The women who really know Brooks & Dunn spill the beans
For the past 12 years Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn have played on stages coast to coast in front of millions of fans, been heard on radio nonstop and marched up to countless podiums to take home industry awards by the armful.
Yet even after years of such familiarity with fans, there's still a bit of mystery to this fiery duo.
What are their hopes and dreams? Are they romantics? Do they still take out the trash at home? Do they really get along?
The wives who share their lives with Ronnie and Kix know the answers. In this exclusive interview, Barbara Brooks and Janine Dunn reveal what their husbands are really like away from music's glitz and glamour. And Ronnie and Kix get the chance to weigh in on the gals' revelations.
"Ronnie's not famous at home," declares Janine, who's been married to the tall Okie for 13 years. "I don't know anybody who is, when you have kids and a real life. Both Kix and Ronnie are pretty conscious of the impact they can have by being a good example. They act like wild men onstage, but they're really pretty conservative."
"Kix's fame came when he was a little older," says Barbara, married to Kix for almost 21 years, "so he already had a strong sense of himself. I don't see very many changes in him."
Janine and Barbara confess that when their husbands are home, every second counts. "As funny as this sounds," admits Janine, "Ronnie and I e-mail each other in our own house. His computer is in our bedroom and mine is out by the kitchen. Since there's rarely time for us to sit down and complete a conversation without being interrupted, conversing by e-mail gives us a chance to reconnect and remember we're not just a mom and dad, running a family and making music. We're actually two people who are in love with each other."
Kix and Barbara are equally as busy. "I'm not good at just sitting," declares Barbara, "because I look around the house and see all the stuff we have to do. When we're together, we pay attention to each other. When we're not, we talk a lot on the phone. Kix and Ronnie will leave on a Thursday and come back on a Monday. We're so comfortable together that it makes the homecomings more fun."
But even a country star's homecoming isn't all glamour. "Ronnie's not great at taking out the trash, but he can fix a lot of stuff," explains Janine. "When he's gone a long time I have things waiting for him when he gets home. A little plumbing here and there, or electrical things. He's handy dandy."
"Kix loves to putter," notes Barbara. "His closet is incredibly organized, whereas mine is a huge mess."
"Barbara does the laundry," adds husband Kix. "She will not allow anybody to get involved in that. She's a stickler about how the shirts and the towels need to be folded. You can get into big trouble even trying to help."
When it comes to parenting, Janine and Barbara give their husbands the highest of praise. "Kix is the world's greatest dad," declares Barbara. "He's very involved with both kids. He jokes with them and they think he's hysterical. He and our 13-year-old son, Eric, have an ongoing pingpong tournament that seems to require wrestling at the end of each match," she laughs.
"And our 15-year-old, Molly, has her learner's permit now so he goes out driving with her. Kix is amazingly patient. Molly's not reckless -- I think her top speed is about 37 miles an hour. But he builds up her confidence and lets her go."
"Ronnie is a much smarter parent than I am," acknowledges Janine. "But a lot of times he's like the absent-minded professor. One night I thought he was putting our 7-year-old daughter, Haley, to bed. She came running out about nine o'clock. I said, 'What are you doing up?' Ronnie was back on his computer.
"But he could always deal with our oldest daughter, Whitney [21 years old], more effectively than I could, in a more intelligent way. I'd deal with her in a more emotional way. He does the same with our son, J.W., who's almost 19. He's a good dad."
Both couples readily admit that they've had disagreements, like almost every married couple.
"We've had the most ridiculous fights you can imagine," confesses Janine. "The good thing is, we both learn things from each other. It's not all just fighting to fight."
"I'm like 'Mr. Worldly,' " explains Ronnie. "To me, the world is always working some kind of angle. Janine is open and thinks the world is a friendly place to be. It makes for a well-balanced marriage. Sometimes she'll look at me and say, 'You're so full of it. Cut it out and just have fun!'
"It's rare that there's a volatile exchange," adds Ronnie. "But I came from a home life where volatility was part of the daily agenda. I'm not sure if Janine ever saw her parents say an unkind word to one another. It's funny; sometimes she'll say, 'Oh, we had this fight the other day,' and I'll go, 'That was a fight?' "
"All married couples argue," notes Kix. "But honestly, in 20 years Barbara and I have never had a fight. And I can count the arguments on one hand."
Onstage the duo often sings songs about love. But while Ronnie may sing about romance, according to Janine, it's more difficult to get him to talk about it. "He's not a real romantic guy," she reveals, "but he's done a few incredibly romantic things."
Read the rest of what Brooks & Dunn's wives have to say about life with the duo in the current Newsstand Issue!