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David Nail: 'I want people to walk away moved'

Courtesy photo

Country musician David Nail says that he wants people to attend his concert to have a positive emotional experience.

Country artist David Nail performs at Wave Friday, June 23.

The Missouri native recently spoke with KMUW about returning to live performance after COVID and how he keeps his audiences engaged with his performances.

Interview Highlights

What has it been like for you to get back on the road and reconnect with fans? 

[There are] people that we might not necessarily know by name but we have gotten familiar with over the years that we’ve seen come to shows whenever we come through a town. It was always super cool to hear people [say], “I haven’t seen a David Nail show in two years or three years” or whatever it was. You see them and they [say], "I had to pick between you and whoever" and, obviously, that is something that's just super flattering.

It was difficult to have that taken away but, at the same time, when you get back out there and you see some of those familiar faces [it’s incredible]. [You see] people who are trying to get their feet back in the water so to speak and they chose to do it at your show; obviously, like I said, that’s super-duper humbling and hopefully it just continues to get better.

One thing I’ve noticed since I started going back to shows is that it’s a great way to reconnect with people and everybody seems maybe a little bit more respectful and mellow than before the pandemic. 

Yeah, I mean obviously I’m not in the crowd so I don’t necessarily see it from that angle. I definitely think people are taking it a little bit more serious and, like you said, appreciate it a little bit more, just being back out there and experiencing it. I think that goes for anything: I think a lot of times we don’t realize how important certain things are until you miss out on ‘em. Your whole life’s sort of turned upside down. I’m sure that there is a level of anticipation for things to get as close to back to normal but all we can do is hope and pray and do what we can to make as many people as comfortable as possible.

When you’re performing do you ever have this sense of, “This could be somebody’s first show. This could be the first time that they’ve ever gone to see a live concert, this could be the first time that they’re seeing me”? Or is that too heavy? 

No, it’s funny you say that because I say that literally every night right before we go onstage. I always remind the guys [and am] probably, in a lot of ways, trying to remind myself that, “We may have played this place five times,” or, “We may be fairly familiar with this city but there’s going to be somebody out there who has never seen us before, has no clue what to expect, so everybody needs to do their part, pull their weight, to try and make sure that that person leaves with a good taste in their mouth. We’ve got 75 to 90 minutes to do it.”

Something I say from stage every night is, “If I get up here and you go home or get in your car and you’re talking about the shirt I wore or that I didn’t play a certain song or I didn’t move around enough or I didn’t do this, that, or the other, I didn’t do my job as a singer, as a musician and I didn’t find the right songs to connect to you personally.”

That is, at the end of the day, what I want people to walk away with. I don’t want people trying to define it or describe it or explain it. I want people to walk away moved. I want people to walk away inspired. They may not relate to every song but, hopefully, they relate to one. If you sing 14 or 15 songs a night if you can hit them with one or two that makes them think or makes them feel something then that’s a pretty good percentage especially if it’s somebody who’s never been to one of your shows before.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.