Nail says that he wishes he could say there was a grand plan to how he and his partners on the project (multi-instrumentalist Andrew Petroff and producer Jason Hall) went about creating the music that fans will hear on the new album, but he laughs and says he has no such story.
“I’d love to have some interesting story that explained it, but there really isn’t one. It was really just a matter of three guys getting together that really enjoyed each other’s company away from the stage. We enjoyed a lot of the same music, and talked about a lot of the same artists. We had never really created anything together. Last spring, I told them that I wanted to get together, and see what we could do. Everybody has a different skill that they bring to the table, and it could amount to nothing, or it could be really special. We’d never know until we try,” he surmised.
Nail said the unofficial mantra in the studio was to simply create as they went, which seemed to work. “Once we started fumbling through sounds or different effects, chord figurations that I had not been real familiar with, it really unlocked a side of us that had never really been tapped into. It was just a lot of fun. In a million years, I never thought that after those first few days it was going to amount to anything other than some demos or songs that inspired something else that would come later down the road. We lived with the music that we made, and there was an eagerness to get back together. It turned out to be something that sustained itself. At that point, when we got back together for the second session, we kind of had somewhat of a sound identified.”
One of the highlights from the LP is the gripping story song “The Gun.” Longtime fans of Nail’s know his ease with such a song (“The Secret” from 2014’s I’m A Fire being a prime example). He said that in this case, the song came to him a little at a time.
“I remember writing what ended up being the chorus, but I had no clue what it would even be about at the time. It was so far removed from my real-life experiences with my family or my father. I really didn’t have a whole lot of a melody.” Once he and the Well Ravens were back in the studio, he decided to dig a little deeper into the song.
“So I picked up a guitar, pulled that one out, and started to fumble with it. I felt that if I could get an idea or some inspiration, I would know where to start. Andrew pulled out his computer, and he had all these different sounds programmed, and he played a few. The next thing you know, the basis for what it became started. I went in and did a vocal take, which I am almost positive is the vocal take you hear on the record. A couple of weeks go by, and I send an email out to the guys telling them that I’d love Andrew to take it to his studio at his house – without us in his ear – and explore taking it to the next level. A few days later, he sent me a track – which just blew me away. It felt like a movie. It sounded different than anything I’d ever done before.”
Writing the song allowed him to paint from a completely different canvas than he has before as a songwriter. “I think it was the first time in four or five years that I told a story completely from a fictional standpoint without any truth to my own life. I think as a songwriter, that helped to inspire me that I could still do this. I don’t have to write about the same old thing or subjects that people expect me to write about. I can be a songwriter who can write something out of thin air that is triggered by something I watched on TV. It’s like creating a movie.”
Though this project varies greatly from his past output, he says it has no bearing on what his next disc might sound like. “I’ve always been a guy who had a hard time shutting the door on a project. But, once I do, I’m ready to move on to whatever is next. A lot of the time, that can be kind of a conflict, because you might get done with something in the wintertime, but it’s the summertime before it comes out. You’ve kind of moved on to whatever is next on the horizon. There are so many things I want to do. I feel that this has been so good for my psyche to be able to creatively step outside of the norm, and do something that – at the same time – felt extremely natural. There’s some songs that I’ve written ten or fifteen years ago that I would love to do – just me and a guitar. I’d love to do something that was really stripped down – kind of the opposite of this project. As for right now, I feel re-inspired to just be creative. I realize now that not everything has to change the world. I just want to be creative and to make music. Obviously, I want to be as successful as possible, but I think that my idea of success has probably changed quite a bit in the last decade, especially now in the past couple of years that I have a family. That definition has evolved, for sure.”
Only This And Nothing More will be released on Sept. 14.