What do an American picker and a country music star have in common? They’re both backroad buffs and amazing storytellers.
When the cameras aren’t rolling, but the miles of highway are, Mike likes to blast good ol’ windows-down, blue-sky, breeze-on-your-skin tunes. That’s when the music of MCA recording artist and Missouri native David Nail is likely to be the first through the speakers – Mike appreciates his great melodies and common man lyrics about love lost, love found and small town pride. His love of good music and a good story led us to talk to David about his roots and what has inspired him in his climb to country music success.
“I was very much consumed by where I grew up. There really wasn’t much besides small towns within a 150-200 mile radius. I never went on vacation until I was 21. That’s when I saw the ocean for the first time! Every significant moment or decision I have ever made, I have always subconsciously leaned on where I grew up. A lot of people spend time trying to move on from where they’re from, but I don’t think you ever really grow out of that. I think it’s just part of the core of who you are. I am extremely proud of who I am and very grateful to have been raised where I was.”
Easily one of the best things about being raised in small town America is the journey home. Nothing matches the comfort of driving down Main Street and being welcomed by the people who’ve watched you grow up from a curious child to a country music star. Especially when you know they are unfazed by fame and still see you for who you really are and always were.
“Truly, I’m still seen as that punk kid who was friends with everyone and always out stirring up trouble. To the people back home, I’ll always be that guy. I don’t think it’s about staying grounded, it’s about remembering where you’re from. It’s the fabric of who you are. To me that’s the coolest thing about my latest album, Fighter. I think because of this album the people growing up around me who saw me as just a troublemaker finally got a glimpse of what my life was like for real.”
Essentially a storyteller himself, Mike especially appreciates David’s gift for words. His relatable and honest lyrics reflect the songwriter’s unique perspective. Even with such a deep well of inspiration, when asked where the stories come from, he gives the only all-inclusive answer: “It’s just life.”
“It still blows my mind when people come up to me and say they relate to one of my songs, how it helped them though a tough part in their life, or gave them perspective. I’ve always written songs to help me through those periods of my life. That’s what makes the fans’ responses so humbling. One of the most amazing feelings you can have as an artist is for a piece of your music to deeply affect someone, but at the same time it’s heartbreaking because I know what they’re feeling. I’ve been there.”
For a musician, pushing to be better and finding new ways to stay creative are a constant pursuit. So what keeps David hungry and improving?
“I always want my creative process unforced. A lot of times, you can sense that something is weighing on your mind, but I try to not get so curious that I sit down and pry it out. I feel like it’s gonna come out when it comes out. To me, this is the most enjoyable way to be creative because then you can look back and think, ‘Wow! I didn’t know I had that in me.’ Travel also sparks a lot in me. As someone who never traveled, I find myself excited about new landscapes, unfamiliar roads, and befriending new people along the ride. Those quiet, contemplative moments while seeing the world are the perfect way to live and write a great story.”
Incredible adventures await all of us on the outskirts of our small towns. Mike and David were fearless enough to walk beyond the county lines and experience things they had only read about. Whether it’s selling out concerts and sleeping on buses, or filming a TV show and traveling in vans, both men live for the thrill of the unknown.
“I think what unites Mike and me is that we’re both fueled by curiosity. As many times as I’ve played a show, whether it’s for 12 or 12,000 people, it’s never difficult for me to string up some nerves because each crowd is different. Similar to the way Mike pulls history out of barns and garages, he never knows if he’s gonna find any items, let alone 10. It’s the anticipation and thrill that each show and each pick will be brand new. I think that’s what keeps us both humble, happy and hungry for the the next big hit and or the next big pick.”
Just like any true traveler would say, nothing compares to heading home after a long time on the road. When David comes home to his wife and twin babies in Nashville, he always hopes that some things will never change. At least not right away.
“The day my children were born, I realized every decision I made would be based on them. I’m excited about the changes in Nashville, but the most important thing that I want for my children is enough of what was here when I first arrived. I want to tell them my war stories and share my secret spots. In terms of our city’s growth, I am very proud that Nashville has become such an attractive place to live. Those of us who have been here for the last decade knew it all along! It has been transformed for all occupations beyond the music industry. Traveling the world and getting to say, ‘I’m from Nashville!’ gives me such pride because people want to be a part of its party. Nashville is the place to be for anyone who lives for goosebumps, good people and great stories.”
It was an honor to learn more about David and his journey from small town to center stage. Inspired by their common love for good tunes and two lane travel, Mike and David collaborated on a playlist to keep you company on your own adventures.
David Nail’s highly-anticipated FIGHTER TOUR, kicks off September 7 in Madison, WI. It follows his successful I’M A FIRE headlining tour, which was named one of the “Must See Concert Tours” by Rolling Stone. Click here for tickets.