David Nail Says Musical Transition to Brighter Songs on ‘I’m a Fire’ Mirrors Personal Struggles
It’s tempting to latch onto a narrative that the happier themes David Nail explores on ‘I’m a Fire’ mirror his treatment for depression. Before this album, he was known for dark, heavy ballads about the loss of love, but now tracks like ‘Whatever She’s Got’ and ‘I’m a Fire’ find him bathing in sunshine.
But the storybook narrative holds true, at least in this case. Nail tells Taste of Country he just wasn’t drawn to the “same ol’ sad and depressing songs” this time around. The journey began with ‘Whatever She’s Got,’ a song he discovered around the same time he began facing his battle.
“Initially, I didn’t know if it was a place I wanted to go,” Nail says. “The more that I started to discover my own personal struggles and started to deal with them, and started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I became more enthused about letting that serve as the theme of the record. I really tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together around that.”
"I joke about no more sad songs — I only sing happy songs from here forward. That’s not entirely true, but it’s, I think self-consciously, the overall intention."
“It really just affected my writing, it affected the song search suddenly because of what I was going through personally,” he adds.
Recognizing that this new direction deviated from what he’d done before, Nail fought an inner battle between the dark and bright halves of his artistic spirit. He questioned the type of artist he was becoming, unsure if this new path was one he could embrace.
“That was the only difficult part,” Nail explains. “You have two records worth of material that you kind of establish yourself as this type of artist. But at the same time, you’ve gone through this huge change personally. It came down to, ‘This is the kind of record I want to make and I want to build it around this song.’ Thus, the new sound was born.”
I joke about no more sad songs — I only sing happy songs from here forward. That’s not entirely true, but it’s, I think self-consciously, the overall intention,” he furthers.
There actually is some sad, depressing fare on ‘I’m a Fire.’ ‘The Secret’ is as good as any weeper you’ll find. Nail tells the story of a young woman, an ex-lover, who dies. His character has a complicated past with this woman. The plot — co-written by Scooter Carusoe — was based on a girl he knew from high school that died while he was a freshman in college. From there, they fictionalized the details.
Creating a song without some sort of personal event to center the story is difficult for Nail. He jokingly says this causes complications with his wife, Catherine. “If she knows well and good this song wasn’t inspired by her, she always ask who the song is about,” he says.
Explaining who it’s about, especially if it’s a love song or a nostalgic look back on love, can be tricky. “It makes for an uncomfortable moment, that’s for sure,” he insists. “I really feel like to delve in and put as much emotion as you can, you gotta have something you can draw from so you’re not necessarily just reaching for blank sheets of papers.”
It’s only been a short few weeks since Nail opened up about his lifelong battle with depression, something he said he hopes will inspire others to face their troubles. So far, he hasn’t heard from too many fans who can relate, but expects that to change when he begins touring.
“For me, it was to bring somebody in who can be completely objective about the way I was living my life and how I wanted to live my life,” Nail says. “Obviously there are some other variables involved, but it definitely hope that in some small way if it can encourage somebody, I hope it does.”