OTTUMWA — It seems sometimes there are two kinds of performers in music: Those who can’t wait to get on the road and those who dread it. Gary Allan is emphatically part of the former.
“I love being on the road,” he said. “I ride with my band. We’re really like family.”
Allan spoke with the Courier during a break from a session. Keeping the shows fresh, for fans and for the band, means making tweaks. Change the tempo for a song, shift the arrangement a bit. That gives both something new when the tour goes out. Having a new song or two helps, too, and Allan said there will be a bit of that. Mostly, though, he wants to focus on the songs that fans have embraced, the songs that have kept him in the business.
“I still love it as much as I did when I first started,” he said. That was a while back.
Most of the band has been together for Allan’s entire career. They’ve been at the top. Two platinum albums. Number one on the Billboard country charts five times. His last album even hit the top of the Billboard 200. And when they’re off the road, Allan said they’re often together — even outside the studio.
That long history helps. Everyone knows the songs, they know how they play and sing together. Years of performing and being there through some tough times created trust, a bond audiences can see.
The way Allan put it, he records so he can do shows for fans, as he has for more than 20 years. Back when he started the big name was Garth Brooks. Allan said things have changed since then. There’s more pop in country music now. He’s an unrepentant part of the old guard.
“Country music is what happens Monday through Friday,” he said. “Pop is what you do on the weekend.”
It’s not that Allan wished things hadn’t changed. They do. Nothing any artist does will ever stop that. It’s more a sense that there’s something worth preserving in country music’s unique history and sound.
“Things have shifted a lot. Things have always shifted, though,” he said. “I’m trying to hold down the fort and bring back country music.”
Allan’s show at Bridge View Center on Saturday is next up for the tour. Then it’s off to Michigan. Then Tennessee. Then Indiana.
When you love being on the road, that’s a schedule you like to see.
Matt Milner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed @mwmilner