Interview: Luke Combs Hopes to Connect With ‘This One’s for You’
Luke Combs' debut album, This One's for You, is a 12-track record written entirely by the rising country singer-songwriter. Combs himself calls the project, released on Friday (June 2), a "roller coaster ride" lyrically; in plainer terms, the disc covers a wide range of topics that are important to 27-year-old Combs.
Combs wrote and recorded This One’s for You prior to signing his record deal with Columbia Nashville; rather than having him craft something new, however, the label the label is letting Combs release the album in its original form. The Boot recently sat down with Combs to discuss This One's for You, his fans and what he really hopes to accomplish with his debut disc.
Why was it important for you to write all of the songs on This One's for You?
I just love writing so much. I don’t think it was me being a stubborn fool, saying, "I’m going to write this album." I’ve been in town two years, but I’ve been writing for three or four years, and I felt like I had the songs to say what I wanted to say. So, I do take a lot of pride in the fact that I have written everything that I’ve released up to this point, and will be releasing on the new album. It just kind of fell into place, I guess.
How would you describe the set of songs on This One's for You?
Sonically speaking, it runs the board from A to Z. So that’s what I think people are going to find when they turn it on, is, one song to the next -- there’s not going to be a song on there that sounds like the last one.
You attended Appalachian University, quit school, then relocated to Nashville in 2014, even though you were having success as a local artist at the time. Why did you make the move to Music City?
I was working two or three pretty terrible jobs: I was working as a bouncer at a bar, and I worked at an Izod factory store. And that’s what I was doing, which was a very pay-the-bills type of scenario for me. But I got to this point where I was like, I can’t expand what I’m doing musically, as far as a career, from this small mountain town in North Carolina; I’ve hit the glass ceiling if I stay in this town.
I drove to Nashville a few times, met with some people and hung out, went to the Opry and that kind of stuff. I made the decision -- you’ve got to be present to win, so I packed it up and moved out here, and it’s been great. It’s been the best decision I ever made.
What did you do when you first moved to Nashville?
Luckily, I had two EPs out [The Way She Rides and Can I Get an Outlaw], and the digital revenue from that was luckily good enough to support me out here, so I really did get to focus on just writing full-time, which I did for eight or nine months, up until I got my booking deal, and then started playing out. I’ve been playing out ever since then, so I’ve been able to support myself without a job out here.
You also have a devoted fan following and have the ability to play all over the country, even without an album and before a record deal. What's the secret to your success?
I didn’t know how to play guitar until I was 21, but from the moment I was good enough on guitar to even put one song together, I kind of billed myself as an artist. I wasn’t afraid to go out on a limb and put out these less-than-good songs that I was writing at the time. I knew I was a good singer -- I’ve been singing my whole life, so I was comfortable enough with that -- I felt like I could compensate with not being great on guitar. And I could go out and put cover videos out and do a Chris Young song or do whatever song it may be that’s on the radio that I liked, and people kind of gravitated towards that.
And then, I saved up enough money over a year or two, with some help from some friends and stuff, and came out here and put the EP out, just kind of on my own accord ... It ended up doing really well, just out of the blue, I guess. I’ve just been running with it ever since then. I’ve kind of had tunnel vision of where I want to be ever since then, and people have been jumping off the train as it’s going down the tracks, and it’s super awesome that people are into what I’m doing, and I’m super thankful for that.
You’ve got to be present to win ...
With so much attention on you right now, what's life like for you?
Right now, it’s real busy -- a lot of traveling. I do have a pretty rigorous touring schedule, so I’m on the road three or four days a week. Monday through Wednesday, if I’m not writing, I’m sitting on the couch; that’s where I really want to be, because I’m constantly going and going, and I like to chill out and watch TV and play some Xbox. I do like to go shoot, and I like to go boat fish a lot, so I do that when I’m in town and when I get the chance. Turkey hunting is my thing; it’s only once a year, but if it’s turkey season, don’t call me, because I won’t answer.
But that’s kind of who I am: I’m a pretty laid-back guy, and I’m pretty goofy. I just like to get onstage and sing my songs and write my songs and relax.
What's your goal with This One's for You?
My goal with this album is just to open up to people about really who I am. That’s what these songs are, just little pieces of me. I’m not trying to be some big-time celebrity; that’s not my goal. My goal is to just connect with people through music ... My goal is to have people hear these songs and say, "There are these moments in my life that sometimes I feel like I need to say something, and maybe I can’t say it." If I can help these people deal with their emotions, whether they be the good, the bad or the ugly, then that, to me, is success.
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