Best Tour He’s Ever Had

The folks who helped take Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley to stardom are working on their next arena act. The name of the new guy? Gary Allan.

Allan’s been around for a while. And he’s had a steady build in the country music world, with three platinum albums, three No. 1 hits and seven Top 10 singles. By all accounts, he should be playing in the biggest rooms available. For some reason, though, it hasn’t panned out that way. Yet.

“This is the first time we’ve had somebody like Live Nation and the House of Blues come in and help develop what we’re doing tour-wise,” Allan told Pollstar. Allan is out on a mid-sized theatre tour, hitting not only the House of Blues clubs but also places like the Fillmore Charlotte and the former Grand Ole Opry, now known as the Ryman Auditorium. And, selling out rooms as large as the 3,160-capacity Rabb’s Steakhouse in Ruston, La., he’s seeing the best numbers of his career.

It’s been a long haul. The country music artist was on Pollstar’s cover more than 10 years ago. He has been successful ever since, by any definition other than “arena headliner.” He’s had 22 hit singles – enough to make for a great night of well-known music. It’s just gone a little differently for him.

Even though he had his major-label debut in 1996, it took the Country Music Association seven years to nominate him for the Horizon Award – its newcomer honor. That happened the same year he had two No. 1 songs, “Man to Man” and “Tough Little Boys.”

He’s also zagged when the rest of the country world was zigging. His 2003 album, See If I Care, referenced his attitude about the country music business. In the old days, he refused to play larger clubs when they wouldn’t let him cover George Jones. And Allan wasn’t genetically designed to be a media darling the way a Taylor Swift is.

“I’m not a big press guy,” Allan said. “I usually avoid it at all costs but I’ve been a lot more flexible now that we’re all sticking our heads out on this [tour].”

That even included the California native flying some radio people out to Napa Valley for an event, he said. He just re-signed to MCA Records and it’s time to get the show on the road.

There are other reasons why Allan hasn’t sat through too many media days.

“He had a tragic moment and he didn’t want to talk about it,” said agent Rob Beckham. “Gary should have been a superstar headliner five or six years ago. Should have been. There’s no question about it. Had there not been tragedy in his life, would things have been different? Probably. But at the same time he can look at it and say, ‘OK, we’re going to piece this thing back together.’“

Allan’s wife of four years, Angela, suffering from depression and migraines, shot herself in 2004. Allan eventually addressed the tragedy on the Oprah Winfrey show but he has kept a low profile. He’s had other distractions in his personal life – his father passed away last year and he recently had to deal with a woman accused of stalking him.

But his fans have stuck through it. According to Beckham and Live Nation’s Brian O’Connell, the fan base is “rabid” and Allan has been selling out in advance in large part because of the online fan club.

Beckham and O’Connell are not only friends, they’ve worked together on several projects together, one being a harmonic group called Rascal Flatts. Beckham booked the band and O’Connell promoted it. O’Connell has also assisted the careers of Paisley and Brooks & Dunn, among others. Beckham’s boss – William Morris’ Rick Shipp – is Allan’s responsible agent, but it is the team of Beckham and O’Connell that is driving the Allan project, with the help of manager John Lyttle.

Photo: Rod Tanaka /

“I’ve worked around [Brian] lots but this is the first time I think I’ve ever been directly involved with them as talk of a headliner and taking it into the bigger rooms,” Allan said. “It’s a great partnership: House of Blues and Brian.”

Allan recently sold out consecutive dates – Chicago, Houston and New Orleans – in advance, with hundreds of people showing up at Chicago to be turned away, according to O’Connell.

“You start to build the reputation that you better buy a ticket when it goes on sale,” O’Connell told Pollstar. “It’s about how you present the artist. But all of the artists I’ve worked with from the beginning have had a star quality, and Gary is a big flippin’ star.”

But building an artist to the arena level also means keeping them a commodity along the way. Allan is touring about 20 markets this time out, rather than three times as many.

“The ticket sales are doing really well. I’m excited to do it,” Allan said, adding that it’s a nice change from the soft-ticket fair appearances. “As much as we were willing to bite off in the hard-ticket realm, we’ve always been sort of in the soft-ticket thing, especially this last year with this recession.

“But I took about as much of it as I could,” he added. “So, yeah, this tour is absolutely about seeing how much we can bite off and I think it’s about as much as we can bite off at first. And it seems to be doing really well.”

Click here to visit Gary Allan’s website.