When Gary Allan decided he was ready to release his 10th studio album, the longtime country artist had no shortage of material to choose from. Released eight years after his ninth effort, 2013’s Set You Free, the album comprises 13 tracks culled from nearly 30 Allan had in the can, a collection he describes as his honest attempt at bringing together the best of his new material. “I hope it fills that need after eight years,” Allan tells Apple Music. “There's a ’90s thing that's coming back, and I think I just wanted to take advantage of that.” That ’90s influence is all over Ruthless, like the midtempo opening track and popular single “Temptation” and the clever “Waste of a Whiskey Drink,” which name-checks another ’90s act: Pearl Jam. Below, Allan walks Apple Music through several key tracks on Ruthless.
“Temptation” “This was brought to me by Brian Wright, my A&R guy, and it's just one of those songs—everybody's got somebody they always think about but have moved on from, always the slight temptation. I was drawn to this song, I think, mostly because of the melody. And the beat. It's a fun song to play live. And I'm excited to have it out there for everybody.”
“Waste of a Whiskey Drink” “That's about sitting in a bar watching somebody about to make a big mistake with a girl. And I think we've all done that, known the person in the bar that's just trouble. You're telling your body, ‘Look, that's just a waste of a whiskey drink. You got to get out of there.’”
“Slide” “Everybody always wonders if you're going to be enough for somebody. Especially when you're about to commit. You're thinking, ‘What if I'm not enough? What if I don't live up to what you expect?’ And it’s got a lot of great lines in there. ‘I'm a hellfire over holy water, blue sky hurricane, I'm a mix of everything, and I hope if I slip, you'll let it slide.’ Fun song.”
“Pretty Damn Close” “When it comes to love, I've never really believed in ‘meant to be’s’ and all that stuff. I don't know what love is, but if it's not this, this is pretty damn close, I think is the sentiment of it.”
“Ruthless” “That's my favorite track on there, I think that's why it ended up being the title track. I love the melody of it, I love the sentiment of it, I love the lyrics. It's one of those songs where it's a breakup song, and you obviously still have feelings for this person, and they're just kind of ghosting you, ignoring you, pretending like nothing ever happened. And you're just like, ‘How? How can you be so ruthless?’”
“The Hard Way” “To me, it's such a poetic song. It's like an old rock ’n’ roll song to me—talking about crossroads, and how I feel like I've learned most of my lessons by being kicked in the teeth. It's ‘Everything I've learned, I learned the hard way.’ And I think those are better lessons. They're harder lessons, life lessons.”