Gary Allan: “We Used to Influence Pop. Now We’re Being Influenced by Pop”

photo: Eric Adkins

Following the career of Gary Allan over the last few years has been like riding a roller coaster, and now he is back to criticizing all of the pop influences in country after being partially a party to them with some of his recent singles. While preparing for some shows in Las Vegas recently, Allan spoke candidly to the Review-Journal about what he feels is wrong with today’s country music, while also admitting he’s dabbled himself in some mainstream sounds over the years.

“ ‘Organic’ is a good word,” Gary told the newspaper. “I feel like somebody needs to stick out and turn this thing back toward something more organic. Country music used to be the most organic stuff out there, and now it’s become super pop-influenced. We used to influence pop. Now I feel like we’re being influenced by pop.”

Allan continued, “I’ve always found myself on the edge of Americana and the mainstream. When I get too far in the Americana side, I put one right down the pike and get back over into the mainstream. Then when you get too far into the mainstream, you try to pull those other guys. That’s been a dance my whole career.”

Since Gary Allan’s early 2013 album Set You Free, he’s been struggling to release new music after a series of failed singles. 2015’s R&B-styled “Hangover Tonight,” 2016’s “Do You Wish It Was Me?” and 2017’s “Mess Me Up” all failed to reach the Top 40 at radio, stifling Allan’s opportunities to release a new album. Allan moved label imprints from MCA Nashville to EMI Nashville in 2016, hoping this may help to restart his career, but to no avail so far. Rumors have Gary Allan recently working with producer and songwriter Shane McAnally. Presumably Allan’s had an entire album in the can for a few years. But without a successful single, mainstream labels are often leery to release new records.

Allan said in the recent interview, “I’m super proud of the stuff I just turned in. Hopefully they’ll find a single out of that, and we’ll get a launching point and go. It’s all pretty feel-good; it’s all pretty in-your-face. It’s all just really different. I kind of went the opposite of what everybody else was doing.”

This isn’t the first time Gary Allan has been outspoken about the pop direction of country. In 2013, he said artists like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood weren’t country when prompted by Larry King in an interview. “You used to be able to turn on the radio and you knew instantly it was the country station just by listening to it, and now you’ve got to leave it there for a second to figure it out,” Allan said, then blamed radio consolidation for the change. “They’ve kind of sliced everything up, feeding it to the public in demographics.”

Gary Allan later backtracked, saying that those comments were taken out-of-context. Some have surmised that his harsh words for radio are one of the reasons his subsequent singles have struggled. The good news for Gary Allan fans is it sounds like new music could be on the way. The only question will be if radio will play it, or if his label will release it in album form.