David Nail has been having quite the year. He's been finding a balance between life on the road and being a new dad and he released his new record, Fighter back in July. It's the Nashville-based country artist's fourth studio album and it's probably the most vulnerable and emotional one yet. After a long battle with infertility (which he discusses in the "Fighter Series" video below), having twins with his wife while writing and releasing his new record AND being on tour most of this year is quite the balancing act but Nail is crushin' it all. I caught up with David Nail to talk about life, his record and what's next. Read on below.
Mandi: So, whats going on? How are you?
David: I'm doing wonderful. Im sorry, I have 9 month old twins and they were just starting to get a little crazy. I had to get home and get them in the house so they wouldn't be too much of a distraction. They're pretty well behaved and they talk pretty quietly until its time to do something important and then they think its time to have a party.
M: I was going to ask you about them, congratulations! Do they go on tour with you?
D: They do not. I always try to keep work and home separate. With two and as young as they are - it'd be extremely difficult. It's hard enough to get them to sleep through the night in a crib let alone on a moving bus.
M: How's the tour going?
D: Its going well. I think at this point of the year - being off and all through most of the year - its hard just because somebody puts a name on something for it to suddenly feel different. I think anytime that you have something that has a title, you want to change it up. I think more than anything you've just been doing more or less of the same set, the same way throughout the better half of the year. It's just really nice to change things up and switch the songs around with some new songs and especially with this new record its not entirely too difficult to do that. It gets you out of your comfort zone a little.
M: How do think the crowd is responding to you new album since its been out for a few months?
D: Good! With each and every show, it's cool because we do a couple of meet-and-greets before the show and you have people who come up and they have their favorites and want to make sure you're playing their song. There's a lot of time you anticipate certain songs being requested and then someone comes up and throws you a curveball and other songs that you didn't expect to be requested are suddenly requested. It makes you question your own ability like, What are the better songs and what are the songs that people are going to want? You kind of trust your gut and know different songs fit in different places. Its been really neat. When you have new songs, you need to figure out where to fit in the songs with your old ones and what's going to produce a good show. It's a little nerve-racking but at the end of the day, it's a lot of fun.
M: Definitely keeps you on your toes! You mentioned you do meet-and-greets before the show and I read somewhere about your fan club, Nail Nation. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
D: We've tried to grow it and make it a little bit I don't want to say "fancy" but its always been grass-root oriented and we've tried to step it up a little bit but at the same time I just feel like, what makes it really special is that it's run by all the fans. It isn't just someone behind a desk assuming what they know what the people want. I think once people get comfortable with the fact that they know their voices can be heard, then I think well get a little more requests than we hoped for.
M: Yeah, there's been plenty of shows I've gone to where it bums me out when I don't hear my favorite song so I love that you do that.
D: Yeah, I've had the same experience and I think the one thing that you learn over time is there's a bunch of reasons why some of the songs don't get played, you know. It could be coming from a technical difficulty or it could be raw emotions they want to avoid. There's a whole list of reasons and it's such a guessing game too. There's been plenty of places that we've played multiple times and I thought I had a handle on what works and like I said, somebody will come up to me in the meet-and-greet or run up to me outside and say, "Hey, you better play this song!" and Im like, "Well, you're going to be disappointed. And it's either something that we've either phased out for some reason or its just not what were doing that particular night. And I think people just think, "Aw, they just didn't want to play it." At least with me, that's never been the case.
M: Do you have a favorite city you perform in?
D: You know, I think we've built something in the Northeast, especially New England and Boston, in particular. What makes it so special is that I remember the first time it was on our schedule and I called my manager and said, "Why in the world are we going to Boston?" There surely can't be a country music scene in Massachusetts. And he said, "Well, why would you think that?" And I just assumed, it doesn't really seem that country. But we went out there in the very beginning and over time, its just started to build and build. It's really taught me that (a) there are rednecks everywhere *laughs* and (b) you really never can assume based on stereotypes who is going to like your music. You really just have to go out there and do what you're going to do and let the people decide. It's neat to have that in Boston, out of all places. And I'm a huge sports fan and its a city that's really rich in the history of sports. I love the city and its very much an experience when we go up there. We try to experience all that the city has to often - which is a ton! What makes it so special is that when we used to go there, about 50-75 people would show up and now it has grown into the thousands. I always say that we invested in them and, in turn, they invested in us. In a lot of ways, it's kind of became our home away from home. Outside of Nashville, that's the place I get recognized the most.
M: Do you live in Nashville now?
D: I do, I've been here over 15 years and coming up on half of my life. Like I said, I grew up in a small town and you always think of where you grew up as home and when you start to spend more time in a specific place and once you live here as long as I've been here - especially the way Nashville is changing. But at the same time you hear people mention something that was here 15 years ago and you realize how old you're getting *laughs.* I won't say any names but the last time I went out, I saw another country artist who's younger than me and he looked really old where we were at and I immediately thought, "God, if he looks that old then I must really look old." And I immediately turned around and just left because I was extremely uncomfortable.
M: How did you even get into music?
D: My father was a band director and it was something that I was extremely interested in. I don't think that I ever thought it was even a possibility, it seemed a little far-fetched. I didn't have a clue how someone would even go about getting into it and so it was something that as time went on, I became more interested and curious in. I'm from the same small town in southeast Missouri that Sheryl Crow is from and so I think seeing her have success kind of showed me that while she's a little older than me and I have no clue how she got her start it or any of that, it at least showed me that it was possible. And it definitely got me a little more curious about the business. I moved over here [to Nashville] after high school to play junior college baseball as a way, to be honest with you, to make my parents happy and at the same time to check out Nashville a little but I quickly retreated. At the time it was such a huge city to me and I was a little lonely at times so I bounced around to a few colleges to search for that magical place for me to go and thrive. I just kept gravitating back towards music and it just kept winning. I moved back when I was 21 and just BOOM crazy with mutual friends and ran into a few people that were in the business and I've kind of been in the business - in one way, shape or form - since then. It hasn't been a smooth journey, that's for sure. But I've been very blessed. I always tell me wife that I have no clue what I'd do if this journey ends so hopefully it just doesn't any time soon.
M: Did you even take singing lessons?
D: I did. I was in choir growing up my entire life from about sixth grade till I graduated high school. Something I totally credit is that my father was the high school band director and his really good friend was the choral director and at some point they made it a super cool thing to be a part of the arts. Very soon after I graduated, I quickly realized that it wasn't that way everywhere else. All my friends were in choir or band or sometimes both and I think that allowed me at an early age to learn how to sing. I don't know if you necessarily can learn how to sing. It's just always been apart of who I am and I've always done it and so I really don't know too much of a life without it.
M: So your album came out in July. Where did the name Fighter come from?
D: Yeah, it was really the first song that I wrote that made the record process begin. I wasn't intending on making a record but I wrote a couple of songs that eventually made it onto the record and I just was curious about going into the studio and recording. But "Fighter" is a song that I wrote about my wife and just how we've been married for 3-4 years and when you get married, you think you know everything there is to know about someone. Obviously thats why you're willing to commit to them for your whole life. Little did I know, I found out is that her greatest quality is that she's a fighter. When she is passionate about something and believes in something, she's going to fight for it. And there were a lot of moments where I didn't expect to come home and have her there. And not only was she there every time but when I'd get home she'd be on the couch and say, "Sit down, we got to talk. We have to figure this out. Im in this for the long haul." That's where the song originated and it wasn't until the record was done that my wife came to me and said, "I obviously know why you wrote 'Fighter' and what its about but you've also been a fighter. Nothing in your career has come easy and you've also had to work hard to keep your head above water." I never really thought about it until she had said that and it meant a lot to me. I felt like since it inspired the whole record writing process, it was important that we make it the title.
M: Do you think your wife inspired a lot of the record writing and set a general theme of the record?
D: In a lot of ways. There are some songs that don't really apply to her but I think in a lot of ways, she was involved. I think it's important to have someone separate from the business to try things out on. They're fresh ears. She's really good about listening to things unbiased and theres a lot of songs I've loved and she's like, "ehhhh." And other times there were songs that I was on the fence about that she's loved so it's been really good.
M: Where did you write the album and what was the process like?
D: Actually, I had been off the road for a couple of months and my wife and I had just started the IVF process to have kids and I wasn't planning on working a whole lot. I just eventually started writing and, like I said, I wrote "Fighter" and I wrote another song called "Home" and it just started snowballin'. Next thing you know, you have this collection of songs that you're excited about. I feel like you have to listen to yourself sing these songs with an acoustic guitar enough times till you really want to see them grow. It allowed me to experiment and as a result, this record was made. But I really don't write that much on the road. It's already difficult to be away from your family and you're already so busy so it's hard to focus on one specific thing.
M: Do you think your writing process was different because you have a family now or because you're life has changed so much?
D: I'm sure it has from a standpoint because you don't have two kids and not change. But the majority of the record was written before I had kids and I think more than anything when you play certain songs - especially ones from three or four years ago - and words from those songs just pull at the heart strings more now. And maybe in the past it doesn't affect you as significantly as it does now but now I'm just this sappy married dad of two. There were definitely songs that were difficult to write from a standpoint of how honest do I want to be and how detailed do I want to be? You know? Sometimes I probably wait too long to sit down and write a song. When I sit down, I want it to come out pretty freely.
M: Do you have any projects lined up now for the future?
D: I don't, I'm curious about what's next though! This record was such a load off my shoulders. It was a big time labor of love and it took over a year to make and so I feel like I really poured my heart and soul into this. There's a lot of this record that I've been probably trying to say and talk about for a long time now and I was finally able to do that. When you have such a load off your shoulders like this you're always curious about what's next. So, who knows!