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"I was certainly helped by a lot of good people, but I'd never felt so alone in my life," he admits (quote via GAC). "All of a sudden, everyone just went, 'OK, well, go do what you've got to do and I hope it works out for you.'"
The Texas native had to readjust his thinking after spending more than 20 years balancing his desires with those of his singing partner, Kix Brooks. "The song selection was different," he acknowledges. "I didn't have to keep in mind as I was picking songs that, 'Hey, there are two guys here, two guys onstage, two guys performing' and deal with that. This is much more personal and subjective; it gave an entirely different slant, obviously. I'd cut three or four demos sometimes and the players were great about working with me. They said, 'We'll do a demo first, and then if it makes the record, we'll come in and bump it up.' They were really, really good. I've got to hand it to them. It allowed me to find myself."
What he learned in the process is how little he understood -- a revelation that brought him a sense of peace. "A great epiphany: I found out that I'm totally confused and I'm good with that," concedes the 58-year-old. "I'm consistently inconsistent. I'm all of the above. I'm OK. I'm a work in progress. That's my next tattoo somewhere."
The tunesmith has had to check his ego at the door as he embarks on a new solo career. Accustomed to being one of the biggest names in country music, he realized quickly what it felt like to start over. "There are some festivals that are booked that I heard we are going on at four in the afternoon," he admits. "I'm used to headlining, but that's fine. We'll play at four and do what we have to do. It's time to back up and instead of having eight buses out there, I'm pushing to get just two -- one little truck and horse trailer to pull our amps and stuff behind us. It's just a growing experience."
Still, in spite of his status as a new artist again, Ronnie insists he wouldn't change a thing. "Hell, no!" he answers when asked if he misses his former performance partner. "And that's exactly how he would answer that question," he adds. "Do I miss him? We're still good friends. I hear from him every few weeks or so. Kix and I were able to work it smoothly as I think it can be done in a partnership, and I'm proud of that. I'll be forever proud of that. That is something that I can look back on and go, 'Man, what a feat for two ne'er-do-wells to accomplish!' And I'm happy that both of us can walk away in great shape and good spirits and tackle things that we like and look forward to doing."
Whatever Ronnie is doing seems to be working well for him. His first single, 'Bleed Red,' wasted no time soaring to the Top 10 on the charts, while his follow up tune, 'Cost of Living,' is in the Top 25. But while he is pleased with the success of this stage of his life, the man with one of the most recognizable voices in country music says he has one goal, and it has nothing to do with chart position or a paycheck.
"To keep moving forward in a business that is tremendously hard to do that in and derive satisfaction from the music I make -- that's it," he insists. "I didn't do this to get rich or make money. I didn't do it to become famous. I did it because I was a shy kid and it was about the only thing that I could do. I gravitated early on in life to something that I love and chose as a way of life. I don't think I could change that if I wanted to."
Ronnie will spend much of the next several weeks on the road, performing songs from his self-titled debut album. See his itinerary here.