Jeremy Nail — Thriving, not just surviving

Jeremy Nail (photo courtesy of Stevan Alcala)

All it takes is a few minutes talking to Jeremy Nail when the question becomes obvious:

Are you a glass-full type of guy?

He laughs.

“I try to be.”

He’s being humble, as the Texan has clearly gone far past “try” and deep into full-on optimism at this point. It’s inspiring to hear, considering all he’s gone through in order to not just release his latest album, My Mountain, but to live.

See, this isn’t an album inspired by heartache and heartbreak and all those things that seem trivial when you consider a life on the line. Nail’s songs touch on his fight against cancer, a battle that cost him his leg, but didn’t break his spirit. And now that he’s come out victorious in that fight, it’s time to tell his story and help others in the same situation.

“That’s what makes me feel good about the whole thing is that if hearing those songs can help somebody through something, then that’s very rewarding for me and it’s definitely served its purpose,” he said.

Already a recording and touring musician, with a 2008 debut album under his belt, Nail was part of Alejandro Escovedo’s touring band when he was sidelined by the fibrosarcoma tumor that forced the amputation of his leg in late 2014. For most, this would be the sign to go to a dark place and possibly never return. Nail turned to that optimism to fuel him and his music to push him even further.

“I was really lucky,” Nail said. “I didn’t have to do chemotherapy and going to in-patient rehab to train with my leg, there were people in a lot worse shape than I am. I’m 35 years old, I’m pretty young to be going through whatever it was, but a positive attitude for me made every day so much more bearable. Every day was a chance to start from scratch again, and luckily I had so much love and support around me that I was able to put one foot in front of the other, no pun intended, and all of that lifted me up. It was definitely an upheaval, but with that positive energy, it’s infectious.”

Family and friends rallied around Nail, and when they weren’t around, he wrote an album of poignant songs that hit the heart of anyone going through a struggle and looking for a way to rise again.

“Writing the songs was definitely a big part of the healing process, and to be able to put these words on paper and to make this music and then have the experience of making this record, it seemed like it happened so fast, and it seemed like it happened for a good reason,” he said of My Mountain, which hit the streets in May of this year. “And even when we made the record, when we were cutting it, there was like this unspoken chemistry between all of us. So I think there was some kind of thing that was just making it happen that was out of our control at some point. That was a really beautiful thing, and hopefully it will connect with folks.”

It does, and now it’s time for Nail to get his story across on stage. He will be in New York City for a show at Rockwood Music Hall on July 10, and as far as he’s concerned, there are no limitations when it comes to touring or performing.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I exercise a lot. I don’t run, so that’s probably the only thing I can’t do. But as far as touring goes and playing music, with this music I like to sit in a chair and play acoustic guitar just because the way I play is very involved. So I sit in a chair and play and the rest of the band sits down too, and it’s still just as good as if we were standing up. The sky’s the limit, if you ask me.”

That kind of sentiment is not surprising coming from Nail, who is in a good enough place right now where singing these songs and pulling up some tough memories isn’t a painful chore, but an opportunity to celebrate where he is today.

“I guess part of me just goes back to that original thing of why did I write the song, why was I compelled to put it on paper in the first place, and songs kind of have a life of their own after that and you hope that it’s a long life,” he said. “And so far, every time I sit down and play them, it feels honest to me and it feels like the listener will hopefully enjoy it as much as I did creating it. I hope that they take away that no matter what they’re going through that you can still live a good life, still do the things you love, you can have love around you and there will always be something that will lift you up.”

Jeremy Nail plays Rockwood Music Hall on Sunday, July 10. For more information, click here