Growing up in a small southeastern Missouri town, David Nail mightve chosen to follow any of the dreams that drifted by like the riverboats on the mighty Mississippi: but in the end, it was music that called his name. "I was definitely more into sports growing up," says the Midwest native. "I think I was expected to play in college, but as I grew older I became more interested in music. After my senior year I had a few small college offers to play baseball. My coach came to me and said David, you need to decide where youre going to school, and out of the blue I just said, Do you know anybody in Nashville?"
For singer-songwriter Nail, it was a history-making moment -- small town boy decides to chase a big city dream -- and a theme that has informed his music ever since. On his first album from MCA Nashville, he neatly bridges the divide, laying claim to his hometown roots while keeping a firm grip on the future, and all the deeply emotional territory in between.
"I feel like regardless of where you grew up, city, small town, east coast, west coast or whatever, theres something in this music that you can relate to," he says. "They might not all be exactly the same, but everyone has those moments; the first time you left home, falling in love, losing love. Thats what moves me, what I can dig into."
Nail, son of a former high school band director, cut his musical teeth on a record collection that included Stevie Wonder, Elton John and the Beatles. "Elton John was one of the main reasons I started singing, and is still a tremendous influence," he says. "I think he and the Beatles are probably two of the greatest melody makers of all time." Then he moved on to country: "I discovered country music in the early 90s along with everyone else my age," he says. "But I guess I kind of got more obsessive than everybody else. I found myself looking back as far as the late 60s and early 70s, exposing myself to some of the biggest stars of that era. It was then that I fell in love with Glen Campbell, who is still one of my all-time favorites."
Drawn to Music City after high school, Nail took that first step on his long and winding road, following the music. "I had been to Nashville as a small child but I had no memories of what it was like and obviously had no idea what the music business was like," he says. "I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing." Overwhelmed, he ended up moving back to Missouri in less than a year.
Returning to Nashville two years later, Nail became frustrated once again in early 2005 with the lack of movement of his music career. David spent the next two summers helping an old college buddy coach the Twitty City Knights, a select group of some of Nashvilles best baseball talent. "I did it just to get away from the reality of what my career had become at that time, and it was being around those kids that recharged my batteries. It reminded me how free and easy life is at 17 and 18 years old and how truly blessed Id been, both growing up, and now, being able to chase my dream. I will forever look back on that time and those kids for getting me back on track." Shortly thereafter, mutual friend Brian Wright, whod recently become V.P., A&R, for both the MCA and Mercury Nashville labels, introduced Nail to producer Frank Liddell, who 10 years earlier had produced one of Nails all-time favorite records, Chris Knights self-titled Decca debut.
Through the ups and downs of a life in the music business, Nail was persistent and his dream became a realization with Im About To Come Alive, a collection of songs that captures the highs and lows and the hometown flavor of his own experiences. "I wanted to take something from the people whove inspired me," he says. "But also put myself in there, and just make something I could be proud of. Its definitely a moody record. Theres definitely going to be some heartbreak in there, as well as some dark times. But theres music you listen to when youre feeling good, and music you listen to when youre down and out, and I think this is a record that satisfies both needs."
From the second he started recording, Nail was determined to bridge the gap between traditional country and the soulful stylings of a Lionel Ritchie and Ray Charles. "Ive got to have a piano player with a lot of fire, a little more recklessness!" he says. Liddell offered up legendary player Chuck Leavell, who brought his inspired piano into the mix with Nails smooth, yet soulful vocals to create magic on tracks like "Mississippi". "Its a very reflective ballad about a guy from a small town whos in the city," Nail says. "Its very moody Ray Charles-esque, and was actually written for him. Chuck went in there and started playing the intro and suddenly I felt as if I was back in those early days of recording. His playing sent me to another level of singing."