GARY ALLAN - FREE
By Brittany Santos
With over seven million albums sold to date and five gold albums to his credit Gary Allan is a force of nature in the country music scene. His last Album Set You Free debuted at number one on the Billboard country chart and the Billboard 200. And his fans? They are a fiercely loyal crowd. In fact, recently Gary surprised one of his female fans when he learned she was seeing him perform a record three hundred times. He invited her backstage and where he and her friends had some cake, and he gave her a custom piece of jewelry that he had made. Gary has a store in Nashville, Tennessee and when he was walking around town sizing up what competing stores were selling he realized that the silver pieces seemed to be selling well. He took it upon himself to learn the craft of jewelry making, molding, casting and designing his own unique pieces.
This southern California Native has country music running through his veins. The first band that he was ever in was his father's. He performed with him and did solo gigs on the side, and at the age of fifteen Nashville came calling, and Gary scored his very first record deal. When his father heard about the deal, he refused to cosign it and squashed the deal for his son. He told him "If I let you have a record contract right now you are going to do whatever they say and you'll get chewed up and spit out. If you just develop and figure out who you are a little bit, then you'll last longer." At first, Gary was understandably upset and promptly quit his father's band. At age, Twenty-two Gary realized his Dad was right, and this time when he signed he was ready to take on the country music scene. His maturity gave him what he felt was the confidence to perform. "I didn't have to think about how to sing a song anymore. You could just give me a song, and I could do it."
His throngs of fans are glad he developed his smoldering vocals, rebellious lyrics, and also the soul searching he helps them feel through his music. He uses his music to get through whatever life throws at him, and it's been a lot. Gary had a platinum record under his belt and his legions of fans loved him when he met the love of his life on an airplane ride. Her name was Angela, and she was his flight attendant on the trip. The pair quickly fell in love and soon they were moving into a big home in Nashville. They each had three kids from previous relationships, and they all moved in together Brady Bunch style. At first, it was a happy marriage. The families blended and everything seemed wonderful. Then Gary's wife Angela began developing these debilitating migraines. The doctors prescribed numerous medications hoping to get her over these crippling headaches. She became drawn, sad, depressed during this time. And on October 25th in 2004 Gary realized how bad her depression had become. She was having a particularly bad day, and Gary knew he should stay by her side. Angela told him her throat was very dry and would he mind getting her a coke from the fridge. Gary, of course, wanted to help and when he left the room, Angela crawled out of bed and got their gun from their safe and put it in her mouth. Gary was devastated and broken. He pulled it together for his children and eventually got back to his music.
He has spoken in many interviews that he uses the process of writing, recording, and creating his records as a form of therapy. We asked him what is he going through in the new album that he is writing. He said "You know good stuff I feel like lately; I feel like songs that I've written are more positive. Pretty much the albums I write seem to reflects wherever I'm at mentally. If I'm going through something, it's like when my wife died every day was therapy you get to ask all the questions and turn over every emotion that you are having. Whatever I'm going through it helps me work it out." Gary came out about his wife's suicide and her depression on The Oprah Winfrey show hoping that by sharing his story maybe he could help someone that might be going through the same thing. Visit his Facebook page today, and you can see that his continued therapy in the studio has touched many hearts and have helped his fans get through tough times in their own lives. When asked how this makes him feel Gary said "Big, that's why I do it. When I play live I love to look out into the audience you can see the people that are crying and watch the memories wash over them. Usually, if you've been through a lot of heartaches you like my stuff, and that's because I had a lot of heartaches when I wrote my stuff."
On his latest tour, he and his band have retooled the set list. Making a mix of things they haven't played and of course peppered with his hit songs the fans want to hear. He told STRIPLV that when he visits our town, he has so many family, and friends out this way he doesn't have time to do much of anything. But he did share a great story about visiting our city when he was a teenager. "When I was like fourteen to seventeen my best friend's dad was the general manager of The Stardust Casino. This is like the late seventies and early eighties, and we'd stay at The Stardust. His Dad lived on the top floor and he'd go down and tell the pit bosses that we could gamble and give us coupons so we could gamble and win real money back. Then we'd go see the late show. It was always topless, and he always gave us the VIP High Roller table up front. It absolutely ruined me as a kid. I knew that I wasn't working nine to five and there wasn't anything happening before noon that I couldn't miss. It was the stuff after midnight that I was missing out on."
With a career in music that spans over Twenty-one years, Gary Allan has toured with and met so many celebrities throughout the course of his time as a country superstar. I couldn't help but wonder when the last time was that this country crooner got star-struck. "You know I don't really get star-struck. Recently I got to perform with Steven Tyler; I didn't get hang out with him or anything, but that was pretty cool. Right when I first got a deal I was on George Straits record label, and I would avoid him because he was one of my favorites, and I was afraid that if he was an ass, I'd have to go and throw away all of his records. And I said that to him one day after everyone had left and I said Hey George you might have noticed that I've been avoiding you. And I told him it was because I was afraid if you were an idiot I'd have to throw away all your records. He laughed then said, Man I know what you mean, I was on Ray Prices tour and I don't think he knew I was there for like three years. I was so upset." (Laughter)
Country music according to Gary Allan is about Monday through Friday and pop music is about the weekends. "It's for the everyday hard working stiff. You are dealing with life with country music, and we like whiskey." (Laughing) When asked about the moment when he realized that playing music was actually something he could make money at Gary said; "It probably took about two years of me having a deal with a record label for me to say you know what, maybe I can pull this off. It is a magical thing. I worked an eight-hour shift and then went out at night to play music for free. For somebody to tell me I could make money off the part I did for free was a pretty incredible thing in my life."
How should someone prepare for seeing a Gary Allan show live for the first time? Allan replied, "Grab a couple of shots of something you like, and then get ready."
The touring will continue in the New Year, and the force that is Gary Allan will keep on keeping on including all of his charitable contributions. He organized a donate and download campaign in conjunction with The Red Cross and his monster hit "Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)" to donate to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. Allan was scheduled to perform in Atlantic City when the storm hit New Jersey. He also continues to share the magic with a recent fundraiser in honor of Sharon Eaves a long-time friend and president of his fan club for over Twenty years. They were able to donate over $25,000 to St. Jude's in a memorial to her. The moral of this story is if you find the magic and create a career like Gary has it's only fitting that you spread that magic and share it with the world. Judging from the love and loyalty of his fans, Gary is going to be able to share that magic for quite some time.