When we last heard from Gary Allan, he was musing about why he seems to “Get Off on the Pain” and encouraging a former lover to “Kiss Me When I'm Down.”
These days, though, country music's mainstream maverick sounds a bit more optimistic. His new single, “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain),” which he calls a “feel-good song,” officially hit radio stations Monday.
“It's about somebody that's standing in the middle of the thunder and lightning, and you know it's all gonna be OK,” Allan said in a recent phone interview from Nashville, Tenn., where he was basking in “a beautiful day on the lake.”
The multiplatinum singer-songwriter is hitting the road for familiar territory this week, as he will play during the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Xtreme Bulls Tour at the Oklahoma State Fair. His performance will follow the bone-crushing bull-riding action Saturday night at Jim Norick State Fair Arena.
Country hit maker Jake Owen will play in concert Friday night after the bucking bulls and their cowboy challengers clear the dirt. While both singers are returning favorites, state fair spokesman Scott Munz said Allan's 2009 show drew the best attendance the fair has ever had for any performer at the rodeo.
“That's awesome,” said Allan, who first played the state fair's PRCA event in 2007. “I'm excited to come. That's one of my favorite parts of the country.”
At the fair, Allan, 44, plans to play three new songs from his highly anticipated ninth album: “Every Storm (Runs out of Rain),” the solo number “It Ain't the Whiskey,” and the anger anthem “Bones.” Titled “Set You Free” — the name comes from the hopeful lyrics of the first single — the album is due for early 2013 release.
“This album's a lot more up. Actually, this album ... starts out with ‘That Was a Tough Goodbye' and then kind of goes through all the emotions of a breakup (including) anger. And then it ends with ‘Good as New,'” said Allan, who acknowledged in a 2010 interview that his wife Angela's 2004 suicide had a strong influence on his songwriting, as he found peace in his music.
“Set You Free” will be his first collection of new music since Allan's critically acclaimed 2010 effort “Get Off on the Pain.”
The California native said he took his time working on “Set You Free” since his label was transitioning to new leadership.
“Just having that much time, just knowing that I wasn't going to turn anything in, I think I got to write more. I found more songs. I think the quality of songs are better because of that,” Allan said.
He co-wrote “Every Storm” with his pal Matt Warren and Hillary Lindsey, who performed the background vocals and became the female singer featured on one of Allan's songs.
“She sang on the demo at my house and ... she's got a really good voice,” he said.
“It seemed like everything I was doing especially in the beginning had like a Bakersfield flavor so it was always like the one guy voice behind me,” he said, adding with a laugh, “That's just it. I don't really hate women. I love women.”
While Allan has co-produced most of his past projects with Mark Wright, he crafted about a third of “Set You Free” with Wright, another third of it with rock producer Jay Joyce and about a third on his own.
He likened his first collaboration with Joyce, whose producing credits include The Whigs, Cage the Elephant and Eric Church, to working with a mad scientist.
“He records in his house and at first it was really scary. I felt like I was in a college kid's house and they didn't have any money and all the sounds were bleeding into everything,” Allan said laughing.
“I love it (that) he was the kind of guy that would chase down every idea no matter how absurd just to make sure we weren't gonna use it ... but then he always brought something cool out of that.”
While he plans to work with Joyce again, the headstrong honky-tonk rebel also intends to keep on calling his own shots.
“It's still a dictatorship. I want everybody's ideas, but we're still gonna do it my way,” he said with a laugh.
“It was never a chip on my shoulder. I tell people in hindsight, it was because ... when the opinions got too thick, it was ‘No, we're not doing that. We're doing this. This is my record.' And I didn't realize everybody wasn't doing that until I'd been here for a few years. But it really got me a lot of control for the rest of my career.”