David Nail Preps for I'm A Fire Tour With Tips From Darius Rucker

David Nail photographed in 2014.
Jim Wright

David Nail has toured plenty before as the opening act for headliners like Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum.But talking to him about his I'm A Fire Tour, set for this fall, makes it sounds like a totally new ball game for the Missouri native. "I feel like we have worked really hard at trying to build our career on a grass-roots level. I think with every year we've added a few new places where we've never played before to try to keep building things."

Nail says he picked up a lot of pointers on how to handle himself as a headliner from Rucker. "I would say we probably learned more as a group from Darius, and we've played with some great people. He took me under his wing, and taught me a lot -- first and foremost -- about how to treat people. I remember the last night we were on stage, singing 'Family Tradition,' and he pulled me aside and said, 'If there is one thing I want you to take from this tour, hopefully one day when you're headlining, you'll treat people the way we treated you.' Everybody just treated us with respect, and inspired me to be available to the opening acts -- and to pass along some of the lessons that guys like him taught me."

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As a headliner, getting to expose more of his catalog allows him a chance to grow his fan base. "I think anyone would tell you that they would much rather play an hour and a half than 25 or 30 minutes," he says. "For us, we're more successful in showing what we can do live over the course of an hour rather than saying, 'Okay, we've got 30 minutes to try to sell you on the music.' While your set might be full of songs that people are more familiar with, I feel that a lot of times it's the songs you didn't know about that sell you on the artist. I think that you want to continually grow, and the longer we have on stage, the better our odds are of impressing people."

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Opening for Nail on the tour will be Universal Music's duo Native Run. The singer joked that being the veteran on such a tour puts himself in a different place. "I always joke with them that they make me feel old. They're the young kids on the block. They make me feel like I've been doing this longer than I really have been. They are extremely talented, and have a unique sound."

He thinks being around the duo will inspire him to raise his game. "I've had the privilege to play with a lot of people, and it's ironic to be in the headliner role, and seeing that exuberance and that energy. It makes you want to go out there and do your best."

2014 has been a year to remember for the singer. I'm A Fire, his third MCA Nashville disc, achieved Nail's highest ranking on the Billboard Country Albums Chart (No. 3) and the Billboard 200 (No. 13). He also topped the Country Airplay chart in February with the set's first single, "Whatever She's Got," and he's currently No. 30 on the Country Airplay chart with "Kiss You Tonight."

Nail tells Billboard he plans to keep striking while the proverbial iron is hot. "Rather than rest and take it easy, I've always been the type of person to go after it more -- not from a greed aspect, but I'm hungry to keep building a career. There's no better feeling than going to a city where you had 800 people the first time, and a year later, you're at 1,400. You feel like you're doing it the right way. Hopefully we can continue to do it."

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