Singer-songwriter and guitarist Jeremy Nail's newest album, My Mountain, will be released May 3rd. The Alejandro Escovedo produced project is a personal, thought provoking and emotional album that quite simply, touches. In advance of its release, Nail kindly took time to answer a few questions via email about the album, the stories behind the songs and more.
You initially connected with Alejandro in 2013, then reconnected in 2015. How did it come about that the two of you developed a friendship and mentoring relationship?
I played guitar in Alejandro’s band for one gig around the time his last record, Big Station, came out. I had always had an affinity for his songwriting and his band was always great. When we met, hung out and played that show we had great time. It was a really cool thing for me to get to play those songs. We stayed in touch over those years when I was sick. I would get messages from time to time and we also had a mutual friend, Michael Lahrman, who helped us stay connected. Once I was on the mend from all of that, we started hanging out a lot more and he took me under his wing.
Did you approach him about producing the record?
It was January 2015, he invited me to his Moody Theater show. After the show Alejandro said, “Let’s make a record”. A few months went by and I went to inpatient rehab to train with my prosthetic. I kept writing and developing the songs I had been working on. After I got out, we started shaping the songs together.
In a producing role (or any other) how did he help shape your album? Did you work as a partnership or did you let him guide the process?
It was both. Alejandro was so generous throughout and supported these songs perfectly. Nothing was ever contrived. We knew that this record was going to have more of an intimate, acoustic environment around it. Once I started working with Alejandro, they became more riff and groove oriented. The songs got stronger. It was important to us for everything to have a lot of space. When we were cutting the basic tracks, Alejandro was conducting the band and brought a great energy. We cut most of the basics in 2 days and he made us feel comfortable in that intensive process. When you have a band like that, all you have to do is hit record.
This seems to be an incredibly personal project with honest and realistic, yet encouraging and hopeful songs. Is that a fair assessment?
For sure. Hopefully there is a good balance of those elements in the record. I began writing them the summer of 2014. Before then, I went a long time without writing, mostly playing guitar in other bands. Once I decided that this was what I wanted, I was finishing one or two songs a week and recording demos at home. Songs like “The Great Mystery” and “Only Love” were fully formed from that time. Other songs like “Calling All Cars” and “Tell Me What Else You Got” were very recent, recorded and written a few months after most of the record was finished.
In 2013, Jeremy was diagnosed with Sarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer that had mysteriously wrapped around his left leg, putting his career and his life on hold. After radiation and much treatment, Nail's leg had to be amputated and he required intensive physical therapy.
Cancer can shape people in different ways. How did it impact you as a songwriter and musician and your overall personal outlook?
There is something that happens that makes you more fearless. There’s that drive to get the most out of life that you can and a new appreciation for simply being alive. I’ve had support from so many friends and family. Hopefully with music and just by being present, I can give back something meaningful.
"My Mountain," the opening track, is also the title of the album. Is there a significance behind that?
I wrote “My Mountain” when I was at St David’s inpatient rehab training with my leg. The first few days there a pretty challenging. I went from walking on crutches to being independent in two weeks, being in physical therapy for most of each day. One day in particular, I had to walk up a ramp, sort of a small incline but down this long hallway. It was harder than it looked. They called it “Mount St David’s”. I got back to my room afterwards and there it was. Some songs write themselves.
Is there a story behind the closing track, “Tell Me What Else You Got?"
“Tell Me What Else You Got” was the last song written for the record. There was a horoscope in the back of the Austin Chronicle that said I needed have a song bragging about having mythical powers, like in Jimi Hendrix’ ‘Voodoo Child’: “I stand up next to a mountain, and chop it down with the edge of my hand”. I thought I’d take a crack at it, with each verse having different snapshots. I put it last on the record because it closes the chapter of the character going through these things and dealing with these internal, existential issues. It leaves the door open for what’s next.
The album artwork is incredibly unique. Can you talk a litle bit about it?
I grew up in Albany, Tx, about 30 miles Northeast of Abilene in West Central Texas. My family has a ranch there. My best friend from home, George Harvick, had been getting into nighttime landscape photography, doing time-lapse videos and experimenting with light painting. We went out there in the middle of the night last spring. There were mosquitos everywhere and we almost got eaten alive. The sky was wide open and there were millions of stars out. The album designer, Daniel Murphy, did a double exposure of two of the images from that night. I love the way it turned out!
Are there plans to play out supporting the record?
Yes. I’m playing shows with the same band that’s on the record for the CD Release May 6th at Strange Brew in Austin. There will be regional shows as well and touring after the record comes out.
Finally, I always love to know - is there any recent release that you cannot stop listening to?
I've been listening to Vetiver's "Complete Strangers" lately. Andy Cabic's records are so sonically interesting and his stuff is always evolving. The song," The Last Hurrah" is on repeat often.
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