David Nail Talks About His Old 'Day Job' At Dairy Queen
"For tips I caddied at the local course/At night i mixed boat drinks down on the wharf/flirtin with the college girls getting my barefoot wet out in the world/fell in love 100 times."
These are lyrics from the song "Summer Job Days," off of David Nail's album "I'm About to Come Alive." The Grammy-nominated singer never actually caddied at a gold course, or bartended on a pier. When he was 17-years-old, Nail spent the summer working at a Dairy Queen in his hometown of Kennett, Mo., and he returned there for a shift as part of GAC's series "Day Jobs."
"I didn't write that song," he told AOL Jobs. "Although I did fall in love 100 times."
Nail's life is now a far cry from those days spent mixing up Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Blizzards for hundreds of squealing children. Well, the squealing children haven't changed. AOL Jobs caught up with Nail on his tour bus between San Antonio and Austin, Texas, where he's opening for Taylor Swift on her "Speak Now" tour.
"It's wonderful. You can't beat 20,000 screaming girls."
Even if those girls are the same age as Dairy Queen's key demographic?
"Yeah, they are illegally young," he concedes. "But I'm happily married. And it's exciting to hear girls scream anytime."
Nail has been making music out of Nashville for a decade now, only hitting it big in 2009 with the Top 10 single "Red Light." Since then, Nail has hopped from one career milestone to another, including sold-out arena shows with the princess of country-pop.
It was nice for Nail to take a one-day breather in a small-town ice-cream shop owned by his best friend's mom. "Any time I get to go home is a joyous occasion."
And his memories of that time are fond. "When I was there all the cool kids worked there," he explains. "It was a place we could all hang out together, and eat as much as possible without paying for it."
There is a lot of nostalgia for Nail whipped up in that vanilla soft serve. "It was exciting to make some of the same things, order some of the same things as 15 years ago."
Times have changed, however. "Back then I could eat or drink all I wanted and I didn't gain any weight. Now just the thought of eating ice cream puts pounds on me."
Dairy Queen itself has changed too. "Now they're extremely... almost trendy, modern," he says. "Back then it was pretty basic."
Going back, Nail did everything he did as a teen. "In reality, it's not very difficult at all. Taking orders, remembering how to punch them in. It's definitely not curing cancer." And he got to sample again his favorite food from his boyhood days: the Chicken Strip Basket.
Even as a Dairy Queen employee, Nail always wanted to just make music. He tried college for a while, but ultimately left to pursue his real dreams. "I dropped out of a few colleges. I'm not the smartest tool in the shed."
He regrets that move "everyday," he admits. "I'd love to be able to say I have a degree. But I think I made a smart business decision."
The college-age kid moved to Nashville in the early 1990s, working at a blues store downtown by day, and making music by night.
"Obviously I didn't make a whole lot of money through the majority of that time," he says. "And I still don't make that much."
Success is still new for Nail. His sophomore album isn't out for another few weeks.
But he can now make a living entirely through music. "I remember the first time I got a check," he says dreamily. "It's like getting paid to watch a baseball game."
Nail's once-far-fetched career plans are now really within reach. Which is a lucky thing. "I've never been one for physical labor of any kind," he explains. "I don't really enjoy work that much."
On his "Day Jobs" shoot, Nail fulfilled all the duties of your standard employee, except for mopping up. "I don't like to clean," he says. "You're in a restaurant and lots of people are gross. You probably find disgusting things."
While there aren't that many disgusting things about ife as a country music star, Nail's current job bears something of a resemblance to that summer at the Kennett Dairy Queen. There are the screaming girls, of course. And the chance to spend every day hanging out with the cool kids.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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