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David Nail right at home in Chicago



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♦ 8 p.m. July 13

♦ Windy City Smokeout (through Sunday), corner of Hubbard and Rush

♦ Tickets, one-day pass, $30; three-day pass, $60

♦ Visit

Updated: August 14, 2013 6:07AM

It’s long been said that Grammy-nominated country music singer/songwriter David Nail knows the Chicago transit system better than some of the city’s lifelong residents. “There is something about stepping onto a train and getting off at your stop and finding yourself smack in the middle of a huge city,” says Nail. “It’s similar to the adrenaline rush I feel when I pull up to my tour bus. It gives me this little kid feeling of anticipation.”

A self-proclaimed people watcher from Missouri who loves barbecue and good music, Nail currently finds himself anticipating his performance at the first annual Windy City Smokeout, a three-day BBQ/country music festival taking place July 12-14 in the River North neighborhood. Nail will headline the event alongside fellow headliners Jerrod Niemann and Pat Green and performers such as Illinois’ very own Brett Eldredge.

“Chicago was one of the first places where we started out playing for little crowds of 50 or so people,” says Nail. “My relationship with the city has definitely developed over time. I don’t know how to describe it, but when I am there, I feel like I could have grown up there, which is ironic because I grew up in a real small town. Throughout the years, we invested in Chicago and Chicago invested in us.”

Currently touring in support of his newest single, “Whatever She’s Got,” and looking forward to the release of his third album early next year, Nail says he finds himself in a good place these days, both personally and professionally.

“[‘Whatever She’s Got’] is the first song I have done where I just knew it was made for the radio,” says Nail, who now makes his home just outside of Nashville. “It’s a little different from the stuff we have done in the past, but the reaction to the new material is better than I could ever imagine.”

And while much has been said lately regarding “the new David Nail,” he says the new music simply represents where he is in his life and where he still can’t wait to go.

“I have always admired an artist like Tim McGraw,” explains Nail, known best for his Top 10 hit “Red Light” and No. 1 song “Let It Rain.” “With every record, you could see [Tim] was experimenting and trying out some new sounds. You could tell he wasn’t going to be satisfied just because he had found something that works. There is some anxiety about kind of trying new things, but when it feels right, you just have to go with it.”

Indeed, while Nail has been known a man of many emotions, he also has been known as someone not interested in sticking with the status quo. “One of the first things I noticed in Nashville when I would go to shows by other artists was that it was easy to pick up on the ones who sounded a bit too rehearsed,” he says. “I promised myself that I would never let that happen to me. Heck, anytime I drive to work, I always change it up. I’m constantly thinking of ways to make things better. As creative people, I guess we are just weird like that.”

One thing Nail says that also won’t change anytime soon is his love for a good ol’ pulled pork sandwich.

“I’m the biggest barbecue fan in the history of the world,” laughs Nail. “I’m a sucker for anyone who can master a rack of ribs. I guess it depends on what day it is and how many days in the row I have had it, but I just love barbecue — about as much as I love Chicago.”

Tricia Despres is a local free-lance writer.

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