Gary Allan has been a powerful voice in the country music industry for more than two decades.
A native Californian heavily influenced by the Bakersfield sound of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, he blazed his own trail with an impassioned vocal style that is as chilling on heartfelt ballads as it is smoldering on uptempo material.
Since reaching No. 7 on the Billboard charts with debut single “Her Man” in 1996, he has consistently peppered the Top 10 with tunes like “Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain),” “Watching Airplaines,” “The One” and “Life Ain't Always Beautiful.”
Allan has reached the top of the charts with “Tough Little Boys,” “Man To Man” and “Nothing On But The Radio.” He will be in concert Friday at HerrinFesta Italiana. The entire lineup and complete ticket information is available online at www.herrinfest.com or call 618-942-5055.
As mainstream country music has caromed into many directions in recent years, Allan has calmly observed from the sidelines. Like a clever boxer, he has delivered a couple jabs, records that have not done much damage to the charts.
However, earlier this month he unleashed a lethal upper-cut in the form of new single “Mess Me Up,” written by the powerhouse trio of Ashley Gore, Shane McAnally and Ross Copperman. He has been performing the tune for nearly a year at concert appearances.
“I have been a fan of 'Mess Me Up' since the first time I heard the demo. It sounded like a song I could have written, or wish I had written,” Allan says. “From the first time I played it live, it got a huge reaction from the fans. It is definitely a fan favorite and I am glad it is now a single.”
The torment of soured love amplified through whiskey-soaked emotions on “Mess Me Up” has the 49-year-old crooner back on radio. A release date for a new album has not been established.
“We are still working out a plan for all those details,” he said. “I was actually working on the new album and started working on a new contract negotiation with my record company. That slowed the process a bit.
“Once we finalized my new contract, I was still with Universal, but I had a new promo team, EMI Nashville. I then went back in the studio and cut more tracks. Now we are in the process of picking which songs will make the album and putting it all together.”
Allan has worked his entire 20-year career for the Universal Music Group.
Born and raised in LaMirada, California, Allan grew up surrounded by music. At 13, he was playing guitar in honky-tonks with his father and was offered a record deal at 15. His parents demanded he finish high school, which was a brutal assignment for an aspiring musician.
“I thought sleep was what you did when you got to school,” he recalls. “I played the bars at night and was half asleep when I got to school.”
After graduating high school, Allan steadily built a local fan base with a sound locked into the traditional vein, often turning down gigs that prohibited him covering classic country artists like George Jones.
Allan wisely kicked a door wide open for himself one night by allowing a singer to showcase for Nashville talent scout Byron Hill, while serving as his opening act. When Hill's departure was intentionally delayed by a friend, Allan started his set and Hill was immediately impressed by the instantly identifiable graveled vocal style.
Hill tried in vain to get Allan, who had started working as a car salesman to raise the additional funds needed for studio recording sessions, signed to a major label.
As months slowly passed, Allan created his own big break by leaving a cassette tape of his music in the glove box of a vehicle he sold to a wealthy couple. When they discovered their salesman was the singer, they wrote him a $12,000 check, which he used to record the demos that ultimately led to his signing with Decca Records.
“The couple who wrote me the check changed my life. They gave me the ability to get to Nashville and cut the demo that got me my record deal. I will forever be grateful to them. We still keep in touch. They come to the show when we are in their area.”
Allan, who moved to Nashville 14 years ago after realizing how much time he was spending in airports, has released 26 singles from his nine studio albums, which have spawned a pair of greatest hits compilations.
His 2013 album “Set You Free” topped both the pop and country album charts. The album includes fan favorite “Bones,” written by Keith Gattis.
Gattis served as producer on a soon-to-be-released album by Thompsonville native Kendell Marvel, who helped write Allan's smash hit “Right Where I Need To Be.”