David Nail on Tour: The Best Behind-the-Scenes Photos – Rolling Stone
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David Nail on Tour: The Best Behind-the-Scenes Photos

“Night’s on Fire” singer shares backstage and onstage pictures from New England tour

David Nail

David Nail shares behind-the-scenes photos from tour stops in New England.

Reid Long

David Nail has a love/hate relationship with the road. While he thrives on sharing his music — and one of country's most powerful and distinct voices — with fans, he's one of the few artists who acknowledges the real-life stress and nerves that come from baring your soul onstage. Contrary to what might be depicted on the radio, country music isn't just one big party.

Nail addressed those demons on his first three studio albums, including last year's I'm a Fire. But on the upcoming Fighter, due sometime next year, he says he's turned a corner. "Fighter closes the door on the battles I've had personally and how it affected my relationship. I said to one of my cowriters, 'I think we've finally scratched that itch,'" Nail tells Rolling Stone Country. "With the exception of bits and pieces of one or two songs, it is an overall positive record. I tell people it's my 'lovemaking record.'"

Recently on tour with Little Big Town, Nail performed a series of shows in New England, one of the "Night's on Fire" singer's favorite areas to play. In this exclusive behind-the-scenes and onstage gallery, the Missouri native offers a glimpse into a life spent on buses, backstage and under bright lights.

David Nail

Reid Long

Quoth the Well Ravens

Nail admits to swiping his band's name, the Well Ravens, from his friend and frequent co-writer Scooter Carusoe. "I told Scooter if I ever get a band, I'm going to steal that. One night I was onstage and I said, 'Give it up for my band the Well Ravens,' and everybody looked at me like, 'What is that?' Different people have tried to figure out what it means, and I wish I had some kind of creative story, but it's just something I stole from somebody else."

David Nail

Reid Long

Between the Buses

Cameras followed Nail throughout his tour of New England, including this stop in New Hampshire. "I had run out to soundcheck really quickly and I turned the corner and there was a camera in my face. Normally I would have tried to avoid them like the plague, but they caught me in a moment," says the photo-averse Nail. "I suddenly started paying attention to how I was walking and not looking like an idiot."

David Nail

Reid Long

Boston Calling

A passionate fan of St. Louis sports teams, the Missouri native Nail has developed a soft spot for Boston, where this photo was taken. "I've fallen in love with this city. The first time we played there, there was 50 people in the crowd, and last year we sold out the House of Blues. It's been cool to see that evolve over the years," he says. "I'm worried about my St. Louis Rams moving to L.A. — if that happens, I've got one foot already on the Patriots bandwagon. I'm a big Tom Brady fan."

David Nail

Reid Long

Three Chords and the Truth

"I learned how to play guitar in the 7th grade and I haven't gotten better since," Nail jokes of his onstage playing. "I learn chords and I don't even know what they are. I just know how they sound. But it's been something that I want to get better at. I joke with the guys every day at soundcheck when I pick up the electric guitar and start noodling around: 'Is today the day when I'm going to start shredding?'"

David Nail

Reid Long

The Fighter

"The voice is a tricky instrument; you never know how it's going to behave. Every night I go up there, there are certain songs, certain notes, certain moments that you get to and, depending on how easy or difficult they are to sing, it can weigh on your confidence or give you more confidence," says Nail, one of country's most powerful and distinct voices. "You never know what you're going to get, so you just say a prayer that the Good Lord shines on you for however long you have to play." 

David Nail

Reid Long

Northeast Country

"When I first started and saw we were going to the Northeast, I called my manager and said, 'Is anybody going to come to the shows? Are there country music fans up there?' Boy, was I in for a surprise," says Nail, who has developed a loyal fan base in New England. 

David Nail

Reid Long

In the Spotlight

Nail says Boston shows carry a particular amount of weight for him. "Looking at this photo, I see a guy who is probably nervous as can be, just trying to remember the words. You try to treat every show like it's just another show, but Boston is one of those places where it's difficult to do that."

David Nail

Reid Long

The Preshow Mood

"About 45 minutes to an hour before the show we dim the lights a little bit and we turn on some music," says Nail of his preshow rituals. "We also take a shot of Jack Daniel's, neat, too. And we've been doing that since the very beginning. Every once in awhile if it's a really big show, one of the guys will say, 'It's a two-shot show!' We get into that proper mindset to get onstage."

David Nail

Reid Long

Crib Notes

Nail has never been shy about his onstage anxiety. From time to time, he'll tape lyrics underneath his mic stand. "There may be a couple of cheat sheets down there. That's the one thing I've struggled with from the very beginning: remembering words and having confidence in myself that the words are going to come. A lot of times it's the songs I've sang thousands of times and one night I happen to stumble on a line and it will give me a little bit of a complex for that song," he says. "So I'll have little reminders that I'll probably never look at over the course of a show, but just knowing they're there…helps my comfort level."

David Nail

Reid Long

Sports Wisdom

"I had begun having people in the sports world sign the first great guitar I was playing onstage," says Nail, who petitioned former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to do the honor. "I said, 'I want it to be something I can look at every night and will give me focus and reinspire me.' He wrote, 'If you're not nervous, you're not ready.' It made so much sense. Walking up onstage, if you don't have those nerves, you're not charged up and it means it doesn't really matter that much to you if it goes one way or the other."

David Nail

Reid Long

In the Paint

"I played basketball my entire life, but it was the sport I was the worst at. But it's a sport I love, and I watch it every night. That venue in New Hampshire, it's one of the most highly regarded places to play, a beautiful part of the country, and is set up like you're at camp. People had been playing sporadically all day, and this was a shot as we were walking to the stage, but there was nobody there," says Nail of this deserted basketball-court backdrop.

David Nail

Reid Long

From Clubs to Sheds

"Since the very beginning, that's a part of the country we've always done really well in and have made a strong effort to invest in the folks up there — they've returned the favor times 10," says Nail of New England audiences. "It's been cool to watch that relationship evolve over time, and we look forward to going up there."

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