Eleven years ago today (Aug. 10, 2009), Brooks & Dunn shocked and saddened fans all over the world by announcing their split, after more than 20 years together.
“After 20 years of making music and riding this trail together, we have agreed as a duo that it’s time call it a day,” Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn said in a joint statement. “This ride has been everything and more than we could ever have dreamed … We owe it all to you, the fans. If you hear rumors, don’t believe them, it’s just time.”
Brooks & Dunn released what was then their final album, #1’s … And Then Some, on Sept. 8, 2009. They launched their Last Rodeo Tour and performed their final concert on Sept. 3, 2010, at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena; the proceeds from the show went to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. But despite the decision to call it quits, the two insisted that there was no animosity between them.
“Nothing lasts forever,” Brooks explained at the time. “We’ve had this process of making records and getting ready for tours year after year … When we were going through, trying to get an album together this year, putting songs back and forth, and the push and pulling, it hit us both: We’ve done all kinds of music you can think of, done every way we could think of doing it for 20 years. We’ve worn this thing every way we know how to wear it! We realized at that point, this may be it.”
Added Dunn, “Differences, over the long run, are what make it work. You’ve got to have that room. Neither one of us are breathing the other’s air.”
After Brooks & Dunn’s split, both men embarked on solo careers: Brooks released New to This Town on Arista Nashville in 2012, while Dunn released his own self-titled album in 2011, also on Arista Nashville, followed by Peace, Love and Country Music in 2014, on Little Will-E Records, and Tattooed Heart in 2016. Dunn also earned two Top 20 singles, “Bleed Red” and “Cost of Livin’.”
LOOK: Brooks & Dunn Through the Years
As it turned out, however, Brooks & Dunn’s split wasn’t permanent. The duo reunited in 2015 for a Las Vegas residency, along with their good friend Reba McEntire – a residency that has been extended a number of times.
“Honestly, it’s funny. I think one of the real rewards for doing this is, not a day goes by where somebody in a very emotional way says, why don’t y’all get back together?” Brooks & Dunn say. “It’s a soft landing and a soft takeoff.”
For a band that were said to be disbanded, Brooks & Dunn remained quite busy in the back half of the 2010s. They performed “My Maria” together at the 2015 ACM Awards, and after signing with the Nash Icon record label in 2015 to release a solo album in 2016, Dunn released a single, “Damn Drunk,” featuring Brooks.
In 2019, the duo was being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and had an exhibit on their career open there. More notably, Brooks & Dunn also released a new album, Reboot, on which they teamed up with various country stars (including Kacey Musgraves, Midland and Ashley McBryde) to revisit and re-record older hits. And as far as new music goes, well — they’re not ruling anything out, they told The Boot in April of that year.
“I mentioned something to our manager last week: I said, ‘Should we throw [out] a new song or two?’ We write all the time. It’s just innately there,” Dunn says. “He just spun around and he goes, ‘You go see Springsteen, and what do you go see? New stuff?’
“That said,” he adds, “yeah, we’re thinking about it. We didn’t get here by following the rules.”
LOOK: Test Your ’90s Country Knowledge!