Don’t call country music newcomer Luke Combs an outlaw. The word doesn’t really fit, though he does have an undeniable independent streak. 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 by playing the places most touring artists have written off – and succeeding far beyond expectations. His social media numbers are in the tens of thousands and streaming spins are in the millions and is just 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, signing with fellow outlier Lynn Oliver-Cline’s new startup River House Artists. The Asheville, North Carolina, native will release his debut album, This One’s for You, Oct. 7 with Thirty Tigers handling the marketing and distribution.
“Luke encompasses everything I was looking for in an artist,” Oliver-Cline said. “He is an extremely talented singer and songwriter and wants to do the work it takes to have a real career in this business. As a performer, he connects instantly with people of all ages. I couldn’t be prouder to help him elevate his recording career to the next level.”
This One’s for You will showcase 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 he moved to Nashville to pursue the next level.
Though he enjoyed singing most of his life, he’d never considered music 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 seemed to know who he was. The next morning the promoters, Bradley Jordan of Peachtree Entertainment and his future manager, Chris Kappy, of Make Wake Artists, called friends at booking agency APA in Nashville and alerted them that Combs would be playing a showcase that night. At the end of the performance, Combs had six execs standing backstage with him and soon thereafter, a booking agent and a manager.
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, and for a simple reason. Now, he is getting ready to embark on a tour 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 through an aggressive summer touring schedule that includes a debut performance at CMA Music Festival in Nashville.
Combs is probably best known for the single, “Hurricane,” a song about a small town break up that already has 4 million + streams on Spotify. “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.”
Fans also have 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’.”
With Muscadine Bloodline