Originally published in the November 2, 2015 issue of Country Weekly magazine.
Missouri native David Nail is sitting in a Nash Country Weekly office on an early fall afternoon, checking his phone to see if his St. Louis Cardinals can overcome a late-inning deficit against divisional rival Chicago Cubs. On the car ride over, David was listening to the game on the radio. But now the zealous Cardinals fan is stuck in an interview room at the mercy of his PR responsibilities.
David puts his phone in his pocket, clapping his hands together like a blackjack dealer to show there’s nothing in his clutches. He’s ready to talk. No interruptions. But, there’s a knowing look from one baseball fan to another—David would very much appreciate a hasty conversation so he can get back to his Cardinals.
David is not just a go-with-the-flow kind of guy “today,” as in this particular Wednesday. “Nowadays” seems a more befitting qualifier. After battling depression for a decade, the 36-year old country crooner finally sought help in the form of therapy a few years ago. Nowadays, David is a glass half full.
“I was chronically depressed for about 10 years,” says David. “Now I go to counseling and take quite a bit of medicine, but it’s night and day, man. I had a bunch of stuff pent up for a lot of years and didn’t really know exactly why or what it was, but just being able to talk to somebody consistently who has a background in helping people—it’s remarkable.”
His newfound go-with-the-flow mentality manifested itself earlier this summer when Little Big Town was forced to postpone their Pain Killer Tour for seven weeks so band member Jimi Westbrook could recover from vocal cord surgery. David was slated to open those shows, but instead of boohooing the lost opportunity—and revenue—the baseball junkie packed his bags for his own stadium tour, sans any music.
“I’ve been to more baseball games this year than I ever have,” says David. “ After the Little Big Town tour got cancelled, I went to as many stadiums as I could. I went to L.A. to see the Dodgers, saw a couple games in Kansas City, a couple in Boston, a couple in St. Louis and then a couple in Philly and Baltimore. I’ve made it a goal to go to two new stadiums a year, so Philly and L.A. were my two new ones this year.”
With October playoff baseball on the brain, David doesn’t sound like a man too concerned with talking about his new music. In fact, at the beginning of 2015, David wasn’t even thinking about new music. But here he is 10 months later with a new single, “Night’s on Fire,” and a new album—tentatively named Fighter—slated for an early 2016 release.
“After Christmas last year, I wanted to get as far away from music as possible,” says David. “I was having some voice issues toward the end of the year, it was getting cold and I just wasn’t feeling like I was at 100 percent. It was playing with my head a little bit. I was tired and a lot of my guys were tired. We were playing a minimum of four shows a week toward the end of 2014 with lots of miles in between. We were just hammering away. I was missing my friends and family, and my grandmother had passed away. There were just a lot of variables that made me feel like I wanted to be stationary for a couple of months.”
But then one of those worldview moments—where you could look at the glass as half full or half empty—occurred. In January, David’s phone started alerting him to upcoming co-writes he had scheduled months earlier, many with writers he had never worked with. He was exhausted, but intrigued. Instead of canceling and taking a much-needed break, he went ahead with the meetings, determined to let his mind flow freely. His glass-half-full mentality was in full force.
“We went in and wrote two songs—one called ‘Fighter’ [Troy Verges and Scooter Carusoe] and one called ‘Home’ [Barry Dean and Lori McKenna]—that fired me up pretty good and recharged my batteries overnight,” says David. “And so I went to my producer’s office, Frank Liddell, and said, ‘Hey, I know we are nowhere close to making an album, but can we go in and record three or four things just for fun?’ He said, ‘Absolutely,’ and scheduled the dates. We found a few more songs, including ‘Night’s on Fire,’ the single, and ‘Good Tonight,’ that Brothers Osborne wrote. So we had four or five really strong songs, and once the label found out what we were doing, they were in the mindset where they thought it was kinda pointless to go in the studio unless we were going to record an album. They asked me if I had enough material to make an album, and I said, ‘Sure,’ but I was talking out of my rear. However, by the end of the recording session, I could have made two or three records. I had 20 or 30 songs on hold that were all really strong, with four or five that I wrote that didn’t make the record. So it was definitely spur of the moment, but once it started, it snowballed out of control to the point where we were recording and mixing and overdubbing and doing vocals. February, March and April are just a blur.”
“Every song had some sort of lovemaking reference, some are slight, others are all about it,” says David, as he pulls out his phone so he can read off all of the album’s song titles and writers. “Even the sad songs talk about it. We’re either about to be doing it, doing it or we just got done doing it.”
And now that his phone is out, David can’t help but check the score to the game. His Cardinals scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth and held off the Cubs for a 4-3 win. That sounds like a guy whose free-flowing mentality runneth over.
“People ask me advice all the time,” says David, “and I tell them, ‘Man, you need to go to counseling,’ and they look at me like, ‘Jeez, you don’t know anything about me.’ But having someone objective in your life is the best. When I bottomed out and decided to go get help, I didn’t think anything about what other people would think. I was just tired of being miserable but, man, the people who come up to me and thank me for not making them feel bad or ashamed, it’s overwhelming. There are a lot of people skeptical about revealing that they are getting help, but once I came out and unloaded that off my chest, I decided I wanted to tell everyone.”