From the standpoint of recording, David Nail is great subject matter. Nail has a powerful voice, sometimes more reminiscent of the classic soul singers of the ’60s and ’70s than his Nashville pop-country contemporaries. Ask David a question, and you’ll get a barrage of brutally personal answers. It’s this characteristic which also differentiates the singer-songwriter from the typical Nashville pop act. Willingly discussing topics like a bout of serious depression and bad breakups, Nail is refreshingly honest in a town where realness is often polished into pop idealism. We were lucky enough to be joined in our office by David for an American Songwriter session where he played and talked about four songs off his 2009 MCA Nashville release I’m About To Come Alive. To read the full interview, visit our Writer of the Week feature here. Listen to each song recorded by engineer Steve Martin below, as well as short descriptions.
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The first track on I’m About To Come Alive, “Mississippi,” was also one of the first songs Nail recorded with producer Frank Liddell (Lee Ann Womack, Chris Knight, Miranda Lambert). Nail said when he came into the studio, he told Liddell he wanted to hire the best piano player in the world. Chuck Leavell (Allman Brothers, Rolling Stones) got the call and recording sessions for the album were built around his touring schedule with the Stones. Leavell even got a co-writing credit on “Mississippi” for the piano intro he added in the studio.
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The album’s closing bookend, “Missouri,” is the only song Nail composed solely by himself. Many of the album’s songs (“Mississippi,” “Strangers On A Train,” “Clouds”) were co-written with Scooter Caruso and other Nashville writers. “Missouri” – with it’s “misery” hook – is Nail’s real-life, unaltered story of losing love. Read more in Nail’s own words in our interview here.
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In “Clouds,” co-written with Caruso, the singer ponders the difficutly of love and settling down in what sounds like a musician’s transient life on the road: “And the seconds are slipping away/ Just a little bit more of this turnpike/ And so much to say.” When asked about “Clouds,” Nail referred also to the relationship of small towns and big cities: the small town in Missouri he grew up in vs. the music machine of Nashville. When he first traveled to New York City, he stood mesmerized at the buildings. There’s a bit of that here in the longing for a simpler kind of love in the the rush and excitement of the city.
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David Nail, self-professed Train-head, named his album after the rock-pop band’s anthem “I’m About To Come Alive.” Later, Patrick Monahan and co. contacted David to say they’d always felt it was a country song.