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Country star Gary Allan was raised by a Mormon mother and three of his children have lived in Utah, so he's got local ties. So many Utahns know who Allan is that he sold out The Depot within hours last year. Now he's bringing his "Get Off on the Pain" tour to the Beehive State, where he'll headline the much-bigger Maverik Center.
Less prominent to local fans are his two opening acts. Both Jerrod Niemann and Randy Houser, are up-and-coming country singers who began their Nashville careers as songwriters. They each talked to the Tribune about the wave of success that's coming their way.
Jerrod Niemann • Raised in southwest Kansas, Niemann moved to Nashville as a songwriter and eventually co-wrote three singles for Garth Brooks: "Good Ride Cowboy," "That Girl Is a Cowboy" and "Midnight Sun." Other musicians who have recorded Niemann's songs include Jamey Johnson and Neal McCoy.
"Good Ride Cowboy" was a tribute to the late rodeo champion and country singer Chris LeDoux, who recorded the memorable song "Utah Tribute," a paean to the Terrace Ballroom and waltzes with Utah ladies. "Chris LeDoux credited Salt Lake for his success," Niemann said. "I'm a big LeDoux fan."
In early 2010, Niemann recorded an independent album with friends called "Judge Jerrod & the Hung Jury." Like the two albums he had recorded before it, he didn't expect many people to hear it.
But one very important person did hear it: Brad Paisley. And he liked it.
Niemann was so jaded with the music industry that when Paisley and his business partners contacted him, the singer politely declined, saying he wasn't interested in changing his album to suit anyone else's tastes. To Niemann's surprise, Paisley told him they didn't want to change a thing. So Niemann signed with Paisley's personal label, Arista Nashville's Sea Gayle.
"I'm not sure what went right," Niemann said. "It was the ultimate dream come true."
The album was released in July, and to Niemann's continued surprise, his single "Lover, Lover" hit No. 1 on the charts and became the country song of the summer.
" 'Lover, Lover' was the last song I recorded," Niemann said. "I sang all nine parts myself. I didn't know I could sing harmony."
Randy Houser • Like Niemann, Houser found his first success as a songwriter in Nashville. Two of the Mississippi native's biggest songs, "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" (a hit for Trace Adkins) and "Back That Thing Up" ( a hit for Justin Moore), revolved around the theme of, um, women's backsides.
Explain yourself, Mr. Houser. "I'm definitely an ass man," he said.
Houser came to Nashville, though, to become a recording artist. "I made a living writing songs when I started in Nashville," he said. "But I missed getting an immediate reaction from fans [during live shows]."
So in 2008, Houser got the opportunity to record his first album, "Anything Goes." The second single, "Boots On," became his first Top 10 hit, in part because of the hilarious video that became a viral hit on YouTube.
The video features a baby mouthing the words to the song, and despite critics charging that it was manipulated to make it seem like the baby was singing along, Houser insists the footage was real. "It's not fake," he said. "His nanny filmed the video."
Houser's sophomore album, "They Call Me Cadillac," will be released on Sept. 21. "All my buddies call me Cadillac," Houser said. "[Cadillacs] are big and comfortable and smooth."
He considers it an important statement: "This album is definitely a reflection of my life," he said. "I want people to know who I am."
Just like all the Utah country music fans who know Allan.
No pain, all gain
P Gary Allan, with Randy Houser and Jerrod Niemann
When • Thursday, Sept. 16, at 7:30 p.m.
Where • Maverik Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City
Tickets • $39.40 to $49. 65 at Ticketmaster outlets