Paper Napkin Interview: Dishing with Ronnie Dunn

We talk Tulsa honky-tonks, toolbox tinkering, and favorite songs with country superstar Ronnie Dunn.
Interview by Caroline McKenzie

What’s on your iPod? 
I’m a music freak, not to be confused with a music snob. I’ll go from George Strait to ZZ Top to Guitar Shorty and never blink.

You’re sporting some serious ink these days. What’s the story? 
I got this forearm tattoo before the third-to-last Brooks & Dunn show. I wanted everyone to know that even though I was losing my cowboy hat [Kix Brooks], I still wanted to be in a cowboy band.

How do you take your barbecue? 
From the Rendezvous in Memphis. They serve the best dry-rub baby back ribs I’ve ever had.

Any hidden talents? 
I get around okay with a toolbox. As a kid I picked up skills following my dad through the oil fields of Oklahoma and West Texas. My wife, Janine, is hard to impress, but she does think it’s cool when I fix things around the house.

What’s the last thing you scribbled on a paper napkin? 
Let the Cowboy Rock!—the title of a favorite song on my album.

You got your start playing Tulsa honkytonks. How did that shape your music? 
In the 1980s the live music scene in Tulsa was on fire. I learned to appreciate that hardworking people go out on weekends to listen to music and have a good time. If a song had the right beat, the cowgirls would dance—and the cowboys would join to get close to the ladies. If cowgirls dance, everyone stays happy.

After two decades in Brooks & Dunn, was it hard to go solo? 
Duo or solo, it’s always a challenge to stay relevant. Anyone in this business that preaches that he or she is in it "strictly for the art" is trippin’ on their lemonade.

What sets country music fans apart? 
Country fans are the most loyal in the world. They can be like family and will call your BS in a heartbeat. I like that.

The best thing your mama taught you? 
To pray.

As a new grandfather, what will you pass on to your grandson? 
I want Huck to know what it means to be a Southern gentleman. My own grandmother went to great lengths to make sure I knew simple things like how and when to open the door for a lady.

You’ve charted 20 number one hits. Any song that’s been a fan favorite? 
A lot of people take the time to tell me “Believe” is a moving, spiritual song for them.

Any favorite songs by other artists? 
Miranda Lambert’s "The House that Built Me" is a masterpiece.