Think of it as a yacht-rock song that set sail in Berry Hill, Tenn., and ended up docking back in the same building where its journey began.
Justin Moore’s new single, “Somebody Else Will,” uses the kind of light-soul bassline and haunting chord progressions that marked late-’70s and early-’80s blue-eyed soul by such acts as Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins and Hall & Oates. Moore’s typical approach mixes traditional country and Southern-tinged rock, though his previous single — “You Look Like I Need a Drink,” which peaked at No. 1 on the Oct. 8 Country Airplay chart — borrowed from early-’70s Rolling Stones. “Somebody Else Will” thus represents a further expansion into unexpected sonic territory.
“I always want to stay true to what has gotten me to this point in my career,” says Moore, “but it’s important for us to continue to grow and evolve a little bit. Songs like this help us do that.”
While “Somebody Else Will” is different from what listeners might expect of Moore, it’s also different from the ballad that songwriter Adam Hambrick (“How Not To”) envisioned when he threw out the title during a co-write at the Red Creative Group offices in Nashville’s Berry Hill neighborhood on March 1.
“I was thinking it would be a more emotional kind of title,” says Hambrick. “I was thinking of it as ‘I better hold on to her, because if I don’t, somebody else will.’ ”
But fellow Red Creative writer Kelly Archer (“Sleep Without You,” “For Her”) took it in another direction: a faster tempo with an ascendant chorus.
“When he said the title, she had a vision of what she thought we could write,” says Canadian singer-songwriter Tebey (pronounced “TAY-bay”), the third person in the room that day. “She kind of started rocking that chorus, and Adam and I just picked up the guitars and started rocking out.”
It’s a hard-edged chorus that underscores the competition in the barroom setting they landed on. When a beautiful woman enters the club, she grabs the attention of its male patrons. Some of those guys are likely lounge lizards, though at least one — the song’s protagonist — is less motivated by predatory thoughts than by something deeper. Still, he knows he needs to move fast if he wants to get her attention at all.
“This song’s about a girl who is just a little bit special, and he recognizes it,” says Archer. “It’s a cool message about being brave enough to approach a girl when you know that there’s something special about her, without it making it sound like you just want her for one thing in particular.”
They wrote a big chunk of the chorus first, giving them a sense of where they were headed when they started working on the opening verse. And it’s in those verses where the yacht-rock texture comes to the fore, combining with a descending melody to create a contrast that helps the chorus stand out.
“It’s literally just two chords, just trying to keep it simple,” says Tebey. “The chorus lifted really nicely, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t get above that in the verses.”
A key moment comes in the first verse when the song describes the woman as “shining like a diamond in a neon room,” using a couple of familiar phrases in an unfamiliar way to underscore the air around her. Another key moment arrives in the bridge, which works less like a departure from the established verse and melody than as an addendum to the second chorus, pushing the range higher and peaking before a searing guitar solo.
“The song was running about 90 percent dynamically, and then we hit that bridge and it took it to that full-on level,” says Hambrick. “It was like, ‘Now we have arrived where we want to be dynamically for the song to have maximum impact.’ ”
They captured the day’s effort on a simple smartphone work tape and enlisted songwriter-producer Andrew DeRoberts to oversee the demo, which upped the song’s intensity. Bassist Tony Lucido came up with a rolling line that established that yacht-rock feel.
“This entire session turned out kind of magical,” says Archer. “We did it really old-school. We had a small band, just five players, and we didn’t have an exact idea of what we wanted. But we didn’t want it to sound too much like everything else, so we asked him to put a bit of edge on it.”
Once the demo was done, Hambrick sent it to Rascal Flatts, which put it on hold even before Red Creative owner Jeremy Stover heard it. Stover, who doubles as Moore’s producer, recognized it as a contender for Moore’s Kinda Don’t Care album.
“A big part of this album was to just showcase Justin’s voice more,” says Stover. “You go to his shows and it’s really impressive, because he goes for notes that sometimes we don’t necessarily put on the records. So this time we made a concerted effort to be able to showcase his range in his voice more.”
Stover played it for Moore just a couple of days before they were to head into Starstruck Recording Studios for three days of sessions to cut the bulk of the album (the first two tracks were completed in fall 2015). And Moore was immediately onboard.
“The demo was totally different from the way we recorded it, but I could tell it was a really hooky song and something a little different for me,” says Moore. “Maybe I could kind of make it me all at the same time.”
Rascal Flatts relinquished “Somebody Else Will,” and Moore and crew made a few revisions to adapt it for him. For starters, Jimmie Lee Sloas played a different bassline that reduced the soul flavor a bit but still had some finesse. Big Machine Label Group president/CEO Scott Borchetta, in the studio as a co-producer, had a hand in that alteration.
“He’s an old bass player, so he actually came up with that bassline before we really started recording the song, and that kind of drove the verses,” says Moore.
Moore likewise changed the melody in the back end of the chorus, letting the hook of “Somebody Else Will” peak a little lower than it did on the demo, and causing the high note on the bridge to stand out a little more.
“There’s a couple of money notes that he hit that are way up there, and that just shows the listener the range that people may not have known that Justin Moore has,” says Tebey.
Moore actually tried to drop the key a step or two, but Stover and Borchetta convinced him to keep it at its original level, mining the angst at the top of his chest voice. “I guess they felt like there was a little more emotion in it,” says Moore.
He cut his final vocal at Red Recording Studio, a room that he and Stover co-own that is literally across the hall from the office where Hambrick, Archer and Tebey fashioned the song in March.
Valory released “Somebody Else Will” to radio through PlayMPE on Oct. 18, and it’s No. 39 in its eighth week on Country Airplay, adding a new facet to public perception of Moore.
“I’m thrilled that I was pushed to get outside of my comfort zone and do some things like this,” he says. “It feels like a big record.”