It's been 10 months since fans last heard David Nail's emotional volcano of a voice on new music — "Night's on Fire," the first single from his two-years-in-the-making Fighter album. And although that project's release date has just been announced (July 15th), the Missouri native is done waiting. On May 20th, Nail dropped a five-track covers EP to bridge the gap, and this is no grab-bag of lukewarm karaoke cop-outs.
Called Uncovered, the digital-only EP finds Nail covering four iconic vocalists and re-imagining one of his earlier tunes in what may be one of the most ambitious projects he's ever undertaken.
Speaking exclusively with Rolling Stone Country, Nail says the EP stems from his viral-certified cover of Adele's "Someone Like You" in 2012, and his idea was to get back to the innocent joy he felt for music when he was a teenager. Back then, it seemed like his favorite singers could read his mind.
"This entire project was born from trying to find ways to make these huge, popular songs come back to you in some shape or form," he explains.
Those huge, popular songs are a mix of current and classic, but each one is iconic in its own right. He flips Adele's "Send My Love (to Your New Lover)" upside down and presents it from a male perspective (which Rolling Stone Country recently premiered), tackles one of 2015's biggest pop hits with "Can't Feel My Face" by the Weeknd, dives into the passion and power of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," kneels to The King on Elvis Presley's tragic "In the Ghetto" and finally re-cuts the big-brotherly warning of "Looking for a Good Time" from his debut album.
Re-working songs that have already been perfected to fans might seem audacious, but according to Nail he's been doing this his whole life.
"It goes back as far as when I was a kid and had these ideas for changing songs up and doing them different," he says. "At the very last second, I could always go to my father, 'Hey dad, play it like this.' It would always drive him crazy like 'I can't just learn something in five minutes and do it,' but he could always do it, so it spoiled me."
Each song was a unique challenge, and each one captured his attention for different reasons. He'd always been intrigued by rumors about the true meaning of "In the Air Tonight," for example, and says "Can't Feel My Face" was so far outside his comfort zone it was almost like a dare he couldn't turn down. The sledgehammer of rejection that is "Send My Love (to Your New Lover)" felt like a natural follow up to "Someone Like You," and "In the Ghetto" kicked the whole project off, sending Nail on a quest of musical reverse engineering.
"Really, the common thread between them is that lyrically they're so strong and so powerful and so moving," he explained. "And then [the EP is] just really stripped down. There's not a whole lot going on, it's all about letting the story be first and foremost."
Recorded in run-and-gun sessions between tour stops and caring for his newborn twins, Nail says recording Uncovered with producers Jason Hall and Reed Pittman was a ton of fun, but he was careful to put as much thought and respect into each cover as possible. He truly loves these songs, and that's the only reason he was willing to do them.
"Songs are so personal to [artists], especially when you release them," he explains. "That's such an intimate moment for that specific person and to try to re-capture that is just darn-right impossible, so that's where you have to be really careful. I wanted to pick songs that I knew well enough that I could go in there and I didn't have to read off a lyric sheet, so I could just close my eyes and what came out naturally was what we tried to keep."
David Nail's Uncovered track listing:
- "In the Ghetto" – Elvis Presley
- "Can't Feel My Face" – The Weeknd
- "In The Air Tonight" – Phil Collins
- "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" – Adele
- "Looking for a Good Time" – David Nail