"I think fear and insecurity are great motivators," Dunn, who released "Ronnie Dunn" on Tuesday (June 7), tells Billboard.com. "I worked overtime -- not that I have to -- to stay neurotic. I never take anything for granted. I look at my age. I look at the length of time that we were in the marketplace with Brooks & Dunn, and I don't know how people are going to accept me and I don't assume in any way they're gonna come running to this project."
Dunn does, however, think he'll feel a bit better when the album is finally out. "Y'know, I'm good with success," he explains. "I'm OK with failure. But I don't do too good with limbo, and that's kind of where we are now, just waiting to see, until the (album) release and after a few singles, how we do."
"Ronnie Dunn's" first single, "Bleed Red," is a Top 10 hit on the Country Songs chart and has also made its way into the Hot 100. Yet he notes that, "I don't necessarily feel this first single is song that I want to hang the entire body of work on. But it does take care of that first single anxiety. I kept hearing over and over and over, 'We need something that's so different, so off the beaten path of anything that you've done,' and that song certainly fits that bill."
Video: Ronnie Dunn, "Bleed Red"
Dunn -- who racked up 23 No. 1 country hits and more than 30 million album sales with Kix Brooks -- recorded 34 songs for "Ronnie Dunn," writing or co-writing nine of the 12 tracks that made the album. He also produced the album and played most of the guitar solos, and he says that, neuroses aside, he genuinely enjoyed being the captain rather than a collaborator this time out.
"I'm comfortable in the studio -- probably more comfortable there than anywhere else," he acknowledges. "I was just like a kid in a candy store and didn't have to work through the committee and the natural process of working with a group or someone else -- including another producer. That was fun."
Some of "Ronnie Dunn's" songs, he notes, date back a ways. The socially conscious "Cost of Livin'," the album's second single, first came to him in 2008, when Dunn re-wrote Phillip Coleman's original chorus and hook. "I Can't Help Myself," meanwhile, was pitched for several Brooks & Dunn albums but never made the final cut.
Dunn doesn't have anything bad to say about his former partner or their time together -- "It was 20 years. There was just nowhere else to take it," he says -- and he's been enjoying touring on his own, returning to smaller venues. "It's small stuff like 2,000-, 2,500-seat casinos, and they're a blast," Dunn says. "I can stop, talk to the crowd, tell 'em stories. That was obviously not my role (in Brooks & Dunn); both of us couldn't get up there and tell stories between every songs, and Kix by nature fell into that position. So it's fun and challenging to assume that role. So far it's the most fun I've ever had."