A profoundly grateful David Nail celebrated his first No. 1 as a singer and songwriter Monday (Feb. 6) at the ASCAP headquarters in Nashville. He used the occasion to look back over a musical career that came very close to early extinction.
Photo Credit: Marilu White
The focus of the celebration was Nail's recent single, "Let It Rain," which he co-wrote with Jonathan Singleton and which took 49 weeks to inch its way to the top of Billboard's country songs chart.
Directing his remarks to Frank Liddell, his producer and publisher who stood beside him as awards were being handed out, Nail confessed, "When I went to Frank's office, I didn't have any other [career] options."
Ten years ago, when he was in his early 20s, Nail appeared to be on the fast track to stardom. He had a contract with Mercury Records and soon released a single -- "Memphis" -- to radio. But the track stiffed at No. 52, and Mercury decided not to release the album he'd recorded.
As Nail told CMT.com in an earlier interview, he suddenly found himself adrift.
"I was lost," he said. "It probably took a good two or three years to figure out what the hell had just happened. ... I spent a lot of time on my front porch with a six-pack of beer and staring at the road."
But a host of friends had intervened to give him another chance, he told the crowd at ASCAP. One had literally insisted that he take a job singing in his bar, just as Nail was on the verge of returning defeated to his native Missouri.
Another friend, Bryan Wright, who works for Universal Music Group, the company that owns both Mercury and MCA Records, Nail's current label, urged him to see Liddell.
"I said to Frank, 'I don't know if I've got enough strength and courage to go through this again,'" Nail told the partygoers. "'But if you'll give me a chance, I'll give you everything I've got.'"
Nail also thanked UMG Nashville chief Luke Lewis, who stood near the back of the crowd, for "being hard" on him as he made his way back.
"He's the Bobby Knight of the record business," Nail quipped.
Likening Liddell to his wife, Nail said the producer would listen to what he told him and then proceed to do things his own way.
As a case in point, Nail said he recommended that Sarah Buxton sing on a particular song on his album, and Liddell chose instead to have her sing on "Let It Rain."
Nail conceded Liddell had made the right decision.
"We're all just like a giant dysfunctional family," Liddell observed. "It's been a lot of fun. ... This is as proud a moment as I've had in my time in this town."
Liddell, who also produces Miranda Lambert, said he hopes young people entering the music business can feel the kind of exhilaration he felt when he first heard Nail sing.
"We're all legitimate fans [of David's]," proclaimed Travis Hill, Liddell's partner at Carnival Music. "He's a great entertainer."
Chuck Ainlay and Glenn Worf co-produced Nail's new album, The Sound of a Million Dreams, with Liddell.
Ryan Beuschel, creative manager of ASCAP's Nashville branch, presented Nail a commemorative guitar to mark his songwriting achievement.
Beuschel noted that Singleton, Nail's co-writer, has scored three other No. 1 singles -- Gary Allan's "Watching Airplanes," Josh Turner's "Why Don't We Just Dance" and Billy Currington's "Don't."
"Somebody said you could have a baby in the time it took this record to top the charts -- and I absolutely did," said new father Singleton.
I'm About to Come Alive, Nail's first album for MCA, released in 2009, yielded the Top 10 hit "Red Light" and the Top 20 "Turning Home." Liddell co-produced this album, as well.
Nail will perform on Country Radio Seminar's New Faces Show in Nashville on Feb. 24, along with Hunter Hayes, Sunny Sweeney, Eli Young Band and Thompson Square.
View photos from the party.