David Nail Recruits Famous Friends for Upcoming Album
It's been nearly two years since David Nail released his debut album, 'I'm About to Come Alive,' and the singer-songwriter is the first to address how much he's changed since its recording. Aside from professional accolades -- including scoring a Grammy nod for the project's 'Turning Home' and reaching the Top 10 on the charts with 'Red Light' -- the Missouri native is also now a married man.
The Boot recently sat down with David to discuss how all these factors affect his new music. We also get the story behind Sarah Buxton's surprise (at least to David) cameo on the album's first single, plus another famous "lady" who collaborated with him and the lowdown on the CD's one guaranteed love song.
How far along are you with the new album?
We're about halfway done. We started at the very end of December last year and then got right back on the road in January and February. The last couple of months, I've been writing and looking for more songs. We have a collection that we really like. If there's anything the last record taught me is to try not to rush and feel like you're completed. 'Red Light' came in literally two or three weeks after we turned in the record, so we went back in specifically for that song. It taught me to never close the door on potential songs and to always be looking even when I feel like the record is done.
Out of those five, how many did you write?
Two. I got the shaft in that we had set out to record six and I was going to have three of them. We ran out of time, and I'm used to the fact that the one that's going to be shoved to the end is going to be one that I wrote. [laughs] It was comical in the studio as we started wrapping up, it was looking like that was going to happen, and I wasn't the least bit surprised, having had that happen before. Hopefully, that's a song that we'll have to pick up in the next session.
Obviously, one of the songs you penned is 'Let it Rain,' what is the other?
It's a song that I wrote with Dave [Haywood] and Charles [Kelley] from Lady Antebellum, when I was out on the road with them last fall. It's called 'I Thought You Knew.' They had started with another songwriter, Monty Powell, who was out on the road with them. More than anything they were stuck in the thought process of "is this something we should continue to work on or should we move on to something else?" I walked in and Charles was mumbling some lines that I don't think he was quite sold on. I thought they were really cool and different than anything I would have pursued. It was neat to sit back and watch them work. I was more or less a referee to say, 'I like that' or 'Maybe we should explore something else here.' I was very thankful for the opportunity to sit on the bus and watch it all come to life.
When you're writing with another artist, how do you all decide who gets the song?
I've always been lucky. I haven't done that a ton, but it always works itself out. With Dave and Charles, they carry a setup where they can record some demos out on the road. Right away, they laid down a guitar and piano track and I came in and sang it. It was an unspoken formality to say that it was something I dug. Then Charles definitely put on the pressure and said, "Hey, you better cut this, or we're going to." I don't know if that was a sales pitch or him trying to manipulate the situation to make sure I cut or if it was in fact true. It worked itself out.
The same thing happened with 'Let it Rain,' which I wrote with Jonathan Singleton, who is obviously an artist. It was there for the taking when we went to make this record and it fit perfect.
Did get you any other opportunities to write with the Lady A boys during the tour?
We didn't. The one opportunity came toward the end of the tour. We had talked about it before, but after the year that they had and that I had, we were all pretty tired and ready to go be boyfriends and husbands and girlfriends. We dispersed into Christmas-land at the end of the tour, then I saw Dave and Charles last week and it was the first, or maybe second, time since the end of the tour. The one thing you don't want to happen is that I don't want people to think is "David's trying to be Lady Antebellum," and trying to milk off their success. They definitely have a certain thing that they do, which is very successful and personal for them, and I have the same thing. I want to stay true to who I am and the artist I want to be. Those collaborations are great when they happen naturally.
How would you say that the new record will differ from your last?
I don't know how to describe my last record in the best terms, but it was definitely a reflective record and I was coming out of a somewhat moody and dark time of my life. That record took on that feel. This record, I wanted to branch out and make it stand up on its own a little bit more. Make it a record you listen to and automatically anticipate seeing live with songs that will really stand out live. I think both 'Let it Rain' and 'I Thought You Knew' serve that to a 't.'
Will the new project include a love song?
There will, if I have any say so whatsoever, be a love song on the next record. I wrote a song right after I had proposed to my wife. Anytime that you're engaged to somebody and they're new to the music business, my wife had a very popular question of, "who's that song about?" It was always an uncomfortable topic to discuss when you're talking about writing a song about another person. With those questions, I could feel the pressure of, "Hey, when are you going to write a song about me? When do I get my song?" I was always very stressed out, though, because I thought, "When I do finally write a song about her it better be good or she's going to be pissed."
I wrote down some words one night, very honest, sincere and genuine. I wasn't trying to worry if this was brilliant or life-altering or if it was going to bring her to tears. It ended up playing in a huge part in my vows that I said to her. Then we went in to record the demo and it fell flat on its rear. She loved it because it was sentimental, but I wasn't pleased on how it turned out musically.
What changed your mind?
Three or four months ago, in soundcheck one day, I started messing with it and my band started joining in, and it turned out to be something completely different than what I had hoped it to be. It almost turned into a jam band song. But it's a blast to play live. The first time we performed it was about a month-and-a-half ago in Columbia, Mo. We had a soundcheck listening party and we ran through it three or four times, and the last time, the crowd stood up and started cheering. I said, "Well, I guess that means we've got to perform it tonight." It gave me a sense that it was something worth pursuing and to keep working on. If for no other reason than to serve as a live bonus track on the record, you're at least assured one love song. It's very plainly named after my wife, whose name is Catherine. It says, 'You're all I'll ever need' several times, so it could be called that, but on the setlist every night we just put 'Catherine.' I know it's not exactly rocket science or anything, but when a song is so obviously about a specific person and you say her name, it's hard to be cute and call it something else.
And it probably gives you a few bonus points at home, too.
I got to stay out a little later than normal a few times. [laughs] That is a good ace to have in your back pocket.
A month or so ago, you tweeted Ashley Monroe to ask if she'd sing on the new CD, is that in the works?
It hasn't happened yet, but I'm very flattered that she tweeted me back. When we were talking about females to sing on the first five tracks that we had, her name had come up. My first instinct was, "Oh, my God. That would be great." I started to listen to the songs and said, "If I'm going to have her sing on something, I want it to be the perfect song that really fits what she does." That's the stressful part, trying to find songs or write songs with that in the back of your mind. On my first record, Natalie Hemby, who is the wife of one of my producers, Mike Wrucke, sang on a lot of the stuff. There are certain people's voices who mesh well with females, and now I'm fixated on a certain feel and sound of how my voice sounds with someone else. I'm trying to find different females that I like. That's the coolest thing about making a record now, as opposed to 10 years ago when I made my first one. Then, you would hear fewer collaborations because it was such a competitive time. Now it seems like everyone is more at ease and anxious to be a part of a lot of different things. They see it as a compliment.
How did having Sarah Buxton sing on 'Let it Rain' come about?
It was very interesting. The song I had written with Charles and Dave, they didn't have the time for Hillary to sing on the demo, so we had to scramble to find somebody. I really wanted it to be a defining part, not a duet but more than just a regular harmony part. My producer Frank Liddel, unbeknownst to me, when he sent her the demo, he sent her a couple of others. He had told her, "If any of these stand out to you or really move you, please feel free to take it on."
That night I was playing a show somewhere and I got a text that said, "Sarah came in and sang on 'Let it Rain.'" I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. We had not really discussed her singing on 'Let it Rain,' how did that come about?" And he said, "Trust me. When you hear it, you'll understand." Evidently, she had come in and had the entire arrangement done and smoked it. It was so unique and unlike anything I had expect to hear. I've always been a huge fan of hers, and now looking it back it was such a no-brainer. I guess that's why Frank's the producer and I'm the singer. I'm very thankful after the fact. It fit her more so than anyone else we could have gotten.
Are there any other surprise appearances fans can expect to hear on the new tunes?
We had Hillary Lindsey, who's a huge songwriter in town and phenomenal singer. She sang on the song that I wrote with Dave and Charles. Then, there's a young a girl named Madison Cain, who is the teenage daughter of Journey's Jonathan Cain. Jon Randall sang on a song. We had all unique people to be a part of the songs we've had thus far and hopefully we'll continue that. We may run out of people if we do that with each and every song.
While you did have some collaborations on 'I'm About to Come Alive,' it sounds like you're really kicking it up a notch.
It started when Miranda Lambert sang on 'Strangers on a Train' on my first record, and watching that all unfold. If nothing else in my career, the fact that I can put a record in my truck and drive home and say, "Miranda Lambert sang on my record," it's great that she thought enough about me as an artist and this song to sing on it.