With his easygoing manner, camo baseball cap, button-up work shirt and blue jeans, Luke Combs doesn't come across like superstar. And he's pretty sure he doesn't feel like one yet. “I don’t feel any different, you know, than anybody else,” he tells CMT.
“I certainly don’t try to act any different than anybody else. And I think that’s been the neatest thing. You're kind of living in these parallel universes where you’re either at home on the couch or you’re onstage in front of 30,000 people. . . . You can go from the absolute most tranquil thing you could ever do to the most intense experience you could ever have in the matter of a couple hours.”
His fans see this CMT Artist of the Year clearly, though, for the monumental talent he's become. They've given him three No. 1 singles in the same year, filled over a million arena seats and kept his This One's for You album at or near the top of the country albums chart for 122 straight weeks.
And there's more. He's the first star since Johnny Cash set the record in 1959 to have five songs at once in the Top 25 on Billboard's Hot Country Song chart. His “Brand New Man” collaboration with Brooks & Dunn is up for the CMA musical event of the year prize, and he's also in the running for the top male vocalist and song of the year (“Beautiful Crazy”) honors.
“It's pretty wild, you know,” Combs says, looking back over his 2019 triumphs. “There's so much even to remember, but becoming a member of the Opry was definitely a career highlight -- not just a highlight of this year. … It's hard to believe that any of it's real, I guess. You always think it could happen, but I don't think you think it's gonna happen -- until it does.”
The North Carolina native always loved singing. But he didn't seriously gravitate toward a life in the spotlight until he was a student at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. He played his first country show there at the Parthenon Cafe and gradually built a local following. Encouraged by responses to his performances, he dropped out of college in his senior year and moved to Nashville to try his hand at recording and songwriting.
Combs released his first two EPs -- The Way She Rides and Can I Get an Outlaw -- on his own label in 2014. Neither charted, but by the next year he had signed to Columbia Records and released yet another EP, This One's for You. It made it to No. 24 and served as the nucleus for the full-fledged album of that same title.
In 2016, Combs scored his first No. 1 single, “Hurricane.” He has followed it with five more chart-toppers, “When It Rains It Pours” (2017), “One Number Away,” “She Got the Best of Me,” “Beautiful Crazy” (2018) and “Beer Never Broke My Heart” (2019). This makes him the only county artist in history to reach No. 1 with his first six singles. He's currently scaling the charts with “Even Though I'm Leaving.”
These many merits have earned Combs his CMT Artist of the Year honor.
3 major label albums, including 2 EPs (2 No. 1's, 1 double platinum)
7 singles (6 No. 1's, 1 platinum, 2 double platinum, 1 triple platinum, 1 quadruple platinum)
1 CMA award (new artist of the year), 1 CMT award (performance of the year, with Leon Bridges)
Grand Ole Opry membership