Two days after 'Set You Free' was released in January, Gary Allan began thinking about his next album. He tells Taste of Country that he was at an event with songwriter Hillary Lindsey -- whose credits include 'Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)' and 'Two Black Cadillacs' -- during release week, and he tried to corner her to write. She laughed and reminded him that his last project was just days old. "That means we have one year to get this done," he remembers telling her, semi-seriously.

Allan credits Lindsey and women like Sarah Buxton with helping him lighten up. The female perspective took him away from the dark and moody material he prefers. "I don't really like the happy songs," the 'Pieces' singer says, laughing. "I think if you're writing and you're happy I'd rather hear somebody else."

'Pieces' is Allan's follow-up to 'Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain),' a song that was praised for being an inspiration. It's clear the singer is in a more comfortable place now, eight-and-a-half years after the death of his wife Angela. He says it took time to write songs about the experience, and even longer to sing those songs live. He will do so now during more intimate performances.

Expect more singles from 'Set You Free' before a new album is released, but Allan indicated that the follow-up would also be more optimistic than some of his previous works. Each project is a snapshot of where he's at mentally, he says, and right now he's in a good place.