"Well, welcome to my world for the next 90 minutes/ I'll be baring my soul for the price of your ticket/ and I'll do it over again tomorrow night." Living Hard - Gary Allan-Odie Blackmon-Bob DiPiero.

When American country star Gary Allan toured here in 2005 he exorcised the grief of the suicide of his third wife Angela by performing songs inspired by their tragedy.

The single gunshot wound, at 1.25 a.m. on October 25, 2004 at the couple's Nashville home, triggered a flood of emotions.

It also ignited Allan's sixth album Tough All Over and shot it to the top of U.S. pop and country charts with ancillary success here.

But the suicide, attributed to migraines rooted in depression, left many other victims with emotional scars.

The couple had six children - each had three from previous marriages.

Angela hailed from Cleburne, Texas, and Allan, real name Herzberg, from La Mirada in southern California.

So, now on Allan's fourth Australian tour, he is sharing solace and healing with his children Maggie, Dallas and Tana.

He plans to fly them to the Great Barrier Reef for a belated holiday.

"This time I'm going to stay an extra week after the tour," Allan, 40, told Nu Country TV.

"I'll fly my kids over and we're all going to go out to the Great Barrier Reef and stay on one of those islands. We're kicking around Hayman Island at the moment. Steve Forde (Allan's support act) is going to show us around for eight days. He speaks the language."

Allan also plans to indulge his love of surfing that he shared with Cheyne Horan on previous tours.

"I hope there's still waves there this time," Allan said before learning of storms that have wreaked havoc with the Queensland and NSW coasts.

For Allan surfing, diving and snorkelling are a respite from the recent rigors of a life that began 40 years ago in southern California.

Allan believes that the post tour holiday will also aid his family healing.

"It will be respite for all three of them," Allan confided.

"I love diving and snorkelling but we never go down real deep - nothing below eight feet."


"Living hard is hardly living/ for a hard rocking, rowdy musician/ rollin' liker the Stones/ starting to look like Dylan." - Living Hard - Gary Allan-Odie Blackmon-Bob DiPiero.

But Allan delves deep in his songwriting that he describes as group therapy.

Song titles from his previous album are salient signposts to his suffering - I Just Got Back From Hell, Putting My Misery On Display, Putting Memories Away and No Damn Good.

"I don't know if I can sing those songs live because they are so emotional, and there were a lot of tears when I was writing them," Allan said.

"I became the ambassador to suicide."
Allan's exorcism didn't end there - he included a suicide prevention hotline phone No 1-800-SUICIDE - on the cover of his album.

The singer harvested hell from the heartbreak and has now pushed his career album sales way beyond six million.

But, now on his seventh album Living Hard he is looking forward - especially on the hedonistic title track.

"That was a fast write. It was my idea and I had it all mapped out. It's a good song," Allan revealed.

"It only took about an hour and a half. We had the idea and it just seemed like it was so literal to what we're doing. Bob and Odie are prolific writers. I'm really looking forward to raging with you guys."

But the title track wasn't the sales catalyst for the album produced by Allan and Mark Wright.

It was the radio friendly hit single Watching Airplanes, penned by Jim Beavers and Johnathan Singleton that sits at #2 on the U.S. Billboard charts.

The song was accompanied by a video that scored wide exposure on CMT in the U.S. and on CMC and Nu Country TV here.

Allan also added covers of Keith Gattis-Audley Freed's raunchy Wrecking Ball, Dean Dillon-Scotty Emerick-Aaron Barker tune As Long As You're Looking Back and Aaron Barker-Radney Foster-Bobby Houck song Half Of My Mistakes.


"Some times I think about the touch of your skin/ the taste of your lips and it call comes rushing back again/ and I start to spin/ I think about you when the skies turn grey/ always reminds me of the love we made back when you were here/ well here come the tears." - Yesterday's Rain - Gary Allan-Matt Warren-James LeBlanc.

Although Allan is looking forward, time has not dulled the pain three years later.

Allan wrote more songs, inspired by the tragedy, for Living Hard but finds it too painful to perform one of them - Yesterday's Rain - on stage.

"I can't do it live," Allan confessed on the eve of a headlining role on the CMC Rocks the Snowy Mountains Country & Roots Music Festival at Thredbo on March 14 and 15.

"It's too emotional. It was a lot of reaching back - a reflective song. It reflects on my wife who passed away."

Allan wrote it during therapy with fellow writers Matt Warren and James LeBlanc.

"A lot more thought went into that on, a lot more soul I think," Allan confided.

"Yeah, I wrote most of the lyrics - I had the raw material."

Allan doesn't resile from the group therapy relief of writing.

"Well I've been through a lot the last couple of years," Allan added.

"I lost my wife a couple of years ago. So I think I draw from that. I think the more you've been through, the more you have to say as a writer and the deeper you can reach emotionally. So it would probably be easier not to be a good writer. I don't think it's therapeutic to share it with everybody. I think it's therapeutic to write it. I've got four or five people that I write with. It's very much like group therapy. We all get together and talk about what's going on in our lives. If you can talk about really emotional stuff, then you get really emotional songs."


"When I look back I'm glad we found each other/ with no regrets along the way/ and what was like an endless summer/ now it's dust yesterday." We Touched The Sun - Gary Allan-Odie Blackmon-Jim Lauderdale.

Allan also resurrected We Touched The Sun from his emotional ashes.

"It was another hard one to write," Allan revealed.

"I wrote that with Odie Blackmon and Jim Lauderdale. We had taken a writing vacation and gone to Costa Rica and rented a house in the jungle. That was one of the songs that came out of that - we wrote four songs but only one made the record. A couple of them I played on tour last year. It was the first time I had written with Jim. We spent a week there. I had been around him a bit and Odie has written with him a lot. Man, he's a great writer - a lot of soul."

Ironically, Allan learned in this interview he performs with Lauderdale at the Snowy Mountains festival.

"I didn't know that, I may have to call him, we could do some more writing," he said.


"I'm still learning how to bend/ I wanna take you in/ in a world full of tears/ we'll conquer all our fears." - Learning How To Bend - Gary Allan-Matt Warren-James LeBlanc.

Learning How To Bend also had its embryo in Allan's tragedy.

"It's one of those songs about how every guy tries to figure out to fit into relationships and how to bend," Allan recalled.

"I think it's my favourite song on the album. I woke up one day with that title. And it's me, you know - I'm still learning, learning how to bend."

Allan admits he's still exploring some rough terrain as he makes his way back into everyday life and the possibility of a new relationship.

He also collaborated with Blackmon and Casey Beathard on the fatalistic Trying To Matter - perhaps a sibling for the title track.

"We walk, we fly/ we stay sober, we get high/ we sleep all day, stay up all night/ right or wrong we live our lives/ we work, we play/ we leave and we stay/ worry about tomorrow today/ we laugh, cry, cuss and pray."


"She's a black Mercedes on Hollywood and Vine/ she's a low cut dress/ she's a Hollywood sign/ she's a deadhead on a Friday night." - She's So California - Gary Allan-Jon Randall-Jaime Hanna.

Allan wrote She's So California with Texan born Jon Randall and Jamie Hanna - son of Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, now celebrating 40 years plus longevity.

"It wasn't written about no-one in particular," Allan said.

"It was just me writing with these California boys. Jon Randall brought that idea to the table. It's the only song I have written with him. He's a great writer and really good friends with Jaime Hanna - the guitar player in my band. He has been playing with me for just over a year. He made an album as Hanna McEuen with Jonathan - the son of John McEuen from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. They broke up and lost their deal and he now plays in my band."
Hanna and McEuen wrote and co-produced all 12 songs on their self-titled debut disc for Dreamworks-Universal.

The drummer was Jesse Siebenberg - son of Supertramp stickman Bob Siebenberg - and bassist is Teddy Jack Russell - legendary Leon Russell's son.

Hanna previously had songs cut by artists such as the revered Mavericks and had five tunes on Malo's solo album, Today.

Jaime and Jonathan are first cousins whose identical twin mothers - Kae and Rae - each married members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Rae was wed to Dirt Band singer Jeff Hanna when Jaime was born and Kae is wed to John McEuen.

Hanna has since split with Rae and wed acclaimed singer-songwriter Matraca Berg - daughter of singer Icee Berg.


Allan has developed strong Australian links - here and overseas.

He recently completed an American tour with expatriate Australasian superstar Keith Urban.
"It was a great tour, what a class act to tour with," Allan recalled.

"He was a lot of fun - no worries. He's a great supporter of mine."

Allan plans to write more songs for other artists in the future.

"I'm just now getting into it," Allan said.

"I'll start demoing things I didn't record myself, the odd thing. I'll probably write under a different name. If it's under your own name they say 'why didn't he cut it? - he keeps all the good stuff for himself.'"

Although the singer may be writing for other artists he won't veer away from the sources that have served him well.

"I like to have inside knowledge," Allan says.

"I like to sing about what I know - I never go too far out of my box. You never hear me singing about farmers and tractors."


"And off the coast of Australia I dove way down deep/ for all I saw of that Great Barrier Reef/ it was nothing, compared to you it was nothing." - A Feelin' Like That - David Lee Murphy, Kim Tribble, Ira Dean.

Australia has long been a fertile song source for touring artists diverse as Steve Earle, Tom T Hall and Billy Joe Shaver.

Tennessee singer-songwriter David Lee Murphy tapped the Great Barrier Reef for a song for Allan who also kicked back there after his third Australian tour.

Murphy used his reef metaphor to source A Feelin Like That - one of two bonus new tracks on Allan's 15-song Greatest Hits (MCA), released here in 2007.

Stone country Texan born singer-guitarist Keith Gattis penned the other new track - the freedom ode As The Crow Flies.

Gattis, some time guitarist on Dwight Yoakam albums, also wrote Wrecking Ball for Allan's new disc.

Allan and his Honky Tonk Wranglers perform the CMC Rocks the Snowy Mountains Country & Roots Music festival - March 14 and 15.

They join fellow U.S. superstar duo Sugarland, Lauderdale, Patty Griffin, expatriate Australian Catherine Britt, John Butler Trio, Mia Dyson, Adam Harvey, Steve Forde, Shannon Noll, Brian Cadd, The McClymonts and others.

Bookings - Ticketek Phone 132849 - www.ticketek.com.au

Allan and Canadian Corb Lund & The Hurtin Albertans also perform at the Empire Theatre, Toowoomba - Wednesday March 19, Seagulls - Tweed Heads - Thursday March 20 and Great Western Hotel, Rockhampton - Saturday March 22.

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