Don’t call country music newcomer Luke Combs an outlaw. The word doesn’t really fit, though he does have an undeniable independent streak. And outsider doesn’t really work anymore either, since he’s come to Nashville and quickly won himself a record deal and quite a bit of attention.
Outlier is the better fit for Combs. The 26-year-old has built an already enviable following and has succeeded far beyond expectations. His social engagement numbers are in the hundreds of thousands and streaming spins are in the millions. He is only now releasing his first single, “Hurricane,” to Country Radio.
“Stand in front of me while I’m on a stage and you will be a fan,” Combs said earnestly. “I’ll make a fan out of you. I’m going to give everything I’ve got on stage and play songs that I’ve written that are genuinely important to me. That, I think, is what really translates.”
Combs will soon be taking his unique sound to a wider audience, having signed with River House Artists/Columbia. The Asheville, North Carolina, native will release his debut album, This One’s For You, later this year.
This One’s For You showcases everything that’s exciting about the former college rugby player and singer-songwriter – the booming voice, the ability to capture and convey a wide variety of emotions, the honesty that resonates in his songs, and the ability to win over men, as well as women, in his audience – a rare quality in today’s music scene.
Combs has covered a lot of ground in the first five years of his career, building an audience in Charlotte and Boone where he majored in Criminal Justice at Appalachian State, then circling out until his fan base grew into the thousands and then moving to Nashville to pursue the next level.
Though he enjoyed singing most of his life, he’d never considered music to be anything more than a hobby. He was working at a go-cart race track the summer between his junior and senior year when his mother mentioned an interesting fact. “Kenny Chesney didn’t learn how to play guitar until he was 21,” she said. Combs was 21 and had an old guitar laying around, too.
Also, around this time, he discovered the music of fellow former Appalachian State University attendee, Eric Church, whose presence could still be felt on campus as his career began to take off in distant Nashville. Combs appreciated Church’s raw honesty and emotional timbre. He also liked that Church crafted his own songs, adding authenticity to his rowdy live-show persona. He dove anew into the music of Chesney and childhood favorite Tim McGraw, relearning the love for country music he had as a child.
Over the next three years, he formed a band, played live every chance he got, and built a multi-state following in the thousands. So like Church and all those others, he figured he’d go see what Nashville had to offer. Not long after he was booked to play a club in Rome, Georgia. Out of nowhere, he drew a crowd of 400 fans who were singing along with every word. It didn’t go unnoticed and that date led to a showcase in Nashville and soon thereafter, a booking agent and a manager joined Team Combs.
They started him out in markets like Birmingham, Alabama, and Greenville, South Carolina. They put him on a tour of the small towns that make up the Southeastern Conference – places like Starkville, Mississippi, and Athens, Georgia. The trend was always the same with audiences doubling in size each time he came back. He was an act breaking out of towns that didn’t break acts. All of those roads have led to here, as he preps to embark on a tour in support of his debut album launch that stretches as far as the West Coast.
“There’s nobody that’s a champion for the little guy or the underdog,” Combs said. “I feel like that’s why when I get on stage people can relate to me. They say, ‘ Man, that could be me up there. That’s just a regular guy. I can walk up to that guy and say hello to him and he’s going to be nice to me. He’s going to drink a beer with me.’ That’s who I want to be.”
Soon, a much wider array of fans will get their chance to meet Combs –the singer/songwriter will embark on an aggressive touring schedule leading up to his album launch including stops in Nashville, Ft. Worth, Seattle, Los Angeles and many, many more in between.
Combs is probably best known for the single, “Hurricane,” a song about a small town break up that has already helped him amass over 140,000 followers and climb across social media platforms, and now 20 million streams of his music.
“People just love it. You can’t plan that,” Combs said. “You can’t plan what people are going to like or what people are into. It just doesn’t work. I put it out, and people loved it. I might have been even a little surprised by it myself. I do owe a lot to that song, and that’s why it’s important to me. It’s gotten people to come to my shows. It’s gotten people to hear my other songs. All my deals have come from that song.”
Other standouts on the project include the catchy party singalong “Beer Can” and the rockin’ self-help mantra “Don’t Tempt Me With A Good Time.”
While the raucous blue-collar anthems ring true, Combs rounds out the album with feel good nostalgia on “That’s What Memories Are Made Of” and tugs the toughest of heartstrings with the clever word play in “I Got A Way With You.” Combs co-wrote every track on the full-length debut.
Fans have quickly latched onto the album’s title track, “This One’s For You,” a tribute to all the people who’ve helped Combs make it to this pivotal point in his life and career.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have met people along the way that have both directly and indirectly influenced me musically. Then, there’s the support of my family and friends. I’ve gone through so many things that my parents have helped me with, my friends have helped me with…I felt like I owed a lot of people a lot of things for me getting to this point. That song is my way of saying ‘thank you’.”