You can’t really go anywhere in Nashville without running into Rob Hendon. Not the man, per se. But his vivid and textured artwork. It is everywhere. In the offices of nearly every record label, every upscale hotel, and in exhibits at the Country Music Hall Of Fame and Museum.
His paintings are enough of a Music City staple that when a hopeful Luke Combs moved to Nashville to try to be a country singer, he noticed Hendon’s paintings — mostly of guitars — and wanted one for himself. But as Hendon explained, Combs was waiting until he had the means to reward himself with that luxury.
“I’ve know Luke since the very beginning of his career. We go all the way back,” Hendon told me.
“It started after he’d released ’Hurricane,’ and he called me and said, ’I’m Luke Combs.’ I’d never heard of him,” he laughed. “But he said he wanted to come by and look at my art, and that he’d just been waiting for a hit song.”
At the time, Combs bought a couple guitar tables, which are one of Hendon’s specialties. One for himself and one for his manager Chris Kappy. Combs was one very satisfied customer, so about a year and a half after that, he went back to Hendon with an much bigger request.
“He said, ’I want you to paint the cover art for my next album,'” Hendon recalled, not thinking it might actually happen as Combs’ career started skyrocketing. “But then I went to go see him at his Atlanta show, and he said we needed to get started.”
Hendon admitted he was nervous. Mainly because he’d never done an album cover before, but also because by now, Combs has become a straight-up country superstar. So this album What You See Is What You Get will be in the hands of millions come November 8.
The art-in-progress started with Combs sending Hendon some pictures taken by David Bergman, just snapshots of him from around his home and his life. And Hendon got to work.
“When I showed him my first painting, he said, ’I love how I look.’ I was so happy. That was a fist-bump moment for us both, for sure.” From there, he said, the painting of the album title came fast and furious, Combs asked for a few changes, and voilà: art for an artist was born.
Hendon told me, “This has been the icing on my career, by far.”
Combs’ highly anticipated new album will feature 17 tracks, including “1, 2 Many” with Brooks & Dunn.