Singer-songwriter David Nail isn’t exactly what you would call a country newcomer. In fact, up until his recent singles, “I’m About to Come Alive” and “Red Light,” it had been nearly seven years since he spent any time on the country music charts. Finally, after many years of resilience and willpower, Nail’s career seems to be headed in the right direction.
“I would like to sit here and say that we planned all this,” said Nail during his recent interview with CMT.com “But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my now 10 years in Nashville, it’s that there is no such plan to follow.”
Over a decade ago, the fresh-out-of-high school Kennett, Missouri native moved to Music City like so many others — with the aspirations of becoming a successful country music artist. But, it wasn’t long before Nail’s doubts and fears left him disheartened.
“I retreated back to my hometown and waited about a year and a half,” he said. “And then, for some odd reason, I felt like I was a little bit more prepared for it.”
Giving it another go, Nail returned to Nashville and this time with better luck. Within the year, he signed with Mercury Records and even released his first single, “Memphis,” in 2002. But unfortunately, this success was short lived and his recording contract later dropped.
“There were definitely a few moments in my mid-20s where I wondered if God was hinting at me to pursue something else,” he said.
Facing a crossroads, Nail took a break from his music to help a friend coach a local high school baseball team. It was during this time that Nail found the passion and inspiration needed to give his music another try.
Recharged and refocused, he landed a record deal with MCA Nashville and released his debut album, named after his first single and also Train cover, I’m About to Come Alive.
“I just think this record is so much about this kid who moved off to the city to pursue his dream and that’s what I think is so unique about it,” he explained.
I’m About to Come Alive features songs co-written by country heavy-hitters like Kenny Chesney in “Turning Home” and Rascal Flatts‘ Gary LeVox in “Summer Day Jobs.” But Nail too contributes his own material including three co-writes and a song he solely wrote several years back, “Missouri.”
The song depicts a vulnerable Nail smoking cigarettes and pining over a relationship gone sour. Throughout the song, he cleverly pronounces his state of mind as “misery” rather than “Missouri.”
“Even to this day, it was the most revealing song that I’ve ever written, very personal,” he explained. “I held onto it for two or three years before I played it for anybody because it shows a very unflattering side of myself.
“The one thing I pride myself on, more than anything,” he said, “is if I’m going to write a song and it’s going to have my name on it, I’m not going to skate around the truth. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. I’m going to be as raw and sometimes as unflattering as I can be because that’s the only way I know how to do it.”
In addition to recording his new album, Nail has spent the last several months traveling with his guitarist throughout the United States on what has been coined “Red Light Road Trips,” named after his current single, “Red Light.” Filming themselves, the two play different cities while convincing the locals that Nail is a major label recording act.
“We’ve been turned down more times than we’ve been allowed to play,” he admitted. “I can remember rolling through Knoxville and we had saved all our energy to have this big blowout and we couldn’t find a place to play to save our lives.
“Nervous doesn’t really fit my personality,” he added. “And I think the whole idea we were trying to portray was there is nothing too embarrassing. I will walk into any place. I will play any place.”
It’s this same relentless determination that continues to be the driving force behind Nail’s music and his newfound success.
“I’ve always been the type of person that said, ‘I don’t mind pressure. In fact, throw all your needs on me. I’m not worried about coming through.’”