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David Nail Feature - THE MEMPHIS COMMERCIAL APPEAL
For David Nail, second shot at Nashville is a charm
By Mark Jordan
January 8, 2010
Rising country music singer-songwriter David Nail plays Newby's on Wednesday.
Nashville is nothing if not an orderly place. Things there, the music industry especially, have an established and respected rhythm. An artist releases a single followed in short order by an album.
But country singer David Nail, who performs Wednesday at Newby's, would be the first to tell you he doesn't dance to anyone else's tune. In August, Nail released his debut album, I'm About To Come Alive, seven years after releasing his debut single.
"It's kind of surreal," says Nail of the long delay. "After years of waiting, waiting, waiting, you start to wonder if it's ever going to happen. To now have my foot in the door and have the opportunity to have something that people know me for is really strange."
Nail was only 21 when he made his first pass at a country music career. He had grown up in Kennett, Mo., the bootheel town that also produced Sheryl Crow. There Nail, the son of a high school band director, vigorously pursued his twin interests: baseball and music.
"We were always a big sports community, but at the same time the community also revolved around our fine arts, music and plays and choir and band," says Nail, painting a picture of his hometown as like something out of the television show "Glee." "That's what people did. We went to choir concerts on Thursday nights and we went to football games on Friday nights. It wasn't until I got older that I realized it wasn't normal for the quarterback to be in the band."
Eschewing college, Nail headed to Nashville and in 2002 signed with Mercury Records. For his first single for the label, "Memphis," Nail drew on his memories of trucking down South from Kennett on the weekends to go to the mall.
"It always seemed such an extravagant trip just to pile up and go down there. It seemed like four or five hours when in reality it was just a couple," says Nail, who considers the Bluff City a second home since marrying a woman from Collierville.
"We just got back from there over Christmas. We were driving from Kennett to there and we were going over the old bridge and the sun had just gone down and the lights were on the new bridge and I said, 'I can remember leaving town and seeing those lights and thinking, man, this is the big city, this is the big time.' "
"Memphis" got as high as No. 52 on the country charts, a respectable showing for an unknown. But the album that was to follow it never came. Advance copies were sent out to media and radio, but Mercury ultimately shelved the project and dropped Nail from the label.
Nail spent the next several years honing his songwriting, developing a more confident, mature singing voice. He also worked for a time coaching baseball for a Nashville high school.
"Just being around kids that age reminded me of how carefree kids were with their whole lives ahead of them, and it made me feel young again and reminded of how lucky I had been. It kind of recharged my batteries and allowed me one last crack at this dream I'd had for 20 years."
Nail finally got his second shot when he signed with MCA, which recently released I'm About To Come Alive. The album's title track got in the Top 50, but the follow-up, "Red Light," reached the Top 10 and is currently No 2 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart for rising new artists.
Though a long time coming, Nail says he's glad success came when it did. As opposed to his earlier unreleased effort, I'm About To Come Alive has an assured and seasoned voice in the both the songwriting and performances, he says, that could only have come from years of living life with all its ups and downs.
"I'd be lying if I told you that I didn't want it to happen when I was younger," says Nail. "But, at the same time, I'm more pleased that this is the record that introduced me."
8 p.m. Wednesday at Newby's, 539 S. Highland. Tickets: $10 in advance, $15 day of show. Advance tickets available at newbysmemphis.com. For more information, call 452-8408.