Country

Makin' Tracks: Dylan Scott’s ‘Nobody’ Takes a Relationship On a Gospel Ride

Dylan Scott
Cameron Powell

Dylan Scott

“Nobody” should make somebody feel special — that’s the gospel truth. Dylan Scott’s “Nobody,” the second single from his Nothing to Do Town album, mixes an ascendant message with a descending, piano-based chord progression.

It’s bathed in gospel — he even breaks into a Soul Stirrer vamp in the final chorus — and in the process, it continues a longstanding country affinity for spiritually tinged music and messages, from Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” through Donna Fargo’s “You Can’t Be a Beacon (If Your Light Don’t Shine)” to Garth Brooks’ “We Shall Be Free” and Maren Morris’ “My Church.” The Florida Georgia Line/Bebe Rexha collaboration “Meant to Be” similarly employs gospel textures to convey romantic conviction, and Scott’s “Nobody” — with its church-y instrumentation, downward-turning chords and repetitive hook — plays with some of the same stylistic trappings.

“That was a good song,” says Scott when considering the features of “Meant to Be.” “So maybe this will do the same thing it did: Be a big ol’ No. 1.”

“Nobody” owes at least some of its inspiration to Scott’s No. 1 — his wife, Blair Robinson — but its real origin is an impromptu invitation that songwriter Dallas Wilson (“Bitches”) received just before hitting the road with Scott in July 2018.

“One of my buddies was like, ‘Dude, you should come to church group tomorrow night or tonight,’” recalls Wilson. “I was like, ‘Man, I’m going on the bus tomorrow. I don’t feel like it.’ But I ended up going, and basically, the start of that melody kind of popped in my head. I went and voice-memo'ed it out on the porch, and I kind of forgot about it until we got on the bus.”

Scott, Wilson and songwriter-producer Matt Alderman (“Nothing to Do Town”) motored up to Allegany, N.Y., where Scott was headlining a Wounded Warriors benefit at Fireman’s Park. They grabbed lunch, took a walk around town, then settled into the back of the bus for a songwriting session. The guys fiddled with a couple of ideas that didn’t work, and then Wilson broke into that melody he had saved, pairing it with that descending progression. Alderman quickly pieced together a loop with that framework, and then it came down to finding a story that fit the basic texture.

“I wanted to write a super-simple song with a good groove,” remembers Scott. “I had told my wife, you know, ‘Ain’t nobody gonna love you the way I’m gonna love you,’ so I kind of got this thing about ‘nobody.’ Dallas went, ‘Nobody, nobody, nobody/Gonna love you like I do.’ That’s about as simple as you can get right there.”

They repeated that phrase three times in the chorus, breaking just once in the song’s melodic peak — “I’ma love you ’til the good Lord/Comes back for me and you” — before delving back into the “nobody, nobody, nobody” theme.

“We wrote that chorus probably as quickly as the chorus goes by,” says Alderman.

In fact, Alderman and Wilson argued that they should change a line or two in the chorus to make it less repetitive, but Scott put his foot down.

“I’m not the kind of writer to go, ‘I’m right, you’re wrong,’” he says. “I’m just not that kind of person, but I stood up for this ’cause I loved so much and I wanted it to be so simple.”

That decision pretty much dictated how the rest of the song would come together. “We spent a lot more time on the verses trying to put a lot of color and pictures in there and tell the story,” notes Alderman.

The opening verse, pitched in a melodic tier that shows off the richest section of Scott’s range, establishes the status of the relationship. The singer acknowledges that his romantic partner turns heads, but instead of burrowing into jealousy, he laughs off other men’s interest, signaling that he’s confident in himself and his woman’s commitment.

“It took time for us to get there,” says Scott of his own relationship, which started in high school. “When we were 15, 16, 17 years old, that jealousy was always there. But the longer we were together and the more we realized we were going to be with each other forever, that kind of just went out the door. I can’t tell you the last time I was jealous.”

Halfway through the verse, the phrasing changes to staggered syncopation, providing a change of pace even as the underlying chords continue their descending pattern.

"Dylan had a lot of influence on the phrasing,” says Wilson. “What’s cool about him is he has got such a deep country voice, but he’s a Louisiana guy, so he’s got a lot of soul, too. And I think you can kind of get a little more syncopated with melodies and it’ll still work with country because of that honest tone that Dylan has.”

Verse two needed to support the confidence the singer expressed in that opening stanza, and that was accomplished by digging deeper into nuances. The lyrics pay specific attention to her tastes in coffee, in baths and in humor. “In a relationship, knowing those little things about somebody is what brings the intimacy,” says Alderman. “That’s what we were going for.”

True to form, Scott does know those details at home. “She loves her hazelnut creamer in her coffee — she has more cream in her coffee than coffee,” he says. “And she likes her bath super hot. It’s like, I know all these things. I was thinking about it that day.”

They wrapped with a bridge that kept the same declining chords and changed the repetition just a tad from “Nobody, nobody, nobody” to “I’m gonna love you, love you.” And then they broke into that final chorus.

Alderman assembled a quick demo with programmed snaps for percussion and sent it to keyboard player Alex Wright back in Nashville. He deepened the song’s keyboard textures and added Hammond B-3, which emphasized the gospel feel, then sent it back to Alderman within just an hour or two.

Once they returned to Nashville, Alderman and co-producers Jim Ed Norman (Anne MurrayHank Williams Jr.) and Curt Gibbs (Ruthie Collins) booked a few overdub sessions at the Curb Studios on 16th Avenue South, using Scott’s road band to fill out the sound. Scott’s brother, Logan Robinson, played guitar, while brothers Garrett Cline (bass) and Darrick Cline (drums) fattened the foundation.

Alderman stacked several tracks of backing vocals, creating a church choir sound, and Scott delivered a final vocal in convincing fashion. “By that time, I had lived with the song for a couple of weeks,” he says. “I didn’t have to read it off any kind of lyric sheet. I knew this song, and I knew what I wanted the song to sound like, so we really just went in and knocked it out.” Late in the process, Alderman implored Scott to do some gospel wailing, and he let loose with an embellishment that has since become a big part of the song’s live presentation.

Scott envisioned “Nobody” as a single all along, and once “Nothing to Do Town” finished its run, peaking at No. 32 on Country Airplay, Curb agreed and shipped “Nobody” to country radio on Jan. 29. It holds down a spot on the New & Active chart dated Mar. 7, where it first appeared Feb. 29. With repeated listens, its hooky chorus, upbeat attitude and supportive pledge all work together to build an easy-going, feel-good flow.

“You can’t really ever go wrong with a positive love song,” suggests Scott. That’s the gospel truth.

This article first appeared in the Billboard Country Update newsletter. Click here to sign up for free.