David Nail’s new single “The Sound of a Million Dreams,” from his current album of the same name, could be seen as something of a musical mission statement. It is a tribute and testament to the power of a well-crafted, deeply resonant song.
Though the song references Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” and Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” it does so in a way that enhances the song’s meaning, as opposed to using such references as a crutch. The narrator relates how such songs affect him emotionally, describing their ability to dredge up memories of his past – fond memories as well as painful ones. The lyric begins on a light note, relating how Seger’s “Main Street” brings back pleasant memories of a former flame. From there the song moves into deadly serious territory, as Nail looks back regretfully on the mistakes of his youth, saying that “When I hear ‘Mama Tried’ I still break down and cry and pull to the side of the road.”
Such thoughts and feelings move the singer to reflect on his own role as a musician, expressing the hope that “Maybe my voice will cut through the noise and stir up an old memory.” The song squarely hits its target by using imagery that lends it a personal, relatable feel, with the narrator detailing how he personally is affected by the songs he has grown up with. Perhaps the biggest thing the song gets right is that it taps into actual tangible emotions, as opposed to rudimentary, superficial details.
Though a portion of Nail’s past work has been marred by overproduction, such issues are nowhere to be found on this song. Instead, we get a straightforward piano ballad with touches of steel guitar, which allows the song’s story to effectively resonate without needless distractions. Nail for his part has already proven himself to be a gifted vocalist, but he has hardly sounded better than he does here. Bolstered by a truly great lyric and a tasteful production, he shines with his strong, heartfelt, sincere performance. Though he didn’t write the song himself (Scooter Carusoe and Phil Vassar did), Nail’s performance hints at a deep connection to the intent of the lyric. The result ranks as easily Nail’s finest single to date, not to mention a shoo-in for my ‘Best of 2012’ list.
As he expresses in song the hope that his music will touch others in the same way that the music of his past has touched him, Nail reaches out to his listeners by putting all of himself into his performance, and in so doing, he just might have achieved that very goal.
Written by Scooter Carusoe and Phil Vassar
Listen: The Sound of a Million Dreams