By ANDY GRAY
Sheryl Crow plans to get a little bit country on her album, "Feels Like Home," which will be released next month.
There's no debating where Gary Allan falls on the musical spectrum.
Since the release of his debut album in 1996, Allan has had more than 20 top 40 country hits and four No. 1s - "Man to Man," "Tough Little Boys," "Nothing on but the Radio" and "Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)," which was the lead single from his latest album, "Set You Free."
Allan and Crow are hitting the road together on what's been dubbed the "Free and Easy Tour" ("Easy" is the name of the lead single from "Feels Like Home"), and one of the first stops on the tour is a co-headlining show Monday as part of the Canfield Fair.
WHO: Sheryl Crow and Gary Allan
WHEN: 8 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Canfield Fairgrounds, 7265 Columbiana-Canfield Road, Canfield
COST: $60, $50, $40 and $30
Allan took the time to answer some questions via email in advance of the show.
Ticket: How did the idea of touring with Sheryl Crow come about?
Allan: Sheryl and I met while doing some guitar pulls earlier this year and started talking about doing something together. The timing seemed right and "Free and Easy" just came natural to us both. I've always been a fan of her music, so I'm looking forward to working with her.
Ticket: How are you prepping for the tour and will you be doing some songs together?
Allan: We are still working on a lot of the details of the tour, but we're hoping to be able to do something together. I think that would be a cool moment during the show.
Ticket: Crow clearly is looking to broaden her audience to country fans with her new album and the tour. Do you have similar hopes of reaching some folks who normally don't listen to country music through this pairing?
Allan: I think Sheryl fits the country genre perfectly. Most people of any genre know who she is whether they know her music or not. As for me, it never hurts to gain new fans, but I'm definitely a country guy.
Ticket: The latest album, "Set You Free," is your first since having polyps removed from your vocal cords. That has to be a scary surgery for a singer. How did you handle it?
Allan: When your livelihood, and that of your band and crew, depends on you being able to sing and then not knowing how that will come out on the other end, it is scary for everyone. I researched and made sure I had a great doctor, then I just crossed my fingers and left it up to her expertise. Dr. Garrett did a fantastic job, and I did everything she told me to do. The not speaking, coughing or clearing your throat for a few weeks was the hardest part. I used a wipe-off board to communicate with my kids, and I became quite dependent on text messages to communicate with everyone else. When it was all said and done, I felt like I was singing like I was 18 again.
Ticket: You also had knee surgery last month? How is that affecting what you can do on stage?
Allan: I had to slow down for a few weeks and basically stand in one spot on the stage, but it is healing nicely now and hasn't affected much of what I do. I'm back to golfing, running and moving all over the stage just like before the surgery. I just do it all with a lot less knee pain now.
Ticket: With the vocal cord surgery and all, that had to make the success of the lead single, "Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)" all the more satisfying, no?
Allan: The success of "Every Storm Runs Out Of Rain" has been great. We felt like it was a hit, but the way people have responded to that song has been quite moving. It has become an inspirational message for so many people. I am proud of that.
Ticket: How did that track emerge as the lead single?
Allan: The album was finished just as Mike Dungan was taking over the reins at UMG Nashville. We invited him to the studio and played the album from beginning to end. He listened and commented on each track and he felt "Storm" needed to be the lead single. I've never had that happen with the head of a label, but he was passionate about it and believed it was the right choice. I'm glad we listened and went with his first instinct.
Ticket: You co-wrote the title track from your 2007 album, "Living Hard," with Bob DiPiero, who's a local guy. How did the two of you come to work together and how was the collaboration?
Allan: I always write with the same group of people, mainly Odie Blackmon and Matt Warren. The two of them will mix things up every so often and bring a different writer with them out to the house. One day Odie brought Bob along and "Living Hard" was the result. That is also how writing with Hillary Lindsey happened. Matt brought Hillary over one day and it just clicked.
Ticket: What's next?
Allan: We have more dates with Sheryl coming up and then several dates on our own through the end of the year. We'll be promoting "It Ain't the Whiskey" to radio and doing events surrounding that as well. It has been a busy year and I don't see that slowing down anytime soon.