Gary Allan coming to our neck of the woods
It's been more than 20 years since Gary Allan began his career in country music, but the multi-platinum star still loves nothing more than getting up on stage and performing live for his legion of fans.
"I love touring," Allan told the Detroit Lakes Tribune. He will be stopping at Mahnomen's Shooting Star Casino this Thursday, Jan. 26 for an 8 p.m. show inside the Event Center. "Some people don't, but I make records so I can tour. I just love playing live."
Allan began his career at age 12, playing with his father's band at honkytonks in southern California. At age 15, he was offered his first recording contract, and in 1996, he released his debut album, "Used Heart for Sale," with Decca Records Nashville. That album was certified gold, and spawned his first top 10 hit single, "Her Man," which peaked at No. 7 on the country music charts.
Three years later, Allan dropped "Smoke Rings in the Dark," the album that would launch his career into orbit. It was the first of three straight albums to be certified platinum, along with 2001's "Alright Guy" and 2003's "See If I Care."
Those three albums, in turn, produced a string of hit singles, starting with "Right Where I Need to Be," which reached the top five, and followed by three No. 1 hits in a row: "Man to Man," "Tough Little Boys," and "Nothing On But the Radio."
In 2007, Allan returned to the top of the country charts, peaking at No. 2 with his platinum-certified hit single, "Watching Airplanes," which was nominated for Single of the Year at the 2008 Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards.
In 2013, he earned his fourth No. 1 hit with platinum-certified single, "Every Storm Runs Out of Rain," which was recorded as part of his gold-certified album, "Set You Free." Most recently, Allan released singles "Hangover Tonight" in 2015 and "Do You Wish It Was Me" in 2016, and received an ACM nomination for Vocal Event of the Year on behalf of his "Hangover Tonight" performance with country singer Chris Stapleton. Today, Allan is working on the release of a new album and entertaining audiences across the nation with his traditionalist country sound.
That sound has evolved a bit over the years, Allan admits.
"My music used to be a lot harder edged when I started out; now it's a lot softer format," he said, adding with a hint of humor, "It's almost like Disney took it over."
As a teenager playing with his father's band, "I liked rock and harder stuff," he added. "But I remember watching Waylon (Jennings) and Willie (Nelson) and Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison, and being so blown away. They were so hardcore lyrically. That really changed my life; that's when I realized I wanted to be making this kind of music."
While Allan may give the audience a little taste of what they might expect from his latest, as-yet-untitled album, due out later this year, most of his set at the Shooting Star on Thursday will be focused on the hit songs that his fans want to hear.
"I used to test stuff out on the road, but now I try not to play things people can't hear and can't buy," he says.
Allan's change of philosophy came from attending a concert by an iconic artist a few years back.
"He played for like, three hours and he didn't play one song I knew," Allan said.
After that night, "I took everything out of my set list that people didn't know," he added, noting that he realized at that point that focusing on new music was more about his own satisfaction than making the fans happy.
When he's not touring, Allan spends his time not only writing and recording songs, but pursuing a variety of creative interests, such as producing his own self-titled line of custom jewelry.
Allan's personally designed rings and pendants feature diamonds, black diamonds, garnets, emeralds, rubies, amethysts and garnets, cast in silver and custom wax. Select designs also feature his signature bronc logo.
He recently made a personalized ring for a fan and gave it to her as a gift when she attended her 300th Gary Allan show.
"That's mind boggling to me," he said, adding that he gave her "a really cool heart-shaped ring with diamonds."
When asked what drew him to crafting jewelry, Allan said, "I just like to make stuff. It's like sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and writing a song... it works the same side of my brain."
As for what inspires him as a songwriter, Allan said, "If I'm not writing from my own personal experiences, it's from the stories people tell me."
If a lot of those stories tend to focus on love and heartbreak, it's because "I like the sad stories," Allan said. "And you don't get a lot of that in country music anymore — it's more 'poppy'."
Having just returned from a month-long vacation on the Hawaiian island of Maui, Allan said he's looking forward to getting back into the groove of touring again.
"I travel with nine people in my band," he said, plus of a crew of about 10 more.
"Most of my guys have been with me 10-15 years," he continued, adding with a laugh, "Holding a band together is a lot like nailing jello to a tree."
Tickets for Thursday's show start at $40 and are on sale now. They can be purchased by phone at 1-800-313-SHOW (7469), online at www.StarCasino.com, or via the "Buy Tickets" tab on Shooting Star's Facebook page. Besides Allan, Mahnomen's Shooting Star Casino has a jam-packed lineup of classic country and rock favorites coming to its Event Center over the next couple of months, including the iconic band America on Friday, Feb. 10; Starship, Feb. 17; Chris Janson, Feb. 24; Vince Neil, March 3; Tanya Tucker, March 10; and Kris Kristofferson, March 24.