"Every storm runs outta rain/ just like every dark night turns into day/ every heartache will fade away/ just like every storm runs outta rain." - Every Storm Runs Out of Rain - Gary Allan-Matt Warren-Hilary Lindsay.

Resurrection can be a tough and long task - just ask Californian country singer Gary Allan.

It was a single gunshot wound that took the life of Allan's third wife Angela just after midnight on October 25, 2004.

Texan born Angela pulled the fatal trigger but the ricochet fuelled morose songs by latter day Nashville widower Gary, now 45 and father of six children.

Allan exorcised grief in songs about the aftermath of tragedy on sixth album Tough All Over and seventh disc Living Hard.

Turning trauma into memorable songs from deep within the heart and psyche has long been a staple of the genre.

But this time Allan, who has toured here four times since the nineties, reaped hay from his heartbreak and turned his life and career around.

Gary rebounded after mourning loss of his father and undergoing surgery to remove polyps on his vocal cords.

The surgery was successful for Allan who has sold more than seven million albums.

"I don't think I realised it at the time, but there were a few years where I couldn't hit the falsetto notes, like the ones in Smoke Rings in the Dark," Gary revealed.

"After the surgery it was like I was 18 again."

Allan's aptly titled ninth album Set You Free ploughs a fertile terrain that shot it to #1 on the Billboard all genre Top 200 chart on debut with 106,000 sales.

A major catalyst was chart topping hit single Every Storm Runs Out Of Rain - one of five tunes he wrote.

"We wanted a song about hope," Allan explained.

"I wrote it with Hillary Lindsey and Matt Warren. I remember Matt Warren brought the hook. He was going through a dry spell, like all writers do, and he hadn't been writing many songs. He was doing yard work one day, weed eating, and he hit a rock and it hit the house and then bounced back and hit him in the forehead. He was pissed, and he called me and talked to me about it. He had the line, 'Every storm runs out of rain.'"

He brought that into us. And I can remember Hillary doing this gospel stomp sort of thing. It took off that way for a while then we ended up writing a different song, which is how we work together. Then as she was walking out the door, she sat down at the piano and started playing a riff. She does this once in a while and says, "Everybody just make something up." I started singing, and I think I sang the first verse and the melody in the chorus. Then when we came back next time, it was almost done. We just had to finish it."

It worked - with a vengeance.


"And I'm not quite ready yet/ to settle down or even let/ someone get a hold of me/ cause I'm not done being free/ I still have a few roads to travel down and Lord knows/ I got way too close that time/ that was a tough goodbye." - Tough Goodbye - Josh Thompson-Tony Martin.

Allan had more control over song content and sequencing on his new album that he
co-produced with Jay Joyce, Greg Droman, Mark Wright and his band.

"I think every song should be on there for a reason," Allan said.

"When I got the songs in the order I liked I realised what I had done was create a story line so that it played like a breakup. The first song is Tough Goodbye and then I went through all the emotions of a breakup, all way to the healing song, Good as New. So the album covers the gamut of a breakup and the first stages of healing."

So how and why did Allan kick off his liberating album with Tough Goodbye?

"We just started playing that song live," Allan recalled.

"It's a great song. Josh Thompson and Tony Martin wrote it. That was a first listen for me. I would be surprised if that's not a single. It's pretty rare for me. Sometimes if a song hits me really good the first time, I get sick of it. And by the 10th time I've heard it, it's just candy, and I don't like it anymore. I usually get out all of my songs and wear them out myself before I even start deciding what to record. Some of them weed themselves out. And sometimes you get sick of them as you record. That happens to me on every record. At the end of the record, there are songs that other people are jumping up and down about. Then I say, "I don't think that's even going to make it on the record." There was one for this album called Sleeping Like a Baby that had everybody flipping out, and I said, "I don't like it." The whole record, if you read the song titles when you get it, reads like a breakup. The whole album has hope and was timely for me, too. I've waited a long time to get back on the radio."


"What will I say, looking back on this life/ standing there at the pearly gates/ to a golden street paradise/ feeling humble, no room up there for pride/ what will I say." - One More Time - Gary Allan-Hilary Lindsey-Matt Warren.

Allan's favourite on the album is One More Time - a song written in the same session that yielded Every Storm.

"We wanted to write an introspective song," Allan revealed.

"I had just lost my dad, and we talked about the people we had lost in our lives. We kept thinking 'what would you say when you get to the pearly gates?' And that was how the song started. I said I would want one more time. I'm not ready to be here. It's very therapeutic to write with Hillary and Matt because we kick our emotions around so much."

One More Time had a profound effect on Allan's mother.

"I had just lost my dad so to me that is a funeral song," Allan confessed.

"It's a really introspective song and that's how it hit her. She called and said, "It just makes me think of your dad and it makes me cry." I always send her the work tapes then she tells me what she likes. I'll email her MP3s. I usually do all of the pre-production stuff in my house, so she gets all of that stuff. You've got to keep it really simple. I sent her an iMac and the Geek Squad set it all up. Then a week later, she said, "Ah, I can't play my solitaire on this." That was pretty much the killer - the solitaire. So we went back to a PC."

Allan was an under age singer in his father's band when his dad vetoed a record deal offered to him.

"I was offered a deal, and he wouldn't sign it," Allan explained.

"So I quit playing with him. I was young and didn't want to play in his band anymore. He used to tell me I imitated people, and that's why he didn't sign it. He'd say, "You need to play for the people who love you, the people who hate you and the people who couldn't care less. And that's how you learn to play for yourself. Actually, I didn't even get what any of that meant. I was just pissed off as a kid. But when I was 23, I remember a distinct year where I didn't have to think about how I played a song. I just played it in my band and the song became ours, whatever it was. I think then it clicked, what he meant. I think I did imitate people. And he said, "If you get a deal too young, they're going to mould you." He said, 'I don't want them to mould you.' That was his deal."

Although Allan was hesitant about accepting paternal advice, history proved the wisdom of the years.

"In hindsight, all the way, I wouldn't be the person I am if it wasn't for him," Allan says.

"Yeah, but I'm pretty stubborn. Shoot, there's a committee to tell you everything at a record label. You definitely have to know who you are if you want to look like you at the end of the process. We've all seen people get record contracts, and by the time they're spit out by the machine, we don't even recognise them."

Not even by headwear.

"The whole hat thing was because they told me to take it off," Allan recalled.

"I hardly ever wore a hat. But they told me to take it off, so I wore it every day, everywhere I went, for 10 years! There is always a committee to tell you what to do. But until what I do doesn't work anymore, let's not try to fix me."

Allan chose his own style on breakthrough album Smoke Rings In The Dark.

"Yeah, that was my idea," Allan said.

"That was part of them telling me not to. So I just went more hardcore into that. Well, they were trying to get me out of the hat, so I came back with hats and suits. I think it worked, but they were still saying, "You need to lose the hat." I think it wasn't until they blew out that part of the label, and those people stopped talking to me, to where I came in without a hat. Just as long as nobody's going to tell me I have to do it, I'll do it."


"With sand in my soul/ beer in my veins/ letting my hair grow in room 108/ getting over you, I ain't even gonna try/ cause I'm on a roll/ filling up this hole/with sand in my soul." - Sand In My Soul - Brad Warren-Brett Warren-Blair Daly.

Allan explores a more hedonistic happy mood swings on this album - with a little help from a ukulele.

"I've written so many dark songs and cutting songs that I think everybody was just hoping that I would have some relief," says Allan.

"When I come out and write something positive, everybody's really excited about it, because I'm writing something positive. But the truth is, my favourite songs are the dark songs - the songs that make you cry, the songs that make you think. When I'm writing, I think, 'Nobody gives a shit if I'm happy.' "

Allan is proud of his beach background and doesn't fabricate rural roots in his songs.

"I don't pay attention to what anybody's doing," Allan confessed.

"I try to never sing about things that I don't know anything about. You'll never hear me sing about farms and dirt roads. I grew up in a little beach town, so that's why you don't get those out of me."

A good example is Sand In My Soul - confession of a guy holed up by himself in some little beach town in order to get over a shattered heart.

It's long on stoicism and short on self-pity.

Allan injects a little Zac Brown flavour into the reggae-pop flavour of No Worries.

"That's why I bought a ukulele," Allan explains, "because it's really hard to write a down song on the ukulele."

When Allan came on the scene in mid-'90s - when male country acts were singing ballads about being tamed by a woman's love - he identified with fellow Californian Chris Isaak, touring here in March.

"I was way into him," Allan says, "especially through that whole Smoke Rings in the Dark era."

That's reflected in the Isaak lounge groove in Drop and album closer Good as New is about being restored.


"With last night on my breath/ I stood up and said/ 'It ain't the whiskey/ It ain't the cigarettes/ It ain't the stuff I smoke/ It's all these things I can't forget/ So what do you got for this empty hole inside of me?' - It Ain't The Whiskey - Greg Barnhill-Jim Daddario-Cole Deggs.

The first half of Set You Free is vintage Allan.

His hit optimism laced hit Every Storm punctuates entrée Tough Goodbye and the Keith Gattis penned Bones.

Two consecutive songs specifically refer to an inner void deep within that needs filling.

It Ain't the Whiskey captures the deep suffering Allan is so skilled at conveying.

The singer questions his character's attendance at a meeting to address the source of his inner torment.

You Without Me is a devastating song about coming to terms with an ex who has moved on - a sibling to his older song See if I Care.

The honky tonk flavoured Bones adds anger to the mix.

"Well, I been out here digging a hole," he sings, just as a harmonica crashes loudly into the mix, and then conspiratorially adds, "I'm gonna push you in nice and slow."

This is also driven home by Allan's rough edged vocals.

"I never felt like I could sing when I was little, 'cause my voice was so raspy and everybody else had a pretty voice," says Allan.

"It wasn't until I sang in bars for a few years that I realized that the texture of it really worked for me. I think I just learned to use that as time went on. I've always thought I had a fucked-up voice, but I could convey emotion really well."

Allan has fond memories of writing Pieces with expat Australian Jedd Hughes touring partner Sarah Buxton and Odie Blackmon.

"He's one of my long time buddies," Gary said of Blackmon.

"When I first came to town, I would live on his couch. So it's always fun to have success with your friends. The song is about something I believe, which is how you take something, good or bad, from everyone you meet. The song talks about all the pieces you take with you, whether you know someone for an hour or for a long time."


"That's your third glass of Chardonnay/ and he sure seems to know his way/ in what to do and what to say/ well, it's obvious you've moved on/ I'm still getting past you being gone/ and he's going home with you tonight." - You Without Me - Gary Allan-John Lancaster-Rachel Proctor.

Gary admitted it was hard to write You Without Me without giving away the hook before getting to the chorus, which reveals that the guy so desperately in love is actually pining for the ex who is now with another man.

But timing is everything in music - as Allan proves on the success of this album.

"I've been saying I was waiting for the head of the label to change," the singer-songwriter explains. "I wasn't having success before."

Gary waited until new label chief, Mike Dungan, took his position before turning in the finished product.

"I think when you hole up and make an album, you come out going, 'God, I hope somebody likes it," he explained.

"When they start to respond and check it out, it's really exciting, taking it to radio stations.

I've done a ton of these things when they invite listeners in, and you go in and play them the record. I think the most nerve-wracking is when I had to play my album for Mike Dungan. That was super nerve-wracking. I brought him into the studio and just played it front to back. He turned around, said he loved it and left. He's been a great guy to get to know - a breath of fresh air."

Gary says he hopes to always keep evolving as an artist.

"The challenge is to keep sounding fresh," he admits. "I try never to focus on the radio, just find great songs, find emotion and just write the best songs you can. I think when you get fixated on trying to do something too accurate, it becomes more washed out and less what you intended it to be. So I think each time the challenge for me is to try and reinvent a little bit."

This time Allan has smoked the peace pipe with his label.

"We took them all champagne and we had a toast," Allan joked.

"I've gotten to know a lot of them. It's a good thing. I tell you what, I've never had such a good team."

CLICK HERE for a Gary Allan CD in The Diary on August 16, 2010.
CLICK HERE for another Gary Allan feature in The Diary on February 26, 2008.

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