It might look like Luke Combs is something of an overnightish sensation.
But it’s what you didn’t see that built character for Combs and led him to where his is now: all those songwriter nights when he was just another Nashville hopeful without a record or publishing deal.
“A lot of it is people I met when I first moved here and none of us had publishing deals, none of us had managers or anything. I mean we were just kids that hung out at the Tin Roof on Demonbreun every Tuesday night, we hung out at Loser’s every Monday, wherever there was a writer’s night every night of the week,” Combs said in a recent interview, “that’s what we did every night of the week.
“We met each other there, we booked our first co-writes with each other there, and I think that relationship makes it so easy to want to constantly be writing songs, because now I don’t have the opportunity to hang out with the people that I enjoy hanging out with as much as I used to. And I think when you can have a genuine friendship with somebody — and I’ve got probably 10 co-writers that I would probably take a bullet for tomorrow — that are just genuinely good friends of mine.”
Combs added that being able to write songs with true friends and hang out with them is something he hopes he never has to give up. “It feels like we’re doing something that’s really special.”
And it doesn’t sound like his deep well of song ideas will run dry any time soon, either. “I don’t think you can ever have too many songs. It’s like having too much gas in your gas tank. Eventually it just spills out and you just put it in the tank until you need it,” he said.
“I don’t have to go, ’Man, there’s a new album deadline that’s coming up and I don’t have any good songs.’ It’s just very comforting to have them sitting there.”
Earlier this year, Combs’ manager Chris Kappy told A Drink With the story of the first time he saw him play a show in Georgia and only 83 people showed up. But Kappy just knew there was something there, and made it out to two more of Combs’ Georgia shows. “The third time Luke came to play in Georgia, I went up and told him, ’Hey man, I have never been a manager before, I don’t know anything about it.’ But I told him, ’I do know this. I will work super hard for you. I know that my job is to get people in the door, but it is your job, as the artist, to get them to stay.’
“He talked to three other managers in Nashville and then he called me up on July 29, 2015 and he said, ’Hey man, what do you want me to do? Where do you see me?’ I flat out told him, ’Luke, I want you to get on stage every night and I want you to sing your face off.’ And he said, ’Good. Because every other manager I met with in Nashville told me I was a really good songwriter, but I wasn’t an artist.’
“I knew Luke was an artist from the first note, and sometimes you have to see past what ‘the norm’ is and go rogue… outlaw, some would say. It was a gamble that paid off for both of us.”