The legendary Kix Brooks has always considered himself a rather stoic guy, a consummate professional who never has had much of a problem riding the roller coaster that is country music stardom.
But then, the pandemic hit.
“I’ve got to say it’s all been a little more emotional than I was expecting,” Brooks said during a recent phone chat, mere hours after the first show of the recently relaunched Brooks & Dunn Reboot 2021 tour, a first for him and duo partner Ronnie Dunn in more than 10 years. “It took me a couple of songs, just looking at that crowd and shaking my head and going, ‘you know, I had almost forgot how this feels, but now at this moment, I really remember just how much fun and how great this is. It really put some wind in my sails.'”
It was more than a decade ago when the country music hitmakers of songs such as “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” “Red Dirt Road” and “My Maria” found themselves waving goodbye to their country music career at a time when it was showing no signs of slowing down.
“They might’ve drove us too hard at some points in our career,” Brooks says, not expanding on who “they” were. “We always did our job and when we hit the stage, for the most part, it was always a really good time.”
After branching out on solo efforts, it was the good times that eventually brought the duo back together to play a series of shows with fellow country superstar and friend Reba McEntire in Las Vegas starting in 2015. Five years later, the two had every intention to get back on the road to support the release of their then-latest album, “Reboot,” which had the country duo collaborating with everyone from Luke Combs to Kacey Musgraves.
But the pandemic had other plans, leaving Brooks to retreat to his 600-acre farm outside ofNashville to not only spend some much overdue time with family and friends, but in a way, recalibrate his own hopes for the future.
“No matter who you are, I think you sort of lose your center when you go through something like the last couple of years,” admits Brooks, who will join once again with Dunn and McEntire for their final shows together as part of the “Reba, Brooks & Dunn: Together in Vegas” shows at Caesars Palace later this year. “But even last night, I looked over at Ronnie a couple of times. And I think we both felt like this surely is our place. That stage really is our center.”
Scheduled to take the stage at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park on Saturday night with special guests Travis Tritt and Elvie Shane, Brooks finds it hard to contain his excitement.
“Good God, I can’t tell you how many great nights we have had in that town,” he boasts of Chicago. “We absolutely love it there.”
Brooks & Dunn also currently find themselves perhaps more relevant than ever before. The two recently were nominated for vocal duo of the year at the CMA Awards alongside fellow — and certainly younger — nominees such as Dan + Shay, Maddie & Tae, and Florida Georgia Line. The two also just signed on to perform on CBS’s “New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash” alongside Jason Aldean, Kelsea Ballerini and Luke Bryan.
“Ronnie and I feel like we are definitely singing better than we ever have,” Brooks says. “Even in rehearsals, there are just a lot of smiles, you know? I just feel like we’re both strong and we have a renewed energy for doing this.”
So, is new music on the way?
“No is the short answer to that question,” Brooks explains with a slight laugh. “We are always passing ideas back and forth and songs back and forth. But as far as meeting deadlines like we used to have to do and all that stuff, we’re just not inclined to put ourselves under that pressure again.”
Tricia Despres is a freelance writer.