David Nail is an interviewer’s dream. Ask him a question, stand back and listen to him go. It doesn’t matter if he’s on the red carpet at the ACM Awards, rounding the bases at the CMA Music Fest Celebrity Softball Game or sitting in an interview room on NCD’s campus, David holds nothing back. To put it in boxing parlance, he pulls no punches.
The first thing he wants people to know is that he’s a happy dude nowadays. After battling depression for more than a decade, the 37-year old country crooner finally sought help in the form of therapy a few years ago. In addition, his wife, Catherine, gave birth to twins in December 2015, a seminal moment for the first-time parents after they battled infertility and went through the demanding process of in vitro fertilization.
“I was pretty much chronically depressed for about a decade,” says David. “Now I go to counseling and take quite a bit of medicine, but it’s night and day, man. I had a bunch of stuff pent up for a lot of years and didn’t really know exactly why or what it was, but just being able to talk to somebody consistently who has a background in helping people—it’s remarkable.”
The catalyst for seeking help came from Catherine, who David married in 2009.
“I hit a little rough stretch four or five years ago, and [Catherine] dug her feet into the sand and said, ‘We’re going to figure this out one way or another and I’m going to be here for you through thick and thin, and it was just kinda like the song ‘Fighter’—I thought I knew everything about you, but I never knew I had a fighter.”
“Fighter” is the title track of David’s new album, which drops today (July 15). The 11-song record—of which David wrote or co-wrote seven tracks—is his most vulnerable offering to date: “I Won’t Let You Go” highlights his struggle with depression; “Home” explores the love/hate relationship on his hometown; “Old Man’s Symphony” is about his influential father; “Babies” is about—you guessed it—his twins.
But the spark for the album pretty much started with “Fighter.”
“Right after Christmas , we went in and wrote two songs, one called ‘Fighter’ [Troy Verges and Scooter Carusoe] and one called ‘Home’ [Barry Dean and Lori McKenna], that fired me up pretty good and recharged my batteries overnight,” says David. “And so I went to my producer’s office, Frank Liddell, and said, ‘Hey, I know we are nowhere close to making an album, but can we go in and record three or four things just for fun?’ He said, ‘Absolutely,’ and scheduled the dates. We found a few more songs, including ‘Night’s on Fire,’ the first single, and ‘Good Tonight’ that Brothers Osborne wrote. So we had four or five really strong songs, and once the label found out what we were doing, they were in the mindset where they thought it was kinda pointless to go into the studio unless we were going to record an album. They asked me if I had enough material to make an album, and I said, ‘Sure,’ but I was talking out of my rear. However, by the end of the recording session, I could have made two or three records. I had 20 or 30 songs on hold that were all really strong, with four or five that I wrote that didn’t make the record. So it was definitely spur of the moment, but once it started, it snowballed out of control to the point where we were recording and mixing and overdubbing and doing vocals. February, March and April  are just a blur.”
Fighter Track Listing
- “Good at Tonight” feat. Brothers Osborne
(TJ Osborne, John Osborne, Troy Verges, Barry Dean)
- “Night’s on Fire”
(Jonathan Singleton, Deric Ruttan)
- “Ease Your Pain”
(Chris Stapleton, Lee Thomas Miller, Jesse Frasure)
- “Home” feat. Lori McKenna
(David Nail, Barry Dean, Lori McKenna)
- “Lie With Me”
(Abe Stoklasa, Marc Beeson)
- “I Won’t Let You Go” feat. Vince Gill
(David Nail, Scooter Carusoe, Troy Verges)
(David Nail, Scooter Carusoe, Lee Thomas Miller)
- “Got Me Gone”
(David Nail, Dave Barnes, Jonathan Singleton)
- “Champagne Promise” feat. Logan Brill
(David Nail, Lee Thomas Miller)
- “Old Man’s Symphony” feat. Bear and Bo Rinehart
After the dust settled, David had himself a finished record about a year ago this time . . . and then December rolled around and his twins were born. Fatherhood gave him a new perspective—both personally and professionally. David decided to switch some things up on the already “finished” album. He recorded four new songs—“Babies,” “Old Man’s Symphony,” “Ease Your Pain” and “Lie With Me”—which changed the project’s tone from his “love-making record,” as he called it at the time, to the “personal” project of today.
The finished album is brimming with David’s emotionally charged vocals and crisp songwriting, while also featuring a stellar supporting cast, including Brothers Osborne on “Good at Tonight,” Vince Gill on “I Won’t Let You Go,” Lori McKenna on “Home,” Logan Brill on “Champagne Promise” and Bear and Bo Rinehart on “Old Man’s Symphony,” as well as the Chris Stapleton co-written song “Ease Your Pain.”
“I feel like I’ve told the main aspects of my career, and my life, up to this point,” David says. “So I really think whatever we do in the future, we’ll be able to start just completely fresh. It’ll be a new story, a new part of my life.”
In other words, he’s won this fight. It’s time to start training for the next one.
photos courtesy UMG