Dictionary.com defines freedom as “the power to determine action without restraint.” Thus, Gary Allan’s Set You Free is a perfectly named, well-conceived album that embodies his own evolution toward personal, creative freedom. The album, sequenced with a storyline in which a man breaks the restraints of a failed relationship and conquers the loneliness of its aftermath, is the result of Allan’s own journey as a man and as an artist.
He took a number of new steps during the recording process – by mixing up the production team, playing lead guitar on a number of tracks, writing more of his own material and using a handful of new co-writers. As a result, he came up with the most optimistic album of his career, one that acknowledges the hurdles of the past and the ways in which they’ve helped to shape his current sense of renewal.“It’s all about healing,” Allan says. “It’s all about the evolution of getting better. He has, to be sure, drawn heavily from that viewpoint, mixing honky-tonk bravado and grainy isolation across eight previous studio albums, all the while mining the emotional turf that fuels a life well-lived: the joys of parenting, the heartache of personal loss, the testosterone of disagreement and the unpredictability of love. He registered five #1 singles – “Man To Man,” “Tough Little Boys,” “Nothing On But The Radio,” “Watching Airplanes” and “Every Storm Runs Out of Rain” – in addition to such trademark hits such as the lonely “Best I Ever Had” and the swaggering “Right Where I Need To Be.” Allan’s amassed seven gold albums in the process – three of them certified platinum, as well – and maintained the admiration of critics for his unwavering uniqueness.
Set You Free is at once familiar and enlightening. Fans who have followed Allan throughout his 17-year recording career will recognize the dark crevasses in the project – the gnarled anger of “Bones,” the honest self-examination of “It Ain’t The Whiskey,” the sinister self-abuse of “Sand In My Soul.” But as the album’s cinematic plot unfolds, it opens into a refreshing glimpse of self-acceptance. Allan falls into a carefree, quasi-reggae groove on the upbeat “No Worries.” He couches past suffering as a tool for a promising future in the driving, penultimate “Pieces.” And he closes the album with a dramatic, lush proclamation, “Good As New.” That latter title sums up the emotional place in which Allan finds himself, and he attributes much of it to music. “There’s no better thing than to have all your best friends come over and to talk about the emotions that you’re having,” Allan says. “Songwriting is the best therapy in the world.” Allan is also good as new in a literal, physical way. Set You Free is the first album he recorded since the removal of a polyp on his vocal cords that had doggedly restricted his range, his strength and his expression. The issue was discovered almost by accident during a routine checkup with a Nashville voice doctor. But it explained why his concerts had ever so gradually become a test of his endurance.
“Every time I would go out before the surgery, I would only last full force for about three songs,” he says. “I could feel the fatigue, and I could feel my cords swell up, and I had other people hitting notes for me. They removed the polyp, and it was like I was 18 again. It was amazing how well it worked.”
The difference is noticeable. There’s always been a gritty, gravelly edge to his performances, but confident that his voice will respond, Allan pushes himself on Set You Free, singing with more command, authority and pliability than he has in years.
Able to challenge himself vocally, he found other ways to draw from his creative muse. He devoted more time to writing songs and explored a new avenue by co-writing for the first time with a series of women. Of the five songs he penned, four are co-written with three different women – Sarah Buxton, Hillary Lindsey and Rachel Proctor – a step that unlocked an undefinable energy. He particularly enjoyed many of the songs he wrote with Lindsey, who’s written a bevy of successful country titles in the last decade, including Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take The Wheel,” and Lady Antebellum’s “American Honey.” “Every time I’ve written with her and my buddy Matt Warren, we end up with like nine starts of a song, because it seemed like we were always branching off into some other subject,” Allan notes. “Then we’d come back and we’d write one or two of those and have four or five more ideas. Eventually, we would come back and finish writing one or two more of those. It’s an amazing thing that we have. We’ve written nine or ten songs, but we’ve only been written together three times. It’s quality. Once you get those kind of rhythm going, you try to ride it out the best you can.”
Their efforts included “Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain),” the first single from the album – which features Lindsey as the harmony vocalist. It marks the first time a woman has provided the backing vocals on one of Allan’s singles, providing a softer contrast to his roughed-edged, ultra-masculine tone.
“Every Storm,” in fact, is a distillation of the entire album, as well as the renewal that accompanied it. The singer bravely faces all of his demons – “Don’t be afraid of the thorns / ‘Cause we all have thorns” – as he moves forward, ending the chorus by hitting an extended high note on a line that just happens to be the album’s title, “Set you free.”
“That line,” Allan muses, “says so much.”
The Southern California-born Allan has been exploring the thorns since the beginning of his musical life, when he played the clubs during his high school years. After graduation, he developed a following in the area, regularly attracting an audience that featured a rare mix of rednecks in western boots and neo-Goths with piercings and spiked hair. Allan was particularly inspired in a concert by the Highwaymen – Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson – to pursue music that mined the dangerous side of life. “They were so powerful,” Allan reflects. “It was like punk rock to me. It was so hardcore. I really, really wanted to be a part of that lifestyle.”In Set You Free, Allan found even greater artistic clarity, building a cohesive narrative from a collection of songs directed by three different producers. Longtime friend Mark Wright (Gretchen Wilson, Lee Ann Womack) tracked three songs, while the versatile and mysterious Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Cage The Elephant, The Wallflowers) turned in five and Allan co-produced the final four with engineer Greg Droman (Brooks & Dunn, True Blood theme).
“Getting in and doing it myself with some of my band guys was a big deal,” Allan observes. “It was a big breath of fresh air.” Which is what Set You Free represents. The album’s lyrical journey from darkness to light reflects much of what went on behind it – the progression of Allan’s own life as an adult, the restoration of his voice, the renewed energy from working with new songwriting partners and the challenge of producing his own tracks and playing his own lead guitar. All of those changes have given him a new sense of freedom. “I seem to gravitate musically toward wherever I’m at in my life at that time,” Allan says. “And I’m in a real good place.”
Gary Allan has announced his long-awaited new album, Ruthless, available June 25. Pre-order Ruthless HERE. The California native marks his return to the spotlight with a stunning 13 track album produced by Mark Wright, Tony Brown, Greg Droman, Jay Joyce, and Allan himself. The songwriting shines, setting the tone for a body of work that feels engaging and fresh. The superb instrumentation is a stand-out of the record which adds a layer of complexity and appeal, drawing from Allan’s deep-rooted influences of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Allan’s unique storytelling coupled with his artistic nature masterfully ties the project together into his best work to date.
“This is a montage of everything I have done since my last album,” Allan says of Ruthless. “It’s what I love. I remain influenced by the ‘90s — as well as by the ‘80s. Twenty-six tracks were cut for this album. Then I went back to the studio and recorded three or four more tracks. Then I returned for two more. From each of these many sessions, I stripped out the cool stuff that I wanted on the record.”
Thank you all for tuning in this evening! I had a blast giving you a sneak peek of my new album #Ruthless. You can pre-order the album NOW with the new song “Temptation” instantly. I can’t wait to share the entire album with you on June 25. 🎸🎵🎶 https://t.co/Eccrjyj1gK pic.twitter.com/fMP9DftntN
— GaryAllan (@GaryAllan) May 7, 2021
Allan announced Ruthless yesterday during a special live stream appearance from House of Blues Studios in Nashville, exclusively on his Facebook and YouTube pages. During the live stream, Allan gave his fans a first listen to his new music including the smoldering lead track, “Temptation,” released today. Allan dropped the brand new merch collection that can be purchased with the album pre-order, including exclusive t-shirts, hats, vinyl, and more on his website at ruthless.garyallan.com.
RUTHLESS Track List:
- Temptation (Written by Nicolle Galyon, Chase McGill and Jon Nite)
- Waste Of A Whiskey Drink (Written by Josh Kear, Michael Hardy and Mark Holman)
- Till It Felt Like You* (Written by Kyle Jacobs, Joe Leathers and Matt Warren)
- Slide (Written by Ross Ellis, Alex Kline and Michael Whitworth)
- Pretty Damn Close* (Written by Gary Allan, Sarah Buxton, Rodney Clawson and Matt Warren)
- High As I’ve Ever Been* (Written by Matt Warren, James Slater and Skip Black)
- What I Can’t Talk About* (Written by Jim Beavers, Lindsay Rimes and Matt Rogers)
- SEX (Written by Nicolle Galyon, Shane McAnally and Matt Jenkins)
- Trouble Knows Trouble (Written by Steve Bogard, Jason Sever and John Edwards)
- Ruthless (Written by Hillary Lindsey, busbee and Ryan Hurd)
- Unfiltered** (Written by Blair Daly, Brad Warren and Brett Warren)
- Little Glass Of Wine* (Written by Jesse Winchester)
- The Hard Way* (Written by Matt Warren and Carey Ott)
Produced by Mark Wright and Tony Brown
*Produced by Gary Allan and Greg Droman
**Produced by Jay Joyce
With the allure of a modern-day outlaw, Gary Allan has won over fans, peers and critics with his signature blend of smoldering vocals, rebellious lyrics and raucous live performances. While becoming a force on the country music scene, Allan has remained true to his artistic voice each step of the way. In 2016 Allan re-signed with Universal Music Group Nashville, the label home for the entirety of his twenty-four year career. His last album, Set You Free, topped the all-genre Billboard 200, a career first for Allan. The album also made its debut at the top of the Billboard Country Album chart (for the fourth time in a row) and produced his fifth #1 country radio chart topper with “Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain).” The California native released his first album, Used Heart for Sale, in 1996 and since then has released eight additional studio albums selling over 8 million albums, been certified platinum on three back-to-back albums, and been certified gold five times. Allan has five No. 1 hits at country radio, fourteen Top 10 hits to his credit and amassed over 2.6 billion total streams. His album Smoke Rings in the Dark recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with the release of his first ever vinyl appearance. He’s described as “dark and dreamy” in Entertainment Weekly, “soulful and rough around the edges” in Playboy and deemed a “maverick” by Rolling Stone. He has sold out venues as a headliner from NY to LA, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Live with Kelly and Michael and Jimmy Kimmel Live. He has also landed on the covers of Country Weekly, Pollstar and People magazine.
*High Resolution Artwork and Photo Available HERE
Artwork Credit: Craig Allen / Photo Credit: Eric Adkins
Gary Allan is taking fans behind-the-scenes of his latest music video for “Waste of a Whiskey Drink.” Check it out below.
“Hey Everybody! I’m Adam Hambrick, wishing you a Happy New Year.”
“Hey Everybody! I’m Adam Hambrick. Happy New Year.”
““What’s up everybody? This is Brandon Lay, wishing you a Happy New Year.”
“Hey! This is TJ, and I’m John, and we are Brothers Osborne. Happy New Year.”
“Hi! I’m Carrie Underwood, wishing you a Happy New Year.”
“Hey y’all! This is Caylee Hammack, wishing you a very Happy New Year.”
“Hey! This is Chrissy Metz, wishing you a Happy New Year.”
“Hey y’all! What’s up? This is Darius Rucker, wishing you a Happy New Year!
“Hey, it’s Dierks Bentley. Happy New Year!”
“Hey! It’s Eric Church, hoping you have a Happy New Year.”
“Hey everybody! I’m Gary Allan. Happy New Year!”
“Hey y’all! I’m Jon Langston, wishing you a very Happy New Year.”
“Hi! I’m Jon Pardi, wishing you a Happy New Year!”
“Hey! I’m Jordan Davis, wishing you a Happy New Year!”
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“Hey! It’s Kacey Musgraves, hoping you have a safe and Happy New Year!”
“Hey! It’s Kassi Ashton. I’d love to wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year.”
“Hey everyone! This is Keith Urban. Have a safe and happy New Year.”
“It’s Kip Moore, wishing you a Happy New Year.”
“Hey! It’s Kylie Morgan, wishing you a very Happy New Year.”
“This is Lauren Alaina, wishing you a Happy New Year.”
“Hey! We’re Little Big Town. Happy New Year!”
“Hey! This is Luke Bryan, hoping you have a Happy New Year.”
“Hi! We’re Maddie & Tae, wishing you a Happy New Year.”
“Hey! This is Mickey Guyton, wishing you a Happy New Year.”
“Hey everybody! I’m Parker McCollum, wishing you a Happy New Year.”
“Hey, it’s Priscilla Block, wishing you a very Happy New Year.”
“Hey everybody! I’m Sam Hunt. Happy New Year!”
“Hi! This is Shania Twain. Happy New Year!”
“Hey y’all, this is Travis Denning, wishing you a Happy New Year.”