Gary Allan has sung quite a few grim songs of struggle, many concerning situations his fans can relate to. So when they come up and tell him how a song has connected with them, he has an answer ready.
"I say that means you've been through a lot of s---," he says. "But it really makes a singer feel good, makes you feel like you nailed it for that day. It sort of justifies what you do."
Allan, who will perform Sunday, Oct. 6, in Hollywood, is starting to emerge from a dark period in his life. It shows in his recent hit "Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)," a song Warren Buffett has cited as a motivation for investing large sums in worthwhile projects, despite what market experts say. Meanwhile, Allan's latest album, "Set You Free," tells the story of a man breaking the restraints of a failed relationship.
Allan's life cratered in 2004, when his third wife, Angela, committed suicide. She had battled depression.
"Just like everybody else, I have had some tough times," Allan says. "Mine are just public. But without them, you end up writing that commercial muck that doesn't mean anything."
Allan expressed his grief on the 2005 album "Tough All Over."
"It was just superexpensive therapy," he says. "But I don't think there's better therapy than sitting down. It forces you to kick everything around and talk about it."
"Set You Free" is more upbeat, he says, for a couple of reasons. First, he had three years to work on it because of a feud with his record company. Second, he co-wrote songs with women for the first time. The album is certainly a departure for a musician one writer claimed is the "dark, heartbroken and wretched singer his fans have loved for over a decade."
"In my defense, I really like the dark songs, their depth," Allan says. "Even old songs such as 'He Stopped Loving Her Today.' And I have the reputation for that."
Allan is regarded as a product of the Bakersfield sound, and he grew up listening to Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. When told that Entertainment Weekly believes the Country Music Association snubbed "Set You Free" in its album of the year nominations, Allan brings up Willie Nelson.
"I'm like Willie — I've never been award-friendly, and it's mostly politics," he says. "I don't get my feelings hurt. Otherwise, I'd have them hurt all the time."
Gary Allan will perform 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, at Hard Rock Live, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, 1 Seminole Way, in Hollywood. Tickets cost $49 to $69. Go to MyHRL.com.