn’t really had
the opportunity to hear Kix sing alone came back and said, ‘We love that song!’
That’s the ‘new artist’ way of doing things. We’re going to get the consumer
to taste this a little bit, and if they like it, we’re going to feed them some more.”

Written by Brooks, Rhett Akins and Dallas Davidson, “Bring It On Home” is
the album’s second single. “I’d come up with that chorus the morning they
got there,” Brooks said. “Dallas had a title, ‘Speed of Life,’ that we
tried to stick onto it, but it was like we were forcing it. So we finished the
song, and after they went home I got to banging around on it and came up with
that idea of ‘Bring It On Home.’ I called them up and said, ‘Hey, what do
you think about going a little more simple?’ They both liked that idea, because
that’s really what the song is about. We actually wrote ‘Speed of Life’
the way it needed to be written, so we got two songs out of that one.”

first singles invite listeners to open their ears and hear what Brooks has to
offer on his own. “It’s hard for any singer in this format to stand up beside
Ronnie Dunn every night and sing,” Spalding said. “Ronnie will go down in
history as one of the greatest singers of all time. Kix got to sing a few songs
on each album, but Ronnie’s was the voice that sang more. I think that allowed
Kix to sit back, so when it came time for him to make his record, he had a good
idea of exactly what he wanted to do. That’s what you hear. You don’t hear
a Brooks & Dunn record; you hear a Kix Brooks record. It’s a lot easier
being a solo act when it comes to making decisions. You don’t always have to
ask, ‘What does Ronnie think?’ It’s ‘I think this’ and you move on with
the decision. I couldn’t be prouder of him and all the music on there.”

Spalding also admires Brooks for the range of his interests and energy in pursuing
them. “He does the radio show,” he said. “He has his acting career. Everything
he does that goes along with his music career makes Kix Brooks who he is.”

“I like to think I can wear different hats,” said Brooks, whose acting chops
will be on display with his lead role in “To Kill a Memory,” which will show
at the Austin Film Festival on Oct. 23. The title takes its name from a song Brooks wrote with Randy Houser.

Not the least of his interests is the Country Music Association. A respected
and productive CMA Board member, Brooks plans to continue to support his passion
for Country Music through the organization and is proud of what it has accomplished throughout his involvement.

“I love our business,” he said. “So, to be on the Board and get to hang
out every couple of days with the leaders of our business, to hear what everybody
is up to and where our business is going and the things that we’re doing, is
really fun for me. I enjoy that part of it, but I’m also really proud of the
things that we’ve accomplished, like the CMA Music Festival in particular. We’re
making a serious effort at helping kids get into music in public schools that
otherwise wouldn’t be able to give them an opportunity. This year, we crossed
the $6 million mark in contributing to (the CMA music education program) Keep
the Music Playing and helping kids who need instruments in school and to teach
them how to play music. We also helped victims of the flood two years ago in Nashville.

“It makes me feel good to see something that we worked real hard on go from
the racetrack (at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, former home of CMA Music Festival/Fan
Fair) to LP Field and be an event that the whole city of Nashville and fans of
Country Music everywhere can be proud of. It accomplishes something that’s really meaningful.”

Whether singing for wine lovers during a night of music at Arrington, writing
music to accompany a movie project or answering fans’ questions in Country
, Brooks approaches each endeavor enthusiastically. “What brings
me the most satisfaction is what I’m working on at the time,” he said. “Dale
Earnhardt told me something when he had a lot of different projects going. I asked
him if he was interested in quitting driving and just getting into some of these
other things he was into. He looked me in the eye and said, ‘Don’t ever forget
the No. 3 car,’ which was his way of saying ‘Racing is what allowed all this
to happen for me.’ You can’t take your eye off the ball. Music is my heart
and soul and that will always be. As long as people want me to play music, I’ll be doing that.”

On the Web:

On Twitter: @KixBrooks

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