Some artists can find it intimidating when it comes to following up a hugely successful album, but Gary Allan is always up for a challenge. His last album, 2013’s Set You Free, debuted at No. 1 on both Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and the all-genre Billboard 200 chart. It spawned the chart-topping single “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)” and earned praise from both fans and critics. Now, Allan is back with a new single, “Mess Me Up,” and has readied a collection of songs that reflect the sweet spot he’s in right now, personally and professionally.
“I’m in a pretty good place right now. All my records reflect where I’m at mentally. If I’m going through something, you guys will know about it. I’m in a good place, so I think it’s going to be a feel-good record. I’m happy with my home life. I’m actually moving right now so that part sucks,” he tells Sounds Like Nashville over the phone with a laugh. “But I’m just in a good place. My kids are all doing well. I’m doing well. I’m just happy.”
The day of the interview he was watching boxes leave his old house, heading for his new one. And they didn’t have far to travel. “Oddly enough I bought the house next door. It used to be Conway Twitty’s house,” he says, admitting he has always been a huge Twitty fan. “I’ve always wanted it and now I have it. It’s been the easiest [move], but kind of a pain in the butt because you don’t carry a box to the truck. You carry it all the way next door.”
When it came to recording his new album, Allan says he didn’t let the success of Set You Free pile on any pressure. “It was business as usual,” he says. “I don’t read my own press or pay attention to that kind of stuff. I think I just keep my head down, keep finding good songs and keep doing what I do. I know it will click with somebody.”
That philosophy has always worked for the California native, who first burst on the scene in 1996 with the single “Her Man.” Since then he’s populated country radio with such hits as “Tough Little Boys,” “Right Where I Need to Be,” “Best I Ever Had,” and “Life Ain’t Always Beautiful” and “Watching Airplanes.”
His new single, “Mess Me Up,” is a song he’s been wanting to release for a while. “I’ve been a fan of the song for years,” he says. “I’ve had it for a while, mostly waiting for the label to come around for it, and I’m excited about the song. I’ve been playing it live and tested it that way. It’s one that just got under my skin. It’s a song that gets inside of you and rips you up a little bit.”
At present, “Mess Me Up” is the only new song he’s sharing with fans on the road. “I try not to play things that people can’t buy or haven’t heard. I went to see this guy play at Bridgestone [Arena in Nashville] and he played for like three hours and didn’t play one song that I knew,” he recalls of going to see a major pop act he’d been a fan of for years. “He played old album [cuts] and it completely changed me and how I do my show. I said, ‘I’d never do that,’ and that concert probably changed the way I did shows forever. I went home and crossed out every song that I thought people wouldn’t know.”