David Nail's 'If I Could Call' Reflects on the Loss of His Beloved Grandfather: 'He Was My Hero' (Exclusive)

"Writing the song wasn't something that I consciously was trying to do," the country star tells PEOPLE. "It was just something that sort of came out"

From the moment he wrote his new single "If I Could Call," David Nail dreaded the day he would perform it for the first time. But this past March, the Grammy-nominated multi-platinum singer/songwriter’s did just that when he played it for the first time on WSM Radio.

"I was honestly shocked I had the capability to perform it," reflects Nail, 45, in an interview with PEOPLE. "I was especially shocked that I was able to perform it for the first time on WSM, given the history of that station and what [WSM Radio host] Bill Cody has meant to me over the years."

Certainly, the pain behind Nail’s new single remains, as the country music truth-teller has yet to play the song live again.

"It’s been three years since [my grandfather] has been gone,” Nail explains of his grandfather's passing in June of 2021. "And writing the song wasn't something that I consciously was trying to do. It was just something that sort of came out."

<p>courtesy David Nail</p> The cover of 'If I Could Call'

courtesy David Nail

The cover of 'If I Could Call'

Written last December, the self-penned "If I Could Call" touches on the wish to pick up the telephone and call those that the world has already taken away from us.

"If I could call my grandfather again, what would I say?" the "Let It Rain" hitmaker questions aloud regarding the original premise of the self-penned song. "From there, I'd say 75% of the song fell out very effortlessly. And then it was just a matter of trying to craft it as perfect as possible without it being too much of a personal story."

Nevertheless, it is a personal story and one that Nail says can still bring on the emotions for him. "It’s still hard to talk about, even now," Nail says quietly about his grandfather who lived across the street from him when he was a teen growing up in southeast Missouri. "He was my hero. He was the greatest man I've ever met in my life."

<p>Mitch Wallis</p> David Nail

Mitch Wallis

David Nail

Certainly, life hasn’t always been easy for Nail, as he has been quite open about his struggles with depression. But through it all, his grandfather always could find a way to comfort him.

"[My depression] was never something that I talked about with my grandfather, but I think he always knew that he had that ability to comfort and bring light to any dark situation or dark time," says Nail about his mental health struggles. "You just sort of take for granted how easy it is to lean on those people when they're here."

Related: David Nail Lived 10 Years in 'Deep Depression'

His grandfather was so important to Nail that he named his own son after him. "I was sitting there in the front row at [my grandfather’s] funeral and I was just bawling and there was my son holding my hand," Nail remembers of son Lawson. "It was one of the very first conversations that I ever had with my wife when we were dating. I would always tell her that if we ever had children, this would be a non-negotiable item. We were going to name our son after my grandfather."

Now 8 years old, Lawson might not understand the importance of his name quite yet, but someday he will. Nail guarantees it.

"Something that we taught my son very early on is you have a very special name and you're named after a very special man," he says. "And so, you wear that name proudly. Every time I say my son's name, I can't help but think about it. It's just one of those things. I think it just makes it that much more passionate of a feeling."

David and Lawson Nail in the music video
David and Lawson Nail in the music video

Related: David Nail Hopes to Have a Fourth Child with Wife Catherine: 'We Would Like One More'

Indeed, as the father of three put the finishing touches on "If I Could Call," he knew that it was one that would fill him with pride and a little bit of dread every time he sang it.

But he will sing it again.

"I had never attempted to do something quite that emotional," says Nail, of the song whose music video includes Nail with his son, Lawson, who is also referenced in the song. "I'd written a song on The Fighter record about my father that was obviously very personal to me, but my father was alive then and is still alive now. But I think when someone has passed on, its different. I started ['If I Could Call'] basically with, 'I'm going to try to act like I'm calling to just catch up, but the reality of the situation is I need this probably more than I'm willing to admit.'"

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