Since his debut in 2009, David Nail has made a career of singing songs that few artists dare touch in contemporary country music: sad songs. He has had hits with singles about cheating (“Let...Expand
Since his debut in 2009, David Nail has made a career of singing songs that few artists dare touch in contemporary country music: sad songs. He has had hits with singles about cheating (“Let It Rain”), breakups (“Red Light”) and failed dreams (“Turning Home”) and he has owned every one, singing as if from personal experience.
David’s ability to make such tales of heartbreak and loss his own is what defines him as an artist—one capable of finding and recording songs that are deeply relatable to him and to listeners. And his cathartic new album continues that trend, albeit with a series of decidedly upbeat songs that reflects David’s own happiness.
But the Grammy-nominated artist’s renewed personal life did not come easily.
After scoring his first No. 1 single with “Let It Rain” from 2011’s critically lauded The Sound of a Million Dreams, the bourbon-smooth singer spent an inordinate amount of time on tour, giving his entire being to country fans. He nearly burned himself out in the process, landing in a funk from which he found it difficult to emerge.
But David prevailed, and he credits his revitalization to his wife Catherine. “I have this newfound happiness, energy and enthusiasm about life,” he says. “And the sole inspiration for why I wanted to get better, to change and to be different was because of her.”
Now, David has taken that refreshed mindset and used it to shape his trail-blazing third album. If 2009’s I’m About to Come Alive was a snapshot of David grasping for the stars and The Sound of a Million Dreams captured him struggling with success, then this new album reflects an artist in control of his craft, a man fulfilled.
The album’s 11 tracks, four of which were written by theMissourinative, capture, for the first time, the energy of his live performance. “It is a much more upbeat album than I’ve done in the past,” he says. “Having spent so much time on the road, I think I have a better idea of the type of songs people gravitate toward in a live setting.”
But turning in a more up-tempo album after a career of sober material is a challenge, as well as a departure that could take longtime fans by surprise.
“I think my records have been very much who I was at that place and time, and I think people can say, ‘Man, you sing all these sad songs and there is a lot of heartache,’” David admits. “But this album came out of a pure place of doing something that we simply enjoy.”
David cites the spontaneous nature of cuts like the album’s lead single, “Whatever She’s Got,” a favorite of wife Catherine.
“I always believed the song was special, but when my wife first heard it, I watched her start to dance and move around. I thought to myself, ‘I’ve never seen my wife move like that before.’ I instantly knew we had something with ‘Whatever She’s Got,’” he says.
Indeed, it’s hard to sit still when listening to the breezy jam, perhaps the hookiest love song to be recorded in the past 10 years. “From the first moment I heard it, I thought this would sound amazing on radio,” David says. “It has a melody that you can’t get out of your head.”
Tracks like “Broke My Heart,” “Burnin’ Bed” and “LyleCounty” are similarly infectious, all with deliberate grooves that carry the listener along. “Broke My Heart” has the vibe of a Tom Petty song, “Burnin’ Bed” features a unique staccato delivery from David in its verses, and “LyleCounty” boasts sublime harmonies from special guests Little Big Town.
“LyleCounty” is full of the nostalgic imagery at which David excels. “I thought I was finished with the idea of reflecting on life’s glory days, but there’s something very beautiful and pure about those times. I’m a sucker for those types of songs,” he laughs.
Interestingly, while The Sound of a Million Dreams featured a prominent piano sound, and the new recording contains few ivory notes. It’s very much a guitar record with, naturally for David, an emphasis on vocals. The ACM Award-nominated singer’s voice is without peer. To some, he is country music’s Adele, and even covered the British chanteuse’s “Someone Like You” on his 1979 EP to mainstream praise.
But while David may have eschewed the piano ballads of influences like Elton John on Album Title TBD, he did make a point to pay tribute to one of his heroes, Glen Campbell. He closes out the album with his version of Campbell’s classic “Galveston,” with help from Lee Ann Womack, who also appeared on The Sound of a Million Dreams.
Like much of Album Titled TBD, produced by David’s faithful collaborator Frank Liddell, the inclusion of “Galveston” was born out of spontaneity. “It was very spur of the moment,” David says. “While it was important to me to pay respect to the song, I wanted to do it how I would do it. And I wanted Lee Ann to be a part of it.”
In the end, however, it’s the track “I’m a Fire” that may best define the album and David’s view on where he is in his personal life.
“There’s so many moments on this record that make me think about the last four years that I’ve been married, and ‘I’m a Fire’ just sums it all up,” David says. “It says, ‘I’ve walked through flames, come out on the other end, and the foremost reason is because of you.’”
It’s a heavy statement, one that carries the weight of not only a romance, but of a career. But for David Nail, an artist who wears emotion as a badge of honor, that’s the only kind of statement he can make. And he declares it loud and clear on Album Title TBD.