Since his debut in 2009, David Nail has made a career of singing songs that few artists dare touch in contemporary country music: sad songs. He has had hits with singles about cheating (“Let It Rain”), breakups (“Red Light”) and failed dreams (“Turning Home”) and he has owned every one, singing as if from personal experience.
David’s ability to make such tales of heartbreak and loss his own is what defines him as an artist—one capable of finding and recording songs that are deeply relatable to him and to listeners. And his cathartic new album I’m a Fire continues that trend, albeit with a series of decidedly upbeat songs that reflects David’s own happiness.
But the Grammy-nominated artist’s renewed personal life did not come easily. After scoring his first No. 1 single with “Let It Rain” from 2011’s critically lauded The Sound of a Million Dreams, the bourbon-smooth singer spent an inordinate amount of time on tour, giving his entire being to country fans. He nearly burned himself out in the process, landing in a funk from which he found it difficult to emerge.
But David prevailed, and he credits his revitalization to his wife Catherine. “I have this newfound happiness, energy and enthusiasm about life,” he says. “And the sole inspiration for why I wanted to get better, to change and to be different was because of her.”
“Having spent so much time on the road, I think I have a better idea of the type of songs people gravitate toward in a live setting.”
But turning in a more up-tempo album after a career of sober material is a challenge, as well as a departure that could take longtime fans by surprise.
“I think my records have been very much who I was at that place and time, and I think people can say, ‘Man, you sing all these sad songs and there is a lot of heartache,’” David admits. “But I’m a Fire came out of a pure place of doing something that we simply enjoy.”
David cites the spontaneous nature of cuts like the album’s lead single, “Whatever She’s Got,” a favorite of wife Catherine. “I always believed the song was special, but when my wife first heard it, I watched her start to dance and move around. I thought to myself, ‘I’ve never seen my wife move like that before.’ I instantly knew we had something with ‘Whatever She’s Got,’” he says.
Indeed, it’s hard to sit still when listening to the breezy jam, perhaps the hookiest love song to be recorded in the past 10 years. “From the first moment I heard it, I thought this would sound amazing on radio,” David says. “It has a melody that you can’t get out of your head.”
It’s a heavy statement, one that carries the weight of not only a romance, but of a career. But for David Nail, an artist who wears emotion as a badge of honor, that’s the only kind of statement he can make.