"Every year, you've got to switch it up," Gary Allan tells Rolling Stone Country of giving concertgoers a different experience year after year. And after almost two decades of back-to-back tours, that takes a lot of creativity. The road warrior shares these vibrant photos from his latest trek, along with commentary on his live shows and upcoming album.
"Some years we go against what's happening; it's just sensory overload," says Allan. "But this year we decided to try out some of new lights and screens."
"I travel with 15 guitars," says Allan. "You want all the songs to sound different. When I'm watching someone else's show, it makes a big difference to me which guitars they pull out. I'm excited to see what they play."
"'Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain),' 'Bones,' 'It Ain't the Whiskey,'" Allan answers when asked which songs are getting the loudest reaction on the road this year. "And 'Right Where I Need to Be' has never stopped. It's like a college classic for some reason."
"I just get it out of my store," Allan says of his stage attire, which mostly comes from The Label, a Nashville clothing store he opened in 2011. "Being from L.A., I have a lot of friends who are designers and leather guys."
Allan has been playing a few new songs from an upcoming album. "I've put two or three out there over the last month that felt really, really good," he says.
While he worked with three different producers on his last album, Set You Free, Allan says he'll co-produce his next with longtime sound engineer Greg Droman.
"I bring in my favorite players, and a lot of those guys play with me on the road," Allan says of his producing style. "That ups the comfort level."
"We change it about every four months," Allan says of his set list. "There's a spot in the show where there are two or three songs interchanged… and that keeps us all from going crazy."
"When I really decided I wanted to do this, it was during the Highwaymen tour — Cash, Kristofferson, Willie and Waylon," Allan recalls of his earliest musical ambitions. "I was probably about 15; that's when country became like rock & roll to me. It was nothing fancy they were doing, but it was hardcore."
"I have a '58 Les Paul Goldtop that I love," Allan says of his guitar collection, much of which is older than him.
"Every year, we try to present the songs a little differently," Allan reports. "We sit with the light guys and sound guy in a giant room, and I have my guitar, and we figure out how to make things sound, feel and look different than the last 20 years we've been coming to town."
"I have a tough time writing on the bus, there's too much going on," says Allan. "I like to play and party too much, and we go to gyms or someplace fun during the day. So I write at home."
When asked the secret to his career longevity, Allan has a simple answer: "I just try to keep doing stuff I've never done."
On September 25th, Allan will embark on his first Australian tour in six years.