Q&A with David Nail


David Nail is a name that always comes up when talking about country music’s greatest songs in the new era. “Red Light,” “Let It Rain,” “Nights on Fire,” “Whatever She’s Got,” and the list goes on and on with a song catalog that has not only made a tremendous impact at radio but has also struck a chord in the hearts of the listener in all the right ways. Coming off a return to the CMA Fest stage, Nail has now released his brand-new single “Sunset Carousel,” and we had the incredible opportunity to check in with him to talk all about the new song, what’s coming down the pike from him, why he feels that his songs resonate so well, and so much more!

(Interview by: Jeffrey Kurtis/Photo credit: 117 Entertainment

TCM SINGLE REVIEW: "Sunset Carousel" 




1) Tell us a little bit about your new single “Sunset Carousel.”

It’s a song that was written the first week of May, so it’s without a doubt the quickest turn around I’ve ever had with writing a song and putting it out for the public to hear, but I was super excited about it and felt it was necessary to get it out as quickly as possible and maximize the summer as much as possible. 

Because Grant (Vogel), one of the writers on the song produced it, I think we had some help in getting it out quickly because we didn’t have to go back and record anything on it separately and wait for another producer to come in on it. We just recorded it as time went along, up to about a week or two before it came out, so we had a month to make sure it was perfect.

This was the first time we had worked together, and Grant had a lot of different parts and ideas for the song done already and it felt like summertime when we finished it. We didn’t try to cure cancer with it in any way, shape, or form. We just tried to write a song that would make you put a lighter up in the air at a show or crank it up if you are out on a boat. We hope that it makes people feel good when they listen to it.

2) The song made its debut during your performance at CMA Fest (2022). How did the song go over with the CMA Fest crowd?

I think it went over great. It was hard for me to tell though because I was honestly pretty anxious about it and was just trying to get through it without forgetting the words, so I was selfishly worried more about myself during it then watching the crowd’s reaction that day.

We’ve played it out a few times since then and you know, most of the crowd hasn’t heard it yet but they try to mouth the words that they pick up on; or at least what they think the words are. I noticed that a lot in Florida this past week when we played it.

As more and more people hear it and spread the word on it, I think the crowds will be singing along more. Word of mouth is what we really depend on a lot these days and we hope that people will get other people, their friends, excited about the song after they hear it at a show.

3) On the subject of radio…How do you feel that “Sunset Carousel” stands out most from the slew of other summer songs that always come out this time of year?

I think it just sounds good. I’ve never been someone to get too terribly caught up in what other people are doing. I’ve just always tried to stay in my lane and worry about what I can control.

I feel that it’s one of those things that - and something people confuse this when I say It - but when you listen to it, it feels so good on the ears that you don’t really care what it says. But maybe after 5 or 10 listens you start to hear the lines and it takes the song to the next level when you do.

“Sunset Carousel” is a very simple song, and I’ve had a lot of success with songs where the message is simple.

A wise person once told me that in every great song, you can trace it back to an aspect of young love. I don’t think that’s entirely true, but you’d be surprised how often you’re listening to random songs and when you listen closely, there’s a hint of that in there and it will make you reminisce.

4) You co-wrote the song with Grant Vogel (who you mentioned earlier) and Robyn Collins, and you’ve said you could feel something special when y’all were writing it. Take us through the writing session a bit and what made it so different than others for you?

I’d written with Robyn once before, the day before this session actually and it was great as well. Robyn has this very unique, laid-back vibe to her, and you automatically feel comfortable in the room with her. She says a prayer before every writing session and that’s really cool. I’ve been doing this professionally for 20 years and never had someone do that before.

Grant came in with just a slew of different ideas musically and so I was able to really focus on the words and a little bit of the melody, so this session really was the classic case of everybody bringing something different to the table that just collectively works.

We have written a handful together since then and have some more dates on the calendar for future. You know, as someone who hasn’t co-written in a few years, when you find that connection with something that works, I feel like it’s human nature to want to explore it more.

I’d sort of forgotten how to co-write, but whenever you write with someone new, you get to know them over the course of writing the song as they start referencing something that they are connecting with the song from the past and that’s always kind of neat to experience.

5) You’ve said about the song, that you hadn’t been this excited since “Night’s on Fire.” In what ways do you feel people will hear that similar vibe on this song in comparison to “Night’s on Fire,” but also how is this one different than anything from your past catalog.

I think more than anything, this song sounds like something that could have been on the last couple of records I put out, while still sounding hopefully like 2022.

I’ve never been one about making records and music intentionally. I always kind of let my life dictate where the music goes in that moment, so I’d be lying if I said it was some sort of well-thought-out plan if I said I wanted to write a song like this. I was really content doing the singer-songwriter stuff, but when a song like this one comes along and hits on where you are, you want to do it.

“Sunset Carousel” was very pure and organic, and while I could’ve waited and pitched it to someone else and hope that it was a big ol’ hit, at the same time I was thinking why in the world give it to someone else when I was so enthusiastic about it?

I wasn’t really nervous about what people were going to think of it, or if they were thinking that I was just trying to rekindle what I had 7 years ago or something. I feel like how it all came together naturally was just fate, so I jumped on it.

6) So, the single just released, but what’s next for David Nail? Is the song part of a bigger project? If so, when can we expect to see it release?

I think it is. The three of us, myself, Grant, and Robyn, have a good connection and have already written 4 songs together with more days next week already scheduled.

We have one or two songs that we need to start polishing up and preparing for release, but I don’t know when exactly.

The most fun thing is just coming out and playing them during our live shows. Instead of them being somber, slow songs that you need to worry about where you place them in a set, a song like “Sunset” you just put wherever you want it, and it serves a great purpose during the show.

7) Is there an unreleased song that you’re currently working on that you can’t wait for your fans to hear? If yes, what does that song in particular mean to you?

“Going Home Alone Tonight.”

I don’t want to reveal too much about it, but it’s got a sing along chorus that feels very anthem life, and it’s another one that I’m tempted to tell the band they need to learn.

The good thing about releasing records, is that you have 2 or 3 songs that you know for sure will be in a live set and enhance the shows with some new juice. People who maybe aren’t aware of what I’ve done in the past, maybe songs like “Sunset Carousel” and some of the other new ones will bring them into the fold and they’ll find some other songs they know but didn’t know I performed.

8) This past year you released an incredible song, “St. Louis,” which we deemed as one of our favorite songs of 2021. Talk about that song a bit. What it means to you? The inspiration for it? Etc.

That song was kind of the bow on the present.

When I start the idea of a second Bootheel project, there were 3 or 4 songs that could have been on the 2020 version of it – a side B so to speak. But I was really lacking something that I felt like people could automatically put themselves in the place or situation when listening.

I didn’t have an idea that I was going to write a song about St. Louis, but I always like for people to know specifics in my songs. I’ve said a lot of names, cities, and specific places like bars. I want to try and paint as clear a picture as possible.

I knew the first part of this song was about St. Louis with references to Busch Stadium and things like that, but what I love most about this song is that you don’t know much about the couple in it; did they meet in St. Louis, were they married, were they in a relationship for 6 years and never saw each other again?

Halfway through writing the chorus, I realized that it was obviously about St. Louis, so that it was a matter of trying to create a story that would interest people enough that they’d want to listen to it, and it ended up being a pretty sad song.

I personally spent most of my youth playing baseball, so whenever we’d go on trips as a kid it was never to Disneyland or to the beach, but to St. Louis for a Cardinals game. I’ve got a lot of connections with that city; I have friends that live there, my sister lives there…so it was neat to sing a song that not only honors the city but shed some light on it and have it as the focal point of these two people and their relationship.

9) We can’t let this Q&A go by without mentioning your songs such as “Red Light” and “Let It Rain.” Your songs have always made such tremendous impact and stood the test of time. What do you think has made you and your music resonate so much with fans with each new release?

It’s funny because I remember when “Red Light” had first come out and it was on the chart for a long time, radio people would tell me if the song was newer, it would be a number one. I never understood that. They would tell me there was no burn factor with it. I had just started to learn the radio process back then and still didn’t understand it entirely.

The reality of the situation is that the song is performed like a #1, and as far as it still be recognizable…I just did a charity event in Savannah, Georgia last week and opened with it. I think it comes back to what I said earlier about people recognizing the song, but maybe not realizing it was David Nail that sang it.

I feel like I know what songs speaks to me and that’s what I look for.

I heard and interview one time with Quincy Jones talking about the Thriller record. He said that Michael was really worried about whether the fans would identify with the record because it was all over the place and dabbled in so many different genres. Jones said that they people who are already fans of you, depend on us to tell them what direction we’re going and what is me and what is now.

I’ve always sort of adapted that philosophy to my music. My fans are my fans, and they depend on me to pick and to write great songs, and they’ll be a fan of them when they see my passion and enthusiasm for those songs.

I’ve seen it on social media responses to my excitement with this new song. I try not to think too much about it and work hard to find songs that I can sing and identify with where I don’t have to go outside of myself to sing them.

The cool thing with some of these older songs is that we’ve rearranged them some for the live show over the last 10 years and reinvented them to make them fresh and exciting, while holding on to their core.

10) What is the best piece of advice that you can offer an aspiring songwriter/artist just trying to break into the music business?

There are certainly tremendous benefits to being on a major label, but what was really important for me when I started making music independently was reminding myself that I could write songs and people would like them.

The best advice I have is to just stay true to yourself. There are so many avenues that people can use to get their music out there now. I ran across a girl literally singing on the street corner and she was amazing. I looked her up and she had something like 2 million followers, but there she was, just getting her music to people on a street corner.

The avenues available today make you so much more accessible and the fans love that!


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