Details You Didn't Know About Brooks & Dunn's Relationship

Over the years, Brooks & Dunn have become the faces of country music's brotherhood, as the duo has made magic on stage with hits like "My Maria" and "Hard Workin' Man" during their decades-long partnership. Together, Brooks & Dunn have enjoyed 20 No. 1 songs, two Grammy awards, dozens of ACM and CMA honors, and more than 30 million albums sold worldwide. Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn founded the best-selling duo in country music history in 1990 and, in 2019, the two were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame

"I've never been so proud and humble. If you don't believe that, just step into my heart right now," Dunn said during the all-star induction ceremony. "We're like coleslaw on a BBQ," Brooks added. "You're gonna get us whether you want to or not."

Of their success, The New York Times commented that "together they helped drive the power-country era of the early-to-mid 1990s and continued to benefit from the sea change in the genre they helped initiate right through their most recent albums." That was, until their split in 2009. Not only did Brooks & Dunn send shockwaves throughout their fanbase when they parted ways after their last album, #1's ... And Then Some, but they also spilled some secrets about how their relationship began to unravel before their official break. 

Brooks & Dunn shared contradictory details about their split

While Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn spent nearly two decades making music together, both have shared contradictory details about the real reason behind their split. At one point, the country music superstars said that their choice to retire was the result of a simple tapering off in their careers. "There was never a rift," Dunn told People. "We [broke up] because we'd been doing it for over 20 years and felt like we'd accomplished everything that we could." Brooks agreed at the time, saying the two "ran out of gas" and just "needed a break." 

However, the pair also told Larry King that they just saw their careers going in different directions. "Ronnie, for sure, [was] like, 'I wanna make a record without having to look over my shoulder,'" Brooks explained (via The Boot). "I was like, 'I totally get it. Go do it, man.'" Indeed, the two have claimed there was no animosity between them and warned fans that they shouldn't believe the rumors, according to Taste of Country

But, in an earlier interview with USA Today in 2009, the two admitted that they always had differences in opinion and that, eventually, compromise got to be too difficult. "There have always been hurt feelings," Dunn said. "I was willing ... to try and work it out," Brooks added, "but when he said, 'This is it, I really think it is,' I said, 'I think it is, too.'"

Brooks & Dunn were 'fishing in the same well' too long

Despite Brooks & Dunn's rough patches, their manager Clarence Spalding called them as close as "brothers." But, like siblings, "they don't always see eye to eye on things," he told USA Today. "Kix is outgoing, Ronnie is more shy," Spalding added. "But those two very different personalities can always find that common ground that is Brooks & Dunn." That may have been the case, but that common ground eventually began to crumble beneath their feet, as both men seemed to feel the other was limiting their creativity.

"Twenty years — that's a long time to go fishing in the same well," Kix Brooks told USA Today. "You're within the confines of things that work for two guys on stage. Creatively, you do have some fences there." Even those around them felt the magic whittle out. "It just didn't feel as fertile as in the past," said Joe Galante, Nashville chairman of Sony Music, adding that Brooks & Dunn "didn't feel that, creatively, they were reaching for a higher ground." 

In retrospect, however, the duo noted that their decision to split up might've been somewhat hasty. "Looking back, we should have just taken a break and let all the dust settle under us," Dunn said. Luckily, when it comes to the entertainment industry, diehard fans are always eager to see their favorite acts reunite.

Brooks & Dunn reunited alongside Reba McEntire

Although Brooks & Dunn's split came as a shock to country music fans, some predicted that the duo would get back together. Sony Music's Joe Galante told USA Today that he "wouldn't be surprised" if the two reunited. Indeed, years later, the two connected creatively once more. And while they weren't friends the first time they partnered as a duo, it was their deep, enduring friendship that sparked their inevitable reunion. 

In 2015, Las Vegas came calling, offering the defunct duo a residency alongside fellow country music legend Reba McEntire. "After four or five years of having dinner and vacationing, we thought, 'Gosh, if we can come out here and golf and eat some great dinners in one of the greatest venues in the world, then yeah,'" Kix Brooks said (via People). "The fact that they are still out there supporting us, they're obviously proud that we're here and we're proud to be here," he added.

Yet, while McEntire is a superstar in her own right, the "Fancy" singer also served as Brooks & Dunn's voice of reason. "We needed a good referee," Brooks explained to Rolling Stone. "[Reba] makes us both behave. It really is a great way for Ronnie and I to get back together. I think it's been a great break for both of us." And fans couldn't be happier to have these hard workin' men back on stage!