By Vernell Hackett
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - The release of country music singer Gary Allan's new album "Set You Free," this week, his first since undergoing vocal surgery in 2010, was not meant to happen so soon.
But when his record label, MCA Nashville, saw his new song "Every Storm (Runs out of Rain)," race up the charts in September, the label pushed the album's release up two months from March.
"I've been doing this forever and it usually goes the other way," Allan told Reuters. "It's super exciting for me."
Now in its 20th week on Billboard's country chart, "Every Storm (Runs out of Rain)," peaked last week at No. 4 and has been downloaded some 685,000 times, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Allan, 45, who has scored three country chart toppers in his 17-year career, said his latest hit was the right song at the right time for a country politically divided and seemingly down on its luck.
"It's a song about hope," he said. "Sometimes a song really resonates with people and the public because of the timing of its release. This is a time when our country needs hope and I think that's why it's doing so well."
Allan's voice is stronger on the album and he credits surgery he underwent in 2010 to remove a polyp from his vocal cords, which made it difficult for him to sing high notes.
"I don't think I realized it really, but there were a few years where I couldn't hit the falsetto notes on songs like 'Smoke Rings in the Dark.' After the surgery, it was like I was 18 again," he said.
Allan, a California native who often plays down-home American rodeos and state fairs, is best known as a brooding troubadour who likes to pack an emotional punch.
TEAM OF RIVALS
"I don't want to hear songs about how sunshiny things are," he said. "I don't like songs that feel like radio candy ... I like the ones that make you think, laugh or cry - they pull some kind of emotion out of you."
Allan for the first time played a part in writing every song on "Set You Free" to achieve that sentiment. He also used a team of rivals to freshen up his sound on his ninth studio album.
"I think you need to do something new to keep reinventing yourself," he said. "I used three different producers and we were all a little competitive with each other to see who could get the best songs," he said.
"The result was we got better quality in the songs and the recording. It's my favorite album I've ever done."
Among his favorite songs on the album is "One More Time," a song about the death of his father in 2008, written with Hillary Lindsey and Matt Warren - co-writers on "Every Storm."
"We just wanted to write an introspective song," Allan said. "We kept thinking 'What would you say when you got to the pearly gates?', and what I would say is 'I want one more time, I'm not ready to be there.'"
Another song, "Pieces," describes Allan's life philosophy.
"No matter who you meet in life, you take something from them, positive or negative," Allan said. "That's what the song is about, pieces of what I've been through and of the people I've met."
MCA Nashville is part of Universal Music Group, a subsidiary of France's Vivendi SA.
(Reporting by Vernell Hackett, editing by Eric Kelsey, desking by G Crosse)