Gary Allan and Joe Nichols head to the Hard Rock Casino Sioux City Battery Park on Friday, August 14th in an all-ages concert! Tickets are on sale now, starting at just $39.59!
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 four #1 singles – “Man To Man,” “Tough Little Boys,” “Nothing On But The Radio” and “Watching Airplanes” – 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.
As far as where I’m at with my new music and my new label, Red Bow, this is more than a new chapter. It’s a new book. My new single “Sunny And 75” is getting as great a reception as anything I’ve ever done, and the album it comes from is something I might have hoped I could do at other points in my career, but have been held back from. And I’ll be the first to say that the holding back has mostly been me. What strikes me this time is how much freedom I’ve felt in this process, the depth I have in my relationships – personal and professional, it really is a family thing. And, to be honest, just how much fun I’m having. Freedom, family and fun … there’s your sound bite.
The hard part of this journey, if that’s not too cliché a word for it, was leaving my last label, because the wheels in Nashville just turn really slow sometimes. And time turned out to be our enemy and our friend. The more distance I was able to get from the last few years of stops and starts, the better. But our enemy was losing a consistent presence with the fans and radio. That hurt, but it set up some anticipation for something new; it was also very healing and kind of humbled me a little bit. The new music is going over awesome on the road, especially “Sunny And 75.” The other new songs we play get an incredible reaction, too. As far as the crowds go, I’ve been almost two years without a single at radio and people are still showing up in awesome numbers. I’m impressed and incredibly grateful for country fans, because they are amazingly loyal.
I’m also thankful radio is welcoming me back with open arms. I love that I have true friends there who care about me beyond the music and career stuff, because I care about them in the same way. So I’m especially proud to give them music they can play in good conscience. It’s not just my friends hooking me up with airplay, it’s something deserving, and I hope to continue giving them that. The biggest thing I feel is just that it’s a new day. I’m wiping the slate clean and starting something brand new. I love my old catalog of music – “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” “Brokenheartsville,” “The Impossible,” “Gimme That Girl” and the rest. But I’m starting the first chapter of that new book now. I’m pretty sure it’s got a happy ending, but I also hope there are a few surprises for people along the way.