When asked why it's taken as long as it has for Kix Brooks--formerly one-half of the mega-successful country duo Brooks & Dunn--to put out a solo record, Brooks explains it simply: "I had an awful lot of other things I wanted to do."
Indeed, he did. And indeed he did them--with two of the main ones on the list having nothing to do with his former career at all. Having been a theater major in college, the singer explored this field by appearing in two independent movies (and says he'd love to do more acting). Brooks also indulged a personal passion in a big way: He founded his own winery, Arrington Vineyards, in Nashville. The winery opened in 2007, three years before Brooks & Dunn embarked on their final farewell tour, but has since grown into an area attraction that stands independent of mere fan curiosity, selling 15,000 cases a year.
Brooks is happy to discuss his film work and, especially, his winery--he told us exactly how Rose wine is made, and which varieties he likes to recommend to visitors--but he's also excited to discuss his solo debut, which has finally come out this month. New To This Town debuts a full year after former musical partner Ronnie Dunn's own solo set, and it's clear that Brooks has had a lot of fun with the extra time he took. The lead single (same title as the album) is particularly poignant, describing a man who'd love to see his town and the people in it with fresh eyes, but can't because of his history.
When asked if this tune is metaphorical in a way for his solo career, Brooks is noncommittal, but he's excited as a little kid on Christmas to talk about a special guest on the song.
"It's funny because I really thought this album was finished," he relates. "But then my engineer comes in--he's a big slide guitar player--and says 'man that's a good-sounding record...maybe if you had some like Joe Walsh-sounding slide on there. And I said 'I hate to say it but that's a good idea!'"
Brooks, who knew Walsh via touring and their respective managers, decided to contact the Eagles legend to see what he thought. "I just sent him a copy of the song, what I had, and he calls me back in about 10 minutes: "Dude! I love this! I wanna play on your record!' And I'm like, you're kidding!"
Walsh definitely was not kidding, and in fact delivered sound files within 24 hours. Unbelievable? Brooks laughs--it's all true. (Guess there are some perks to not being new to this town!)
Perks of stardom aside, Brooks has been returning in spirit these days to his earliest days as an artist. Many fans forget that both he and Dunn started out as solo artists before collaborating as a duo ("We were put together by a record company," he notes. "We met on a Tuesday and wrote our first two No. 1 records on the following Thursday and Friday!"). He says his time with Dunn was "so blessed," but that it's been refreshing revisiting a more stripped-down vibe.
"It sounds so cliche, but it seems like yesterday--it really does--that I was playing clubs," he explains. "And here it is again. That whole Brooks & Dunn thing was like shhhhhooop!"
Things have come full circle in more ways than one. After talking with Ram Country, Brooks played an intimate set--by Brooks & Dunn massive arena-style standards, anyway--at a Southern California winery! We didn't get to ask him how the house varieties measured up to Arrington's, but we did enjoy seeing a star of such magnitude really get back to his roots--up-close and personal with an appreciative, raucous crowd. And, Brooks seems genuinely appreciative right back.
You can see for yourselves how much he himself is enjoying the solo experience in his performance above, as well as a selection of other numbers from the rest of his set which you can view here.