When David Nail played Jonesboro, Ark., this past weekend, he called the date the “hardest show I’ve ever done.” At the same time, it was “the best show we’ve ever done.”
That mix of highs and lows was not a surprise to him. David has a personal history in the area, a bunch of his friends were in the house, and he even predicted to The Daily Dunklin Democrat that “emotions will be running high” when he took the stage.
David hails from Kennett, Mo., which is a mere 50 miles from Jonesboro. And he attended Arkansas State University, where he was performing as the opening act last weekend for Lady Antebellum. It was David’s first show on campus since he broke out nationally, and it had a bit of a full-circle meaning for him. He had sat in the seats at that same concert hall before — in fact, the very first concert he attended as a fan was a 1992 Garth Brooks show in the same building.
Now, 18 years later, David’s among a handful of male vocalists bringing a blue-eyed soul sound to country. Billy Currington, James Otto, Jimmy Wayne and Lady A’s Charles Kelley all have some soul influence in their voices, just as Ronnie Milsap did in a prior generation. Not that David’s too concerned about all of that.
“I gave up a long time ago trying to fit in boxes and talk about influences and labels and all that stuff,” he says. “You know, it sounds really corny, but I just close my eyes and sing. That’s what I’ve done, or tried to do, for the majority fo the time that I’ve been [in Nashville]. Trends come out a lot of times in Nashville, you know. You have the traditional country people and the kinda-pop people, and the then there’s the people that do the soul thing.”
Fortunately, the world is open to that sound now. But it’s taken a while for things to turn David’s direction. He recorded his first album in 2002, but it was never released. He signed another record deal around 2007, and he finally got his first hit last year with “Red Light.” His album I’m About To Come Alive subsequently became his first full-fledged CD to come out.
It may have taken a long time, but David’s not complaining.
“Nashville is littered with people who have had harder roads, so I’m not gonna sit here and throw a pity party on myself,” he says. “I had a goal a long time ago that if it all ended, I just wanted to be able to say that I left at least a little tiny mark on the business. I don’t know that I’m necessarily content with the mark that’s laid right now, but hopefully I’ll continue to do so.”
You won’t hear him complaining about the workload either. David’s spending a lot of time on out on the road these days, and this weekend is no exception. He’s in Lafayette, Ind., on Thursday; Louisville on Friday; Grand Rapids on Saturday; and Detroit on Sunday.