Country singer Clare Dunn moved from Colorado to Nashville to attend college — and to chase her longtime dream of becoming the next Selena or Waylon Jennings. “Music and performing was all I ever wanted to do,” Dunn says.

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Clare Dunn says much of her musical inspiration comes from growing up on a ranch in a Colorado town with a population of less than 50 people.

In Colorado, Clare Dunn has been spending her days helping around the family"s ranch and making music. 

When the coronavirus pandemic began, Clare Dunn retreated to her family"s ranch in Colorado where she"s been helping with chores.

Everyone has a story of where they were when life changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Clare Dunn had just driven her black pickup all the way from Nashville to her hometown in southeast Colorado. She came to spend time with family and to accept an award in Greeley; The Rocky Mountain Country Music Awards named her Entertainer of the Year.

A few days into her stay at her family’s ranch, she got word the award ceremony had been canceled. Everything was being canceled.

Dunn decided not to drive back.

“There’s no need for me to be stuck in the city, when I would rather be in the country anyway,” Dunn remembers thinking.

The country singer moved to Music City for college, which Dunn attended at the request of her parents “in case this all didn’t work out,” she said. She really moved there to chase her longtime dream of becoming the next Selena or Tina Turner or Waylon Jennings.

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“Music and performing was all I ever wanted to do,” Dunn said. “I wanted to make music like my heroes did. I wanted to learn how to do that.”

So far, she’s spent 10 years doing just that. Dunn has toured with stars such as Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan, racked up millions of streams on Spotify and caught the attention of Rolling Stone magazine for her impressive guitar playing. In 2019, Dunn was added to CMT’s roster of Next Women of Country.

Dunn got here by writing songs about growing up in a rural Colorado town called Two Buttes that’s so small it takes an hour to drive to the closest grocery store. That’s where Dunn’s love of driving comes from, which bodes well for a touring musician. “It gives me time to think about music and ideas,” she says.

As we talk on the phone, Dunn is sitting on a wide porch holding a “porch kitten,” and looking out at wheat fields and tall trees her mother planted years ago. She can hear horses running around and she can’t hear any signs of city life.

“Being here, it’s very peaceful,” Dunn says. “It’s easy, which is weird to say in 2020.”

“This is the way of life I write about all the time,” she said. “It’s kind of like getting to be at the source, where all my inspiration comes from.”

This way of life has blended easily with the life of a musician. She spends her days helping with ranch chores and later retreating to her parents’ basement to work on music.

“It’s inspiring here in a really different way. I’m not in a terribly lit songwriter room with no coffee and trying to imagine what home is about,” she said. “I get to walk out in it every day.”

Along with recording and releasing her latest EP, called “HONESTLY a personal collection,” from Colorado, being home has inspired new music.

Dunn wrote “Safe Haven” about the experience of being home while the country shut down.

“I felt so lucky I was here and not stranded somewhere on the road or in Nashville quarantining alone,” Dunn said.

Among some high-energy and party tunes, “Safe Heaven” sticks out as a softer, gospel-like, moment for Dunn. “No safer place I can imagine,” she sings. “From all the pain, all the trouble, all the noise, all the trauma. You welcome me like a refugee, anytime I need.”

Dunn also feels lucky to still be able to work while in quarantine. Years of teaching herself how to record and produce music have paid off.

“I never knew how handy it would come in in 2020 when many artists couldn’t do anything,” she said. “I just felt so much freedom to express exactly what I want to say and it doesn’t have to filter through anyone else.”

On her own, she’s been busy. Dunn has another new EP out in October.

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She says if the coronavirus pandemic wages on, she might buy a little house or piece of land near her parents.

“I never thought I would even think about that,” Dunn said. “But I’m not sure I want to give this all up.”