Country star Gary Allan is "deep into" his ninth album, and after tackling tough emotional terrain on 2007's "Living Hard" and 2010's "Get Off on the Pain" (both Top 5 on the Country and Billboard 200 charts) he promises this one will take a more positive tone.
"It's super rock, super up," Allan tells Billboard.com. "It seems like a lot of the stuff I was writing this year was just up and hopeful stuff. I'm usually the sad writer, but I think I was able to step away from that this time."
How come? "Life's good," Allan explains. "I think I'm just in a really good place, mentally, and this just reflects that. Every album I do is just about where I'm at at the time."
Allan recorded four tracks with longtime producer Mark Wright and six songs with Jay Joyce, and he took the reins on five more "by myself, with nobody in the room. I think those are the best ones." But he says he also enjoyed working with Joyce (Eric Church, Patty Griffin, Randy Rogers Band), calling him, "a really odd cat, kind of like a mad scientist. I can see how he's really good with young bands...But I had a blast making this record, more than the others ones, I think, just 'cause I mixed it up a more this time."
Allan recently put together rough mixes of the new songs to present to his label and is also contemplating which will make the final cut. He predicts a song called "Tough Goodbye" is the likely first single but is waiting for label and management feedback before deciding on that, too.
"No one really comes in when I make my records," Allan says. "I usually don't have to show anybody what we're doing when I'm (recording). I'm trying to keep it that way." He wrote a pair of songs ("Every Stormcloud" and "One More Time") with Hillary Lindsey but so far no guest appearances are planned.
Allan plans to road test some of the new songs during his headlining stint on the 2012 Country Throwdown Tour, a package created by Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman that wraps up July 8.
"The guy's philosophy is so different form other tours I've been on," Allan says. "He's all about ticket values and giving people a lot for their money. It's super eclectic and not chart-driven, and it's really focused on (acts) that are really good live. So I'm super-excited to be part of it. I'm sure i'll come back and do it again down the road."
Allan will play his own shows after Country Throwdown, including state fair dates in Alaska, Oklahoma and South Dakota.