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Taste of Country: David Nail Talks Baseball, Taylor Swift and New Album ‘The Sound of a Million Dreams’
For those of you who think you have David Nail‘s music figured out, think again. The singer’s latest album, ‘The Sound of a Million Dreams,’ hits stores today (Nov. 15) — an he hopes it will leave fans “pleasantly surprised” by what they hear.
His loving and loyal fans have already driven the sophomore album’s lead single, ‘Let It Rain,’ into the Top 10, giving the singer yet another hit to add to his list of career accomplishments. Taste of Country recently caught up with Nail to discuss the new music, his personal connection to many of the album’s tracks and his beloved St. Louis Cardinals becoming the 2011 World Series Champions!
Besides the big news of the release of your sophomore album, the other hot topic of conversation for you right now is the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series!
The did! They started off the end of my year in glowing fashion. To say a month ago that I expected this to happen would be the understatement of the year. It just kind of had that feel of destiny written all over it. As soon as they made the playoffs, I got a few people that I keep in touch with in their organization, and I just kept telling them, “You know … it’s just got this feel of destiny.” No matter how many times you cheat getting kicked out of the playoffs or whatever, they just always kind of managed to squeak it out. When enough of those happen, you can’t help but wonder if it’s just meant to be. In a weird kind of way, I just felt like it was.
You sang ‘God Bless America’ during the seventh-inning stretch in Game 7. What went through your mind before you stepped foot on that field?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of really special things happen in the past few years. I feel like they are all kind of related. I feel like you get one opportunity and that goes a certain way, and it makes another opportunity a little more doable. We do have some relationships with Major League Baseball, and they kind of reached out to us. So obviously there’s so many variables that are interesting: the fact that I grew up in Missouri, the fact that I’m a Cardinals fan, the fact that this season has been so unpredictable and no one in a million years ever expected it, the fact that they made it to the World Series, the fact that there was a Game 7 — ironically, had there not been a rain-out [for Game 6], we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go do it … there are just so many different story lines.
The main thing for me is baseball and music have always kind of paralleled each other. I gave up and quit baseball to pursue music. Then I kind of came to a crossroads and experimented with going into coaching and doing that kind of thing. Then I came back to music. Having some success in music has provided a couple of different opportunities of being able to play in an all-star celebrity game out at the major league stadium out in Anaheim. Now, being able to go out on the field and have all these relationships with a lot of people in major league baseball [is] wild because there was a huge part of my life where I felt that’s what I was going to do. It’s weird how choosing another path [has] allowed me those opportunities.
Compare the music on ‘The Sound of a Million Dreams’ to your debut album.
I think this whole record’s about what is going to be the least that you expected.
I think that people probably come in with an idea of what to expect, and I think that there will be people who will be surprised — hopefully pleasantly surprised. The first record was extremely personal to me, and not that this one isn’t, but it was a very deep record. A majority of the songs were songs that deeply affected me personally. I felt like not only did I have something to prove, but I felt like I had a lot to say and needed to say. With this record, there was less of that and more of, “OK — now I’ve showed you this little part of me, now I want to show you the rest of it.” I kind of opened myself up to singing songs that I feel like kind of reflect not so much my life, as much to say my influences. There are songs that are fairly traditional, and there are songs that are kind of funky and kind of jam-bandy and loose. Then there are other songs that are kind of pop, that maybe reference the first record. I think there is a whole array of things, as opposed to just maybe staying in one little area and kind of ramming that into you.
In what ways did you grow or evolve as an artist between these two projects?
I think two years spent on the road playing a lot of the first record and experimenting with different covers and writing songs and experimenting with those, [I was able to see] what works and what translates. I think when you get out on the road and you see that not always does every song translate into a live performance, especially depending on the crowd. I think that just calls me to be much more aware of what a crowd expects when they come to a David Nail show … what they hope to see and experience. I’ve just been extremely excited with the response and the feedback that we’ve gotten so far.
You have an amazing group of songwriters on this album, which includes Keith Urban, Eric Paslay, Phil Vassar and the Lady Antebellum guys. How did the collaboration between you, Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Monty Powell come about when you four wrote the track ‘I Thought You Knew’?
Well, we were all out on the road with [Lady Antebellum] last fall, and they had different people all throughout the tour stopping in [to write with them]. They asked me one afternoon if I wanted to sit in with them and Monty Powell. A lot of times people will ask you to do things and you think they’re just being courteous, so I just politely declined. I said, “Hey, I’m sure that Monty didn’t come out here to [write with] David Nail … he wants that Lady Antebellum cut.” But Charles was pretty adamant of me being a part of it. Really, to be honest with you, all I did was kind of sit there and listen and watch them do their thing, and maybe give subtle hints on some words. The coolest thing was just seeing how Charles and Dave go about writing a song and starting a song. They are very melody driven, and Charles is mumbling all these words out … you don’t know if he’s doing it on purpose or if he even knows what he’s saying. A lot of the times, I would just kind of write down and jot down what he was saying, and say, “Hey man, I think if you move this or that around, this is a great line.” They are very unique, and I did extremely little. I begged them to leave my name off it because I just felt like I was more of a side part of it, but they insisted me be a part of it. If nothing else, it’s a great memory from that tour and being out with them.
Obviously the song ‘Catherine’ has special meaning to you, as you wrote it about your wife. I wrote it shortly after we got engaged. I had really intended it to be the gist of what my vows were going to be. I think any time you’re a songwriter, you just have a tendency, subconsciously, to write things in songwriter form, where things are rhyming and stuff. So one day, I sat down with a guitar and I started finger-picking something. It was a nice little sweet song. I demoed it, and it was all right … it was a nice moment and a nice gesture … nothing that was going to solve the world’s problems. About six months later, we were at a soundcheck and I just started messing with different chords, completely oblivious of what was about to happen. I just started singing the words. It was a completely different melody. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, after a few soundchecks, the song was born. We started playing it. We played it the entire year. It’s already become one of our biggest numbers. By the end of it, people are just completely blown away because you just don’t really expect in the beginning stages of that song for it to do what it does.
We just recently played it up in Chicago, and it literally took me about two minutes to catch my breath after it was over because it was just so intense and big at the end. I actually asked the crowd to sing a majority of ‘Red Light’ because I couldn’t breathe well enough to spit out all the words. Obviously it’s a personal song from the aspect that it’s about my wife, but just the story of how it started out as something and then it became something completely [different] I think makes it that much more special.
The album’s first single is ‘Let It Rain,’ which is now working its way into the Top 10 on the country singles chart.
I think that for whatever reason, my songs tend to move slow. I think that’s a good thing from the standpoint that it doesn’t seem like people — knock on wood — get real sick of them. I think that the song is different, obviously from ‘Red Light,’ but it sounds different from a lot of the things out there — at least I hope that’s a good thing. I wrote it with Jonathan Singleton, who’s one of the writers on ‘Red Light.’ He really just came in and created that entire groove, and I just tried to stay out of the way and mix bits and pieces of different things, lyrically. I think this record it kind of introduces people to the fact that there’s going to be some more stuff that sounds a little different than the first record.
You just wrapped up your leg of the Speak Now Tour with Taylor Swift. How was that experience for you?
It [was] great! It’s the biggest tour in the world. It’s Taylor Swift and U2 [that are the biggest tours], so if you can obviously be a part of either one of those, it’s a great honor. The glorious thing about something like Taylor Swift is I really don’t have any direct connection to her camp, so if you know anything and if you’ve been a part of that tour, you know that she’s got her fingerprints all over it. It’s her show. She controls everything, so if she didn’t like what we did or if she didn’t like David Nail, I assure you, we wouldn’t be a part of it. That in itself is a great feeling and is very humbling.
What are your 2012 tour plans?
There are some rumors that we may be going out with some different people, but I don’t know if I can contractually can say [it] or not. I think that it’s pretty much set in stone that we’re going to go out with somebody that is probably the first artist that I ever met when I moved to this city. People reference me as a great singer, but I think this guy’s the best male country singer in this town. All you’ve got to do is Google that quote, and I’m sure you can find out who it is [laughs]!