David Nail

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 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.”

Now, David has taken that refreshed mindset and used it to shape his trail-blazing third album. If 2009’s I’m About to Come Alive was a snapshot of David grasping for the stars and The Sound of a Million Dreamscaptured him struggling with success, then this new album reflects an artist in control of his craft, a man fulfilled.

The album’s 11 tracks, four of which were written by the Missouri native, capture, for the first time, the energy of his live performance. “It is a much more upbeat album than I’ve done in the past,” he says. “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 this album 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.”

Tracks like “Broke My Heart,” “Burnin’ Bed” and “Lyle County” are similarly infectious, all with deliberate grooves that carry the listener along. “Broke My Heart” has the vibe of a Tom Petty song, “Burnin’ Bed” features a unique staccato delivery from David in its verses, and “Lyle County” boasts sublime harmonies from special guests Little Big Town.

“Lyle County” is full of the nostalgic imagery at which David excels. “I thought I was finished with the idea of reflecting on life’s glory days, but there’s something very beautiful and pure about those times. I’m a sucker for those types of songs,” he laughs.

Interestingly, while The Sound of a Million Dreams featured a prominent piano sound, and the new recording contains few ivory notes. It’s very much a guitar record with, naturally for David, an emphasis on vocals. The ACM Award-nominated singer’s voice is without peer. To some, he is country music’s Adele, and even covered the British chanteuse’s “Someone Like You” on his 1979 EP to mainstream praise.

But while David may have eschewed the piano ballads of influences like Elton John on Album Title TBD, he did make a point to pay tribute to one of his heroes, Glen Campbell. He closes out the album with his version of Campbell’s classic “Galveston,” with help from Lee Ann Womack, who also appeared on The Sound of a Million Dreams.

Like much of Album Titled TBD, produced by David’s faithful collaborator Frank Liddell, the inclusion of “Galveston” was born out of spontaneity. “It was very spur of the moment,” David says. “While it was important to me to pay respect to the song, I wanted to do it how I would do it. And I wanted Lee Ann to be a part of it.”

In the end, however, it’s the track “I’m a Fire” that may best define the album and David’s view on where he is in his personal life.

“There’s so many moments on this record that make me think about the last four years that I’ve been married, and ‘I’m a Fire’ just sums it all up,” David says. “It says, ‘I’ve walked through flames, come out on the other end, and the foremost reason is because of you.’”

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. And he declares it loud and clear on Album Title TDD.

Pegging Show Dog-Universal Music country duo Native Run is tougher than it might seem. "Very instrument-driven with acoustic guitar, banjo and mandolin," suggests the pair's Rachel Beauregard. "Country themes and very sing-able choruses."

Bryan Dawley, her partner in music, appends, "We value songs that take common experiences and translate them in new and interesting ways. Things like love, heartache and life, but with our fingerprint on them."

Getting closer. Maybe an understanding of some influences would help. "We really admire Keith Urban and Chris Thile (of Nickel Creek), because we gravitate toward exceptional playing, melodic hooks and vocals that really connect," Beauregard continues. "We love layers of sound and melodies ... a lot of that comes from bluegrass, as well as Bryan's classical training. It adds up to a very unique sound."

Unique, how? Perhaps a bona fide expert could provide context. "They are such a mix in terms of the acoustic instrumentation and popular sensibilities," says GRAMMY-winning producer Luke Laird (Kacey Musgraves). "Instantly, it just made sense that it could have mass appeal."

Finally, some clarity. Now all Native Run needs is a snappy catchphrase. Something simple, like – organic, acoustic, musically smart, powerful, playful-yet-heartfelt arena rock country music.

Too much?

Okay. Maybe just this: Hard to define, but undeniable. Not surprisingly, that dynamic has existed from their first moments making music together. Bryan and Rachel grew up 20 minutes from each other in the rural/suburban sprawl of Northern Virginia west of the D.C. area. For both, church shaped their musical growth. "I just kept getting the solos," Rachel says of her childhood worship experience. "I was like, 'Oh, I guess I have a singing voice that people want to hear.’"

"After college, we ended up at the same church in Virginia," Rachel says. "And we figured out pretty quickly that there was something there. Making music with Bryan was not only an absolute blast, but it really felt effortless."

"I started playing guitar and bass," Bryan says, noting that his multi-instrumentalist talents were forged by necessity. "The interesting thing about worship ministry at church is that you don’t always know if your drummer or keys player is going to show, so it’s sort of trial-by-fire. Can you fill this spot today? Sure."

A focus on vocal performance and theater carried Rachel through school and college. "I trained in Germanic opera, too," she says, "but I realized I really liked mainstream music and quit ... but I kept singing." Bryan majored in music and, similarly, pulled away from the classics. "I wanted to make music people want to listen to," he says.

"At the time, we were just doing odd jobs," Bryan says. "I was teaching lessons and she was making chicken salad at a club in our area, among other things." Rachel quips back, "Really, I was teaching. But I do make a freaking great chicken salad, I will say. With grapes and balsamic vinegar. It’s amazing."

Turning serious, she adds, "When we started writing together, it just clicked. We immediately knew it was something very chemical and awesome. Other people who heard us had the same reaction and encouraged us to keep doing it."

Anchored at a local coffee shop, the duo began writing and performing original material, eventually touring the east coast. A residency at a New York club sparked contacts that led them to Nashville, but finding a home in country required little in the way of adaptation.

"We've always just wanted to figure out what we do and make the best version of that," Rachel says. "From the beginning, there was something special ... and it just happens to sit so nicely in country." Bryan agrees. "When we’re writing together, it’s not a convoluted approach to try to be more country or less country," he says. "It's just what comes out."

Their publisher and eventual producer Luke Laird saw the connection immediately. And with 14 No. 1 hits as a writer, he knows something about contemporary country music. "They have a hard to find combination. Bryan is a session-level musician. Rachel is a great vocalist and they're both great writers. I was instantly drawn to that credibility – they have the chops. Plus, they can really deliver in a live setting and are so seasoned. They have that performer's sensibility in knowing what fans will react to."

And they are definitely reacting. "We jumped on a couple tours while we were finishing the album...opening for David Nail, Billy Currington, etc...and were able to add the new songs into our setlist." Bryan says. "We were absolutely floored at the response from fans. We just felt so strongly like we belonged, and that they thought we belonged."

That acceptance is easy to understand when considering songs like "Good On You." A relaxed drum loop anchors sparkling banjo and mandolin over a huge, crowd-friendly hook. Likewise, "What's Not To Love" frames a mass-appeal theme and melody in a level of musicianship and performance that holds up to serious scrutiny. "When I'm Taken" showcases the harmonies that were the earliest spark of their pairing.

Even though Laird is their publisher, using him as producer wasn't a foregone conclusion. "Every song we’ve written with Luke, we’ve loved," Rachel says. "He was working on Kacey Musgraves’ album at the time and we spent a lot of time talking about what our process might look like. Eventually, the conversation opened up in that direction."

"Anything we can do to help his star rise," Bryan jokes. "But, really, a lot of different ideas you’ll hear as a through-line in our music have come from experimenting with Luke. We were able to figure out where our foul lines are as a band."

"They have great production ideas on their own," Laird says. "And the process was really organic – from writing to being in the studio. They know who they are, they work hard and they're also really great people."

As their major label debut takes shape, Rachel and Bryan continue to follow the music – and the inexplicable magic – that first brought them together. "When you have that kind of experience, it becomes something you just have to commit to whether you know where it's taking you or not," Rachel says. “You sort of do a big swan dive into it ... and you hope."

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The Blue Note (MO)


David Nail with Native Run

Friday, September 27 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at The Blue Note (MO)

Tickets Available at the Door