Interview: David Nail Takes New Approach With the Well Ravens — But Many Fans Aren’t Fazed
Between the name of David Nail's new group (the Well Ravens) and the group's first album together under that name (Only This and Nothing More), some fans might wonder whether the country star has taken a deep dive into the literature of Edgar Allan Poe. However, Nail says the allusion to the famous author -- at least as far as the name of the band goes -- is purely coincidental.
"In fact, I'd have to plead ignorance," Nail explained to The Boot in a recent interview. "I had never even heard of the poem ["The Raven"] when the band was formed."
Rather, Nail picked up the name after two friends of his who were in the midst of starting a band decided against using it. "I really had no need for a band name at that moment in time," he explains, "but I always had it in the back of my mind that if I ever had my own band, that's what I would call them."
That time came when Nail began making music with producer Jason Hall and sound engineer Andrew Petroff. What began as a series of free-form, loosely structured jam sessions coalesced into a group in need of a name.
"When this project really started, we didn't really have an idea of what we were doing," Nail goes on to say. "We were just messing around at first. As it went along, we started talking in the studio about a lot of hypotheticals, like, 'What do we call this?' I said, 'Man, this is a Well Ravens record.'
The band's name may have emerged out of thin air, but when it came time to name the album, Nail started doing his research. He began to read everything he could find about the raven, and quickly found scores of references to the bird's dark, foreboding associations.
"I don't know necessarily evil," he clarifies, "but it represents a lot of negative, edgy, moody vibes to a lot of cultures." And when he happened upon the Poe poem, Nail immediately connected to the line "Only this and nothing more."
"I hope that people just listen to this with a clear head, and appreciate it, or like it or dislike it, for what it is. Don't read so much into it, or look for where the old David is, or for what I'm trying to change." -- David Nail
"At the end of the day, I hope that people just listen to this [album] with a clear head, and appreciate it, or like it or dislike it, for what it is," Nail says. "Don't read so much into it, or look for where the old David is, or for what I'm trying to change. [That line in the poem] just screams that; it just screams, 'Hey, this is all this is. I'm not trying to make some crazy statement or prove any point.'"
Nail knows that the new music is a big jump from some of the songs he's put out in the past. For fans who got to know Nail through his radio hits, such as the uptempo "Whatever She's Got," Only This and Nothing More's kick-off single, "In My Head," is a dramatic turn towards murky Southern rock and more sinister lyrical themes. However, while there will always be those who prefer Nail's lighter side, he says his fan base has met his new project with overwhelming enthusiasm.
"You know, a lot of times in this business, I think we underestimate the fan and how well they know us from our music," Nail offers. "We think we're being all hip and cool and vague, but in reality ... I think they really have a pretty strong idea of who we are as people. So while I thought initially that it was gonna take a lot of people by surprise, a lot of the comments I heard were, 'You know, man, I always felt like you would do something like this.' I think I expected this 'holy cow' moment, but it was more like, 'You know what, that makes sense.'"
"I think we underestimate the fan and how well they know us from our music." -- David Nail
Even though the process of recording the album felt organic, Nail still experienced some jitters about releasing a project that was so personal. The country star has been open about his struggle with depression, and the new album tackles the topic head-on.
"I think any honest creative person would tell you that we're always insecure, because any time you bare your soul to the world and anybody can critique you -- I think anybody would be a little concerned," he adds. "But, deep down, I always knew that it came from such a pure place. There wasn't this little master plan ... It was just a bunch of guys that were friends and liked a lot of the same music and took the time to see what would happen."
Not only has Nail discovered a new kind of authenticity in his music, but he says his work with the Well Ravens helps him connect to listeners who may be going through similar struggles. "A lot of times, unfortunately, it takes a tragedy for people to come out and say, 'Hey, this is something I've dealt with,'" he says. "When I talk about it, and sing about it, and meet people, that's as healing as anything else I do to keep myself right.
"We're in this super accepting time right now. I grew up in a super-small town, a super-rural area, and it definitely would have been considered a weakness to come out and talk about anything like the stuff I started talking about six or seven years ago," Nail continues. "The person has to be ready to talk about it and deal with it. You can't force 'em, you can only sit there and be with them. Once they come out and are open about it ... I just think that helps as much as all the other things people do for help or for therapy.
"A lot of times when I have lulls or feel myself falling back down, it's because I haven't been as open," Nail concludes. "It's just bad news when you start holding things in."
Only This and Nothing More drops Friday (Sept. 14).