It’s a great time to be in country music. Rising young stars are finding success in both the traditional sounds that come from authentic lyrics and acoustic-inspired arrangements, while others are thriving in a contemporary environment that boundary-pushing production and imaginative sonics. But there is a space between where the best of the foundation and the future cannot just co-exist, but flourish.
That’s where you’ll find Dylan Marlowe. Likely wearing camouflage and definitely wearing an audible smile, blasting Kenny Chesney and Cody Johnson in his truck, and cranking out his own solid country music that seamlessly blends the attributes that define traditional and contemporary without compromising either or himself.
Oh, Dylan is far too humble to say that himself, however, if you point that out, he breathes a sigh of contentment — “That makes me feel good about what I’m doing because that’s what I’m going for.”
He also credits frequent co-writer and producer Joe Fox. “When we first wrote, he kinda got me,” he says. “I really want to fill that gap. You’re either labeled pop or you’re labeled Texas. I want to be ‘West Georgia.’ I want to be the gateway that kind of connects it, so that if you’re from Texas and you hate pop country, then you can get along with my stuff, but if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, you can hear my music and it’s cool.”
West Georgia. Statesboro to be exact — the home of Georgia Southern University, who boasts Luke Bryan, Cole Swindell, Dallas Davidson, Ben Hayslip and Tony Arata as alumnus. “Half of Statesboro is college, but once you cross the bypass, it’s all hunting and farms,” he says, “so it was always busy during the school years, but during the summers it was empty. I think summers were the best because there were 20,000 people less in the town.”
Surprisingly, it wasn’t those country singers and songwriters that propelled Dylan towards a career in music. In fact, he was all baseball, all the time as a young man. “That’s all we did,” he laughs. Spring, summer, fall, even winter it was just baseball, baseball, baseball. I didn’t really have time for anything else.” He did, in fact, start playing ball at four-years-old and jokes that his first word was “ball.”
While Dylan wasn’t immersed in music, he was exposed to it. His dad played drums in a Christian rock band, but that was it. It took his friend, Colin, inheriting a guitar from his grandfather and learning to play “Wagon Wheel” in three days that a switch flipped. A senior in high school, Dylan took a spare guitar from his buddy, had new strings put on it and learned some songs on his own. Then he and Colin began swapping licks, and a passion was born. “It hit me that a lot of country songs you could play with the same chords if you learn to transpose,” he says. He goes on to say, “That’s when I started writing songs and that’s when it bit me really hard.”
But was it good? “It was not,” he replies with a chuckle. But still he sent the song to another Georgia boy, Trea Landon, who was already navigating Nashville’s music scene. Trea confirmed that the song lacked a bit, but he also saw something in the aspiring singer-songwriter. Trea visited Dylan in Georgia, saw him perform at Loco’s in Statesboro, and expressed an interest in working him.
And that was enough. Well, that and the rousing approval of his female classmates following his performance of Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Blink” at his high school baccalaureate. “He remembers, “All these girls that never talked to me before were all the sudden like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ I’m like, okay, so this is how it works.” Dylan dedicated himself to working on his freshly discovered talent and newly developed craft.
Even though his family had their own construction business where Dylan spent his breaks at Georgia Southern, his parents were supportive of their son’s desire to chase his dream in Nashville. “Neither of my parents went to college, and I think they were hoping I’d be the first one to go through college, but they didn’t hesitate when I told them I wanted to do. I remember telling my dad and he said, ‘Well, if you’re gonna do it, there’s no point in spending money or trying to go to college if you’re going to sit in class and write songs."
Dylan found his way to Nashville and although some may think timing this move just before the start of a global pandemic would be catastrophic, he’s making lemonade from lemons. He has thrown himself into his songwriting and networking with his peers. And when he’s not doing that, you’ll find the avid hunter in the woods harvesting whatever that season brings about. He even joined TikTok and blew up the platform with his countrified rewrite of the Olivia Rodrigo hit, “Driver’s License.” His TikTok followers quadrupled, his Instagram doubled with his inbox bursting at the seams and a YouTube video of the performance has well over 350,000 views. “People have definitely been giving me feedback,” he says. “And I think it couldn’t have happened at a better time to get all these new followers. They’re not going to have to wait for new music. They hopped on the train and they’re about to get new music.
Dylan has also used the time to educate himself on the inner workings of the business ahead of his debut release “Where I Come From.” He says, “I’ve definitely been sitting back and doing more listening and less talking.”
And, as he said, he kept writing. In fact, he co-wrote “Where I Come From” - a swampy bona fide country front porch boot stomper - with Abram Dean and Jason Massey. Dylan swears, though, that as country as it sounds now, thanks to the help of a righteously ragged banjo and CMA Musician of the Year Jenee Fleanor, there’s another version coming that might blow the doors off the barn.
But Dylan isn’t one and done. He’s working on a diverse collection of country tunes, including the sparkling, acoustic-driven Kyle Fishman and Billy Montana co-write, “All About It.” Dylan remembers, “We wrote it to a track and we hated it. Kyle said, ‘Let me just try something,’ so he stripped everything off and just played piano. He sent it to me and I said, ‘That is something special.’ So we ended up going in and cutting that song with just a piano and dobro. I’m really excited for that one. I’m going to bring dobro back.”
One of his favorites so far, though, is the mindfully produced and flawlessly composed “Goodbye Gets Around.” Written with Joe and Lauren McLamb, Dylan jokes that this future hit is the one good thing to come out of Zoom co-writing. However, a little more magic happened when he went to Joe’s house to record the demo. Skeptical of tracks, he expected the finished demo to sound more pop country than he’s inclined to record. “But,” he says delightfully, “Joe’s track was country.” (With a capital “C”). “I love the mix of country steel and the modern feel of the toms in the chorus,” he adds.
Although Dylan hasn’t really studied the gifted songwriters of Nashville, which may be how he’s created his own unique sound, he does count writers like Kenny Chesney and Eric Church who evoke feelings of nostalgia as inspirations for what he wants to do.
“You can write a song to listen to in the truck with the windows down that feels good, but I think that when you hear a song and it puts you in a spot,” he muses. “I just know listening to Eric’s stuff and how much one of his songs can put me back in a memory, I wanted to make people feel that way. I still do.”