Five years ago, country singer Luke Combs was just trying to get by. He was attending college in North Carolina, working two jobs, living in an apartment above a bar and driving a 2000 Dodge Neon. He was also preparing to make the trek to Nashville to record his very first EP.
Now, he’s a bonafide country superstar. His platinum-selling debut album, This One’s For You, has spent 20 non-consecutive weeks on top of Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart since its summer 2017 release and was recently named Billboard’s Top Country Album of 2018. He’s earned four chart-topping singles, each of which have been certified platinum and above. Additionally, he is the first solo artist ever to launch a career with four consecutive No.1 singles.
As if that’s not impressive enough, his Beer Never Broke My Heart Tour is breaking records left and right. He recently added six shows to the summer trek and each show sold out, totaling 70,000 tickets sold.
With stats like this, he has quickly become one of country music’s biggest stars.
Before he checked out for some much-needed rest over the holidays, Combs and I had the chance to chat about his incredible success, his recent CMA Awards win, his Grammy nomination and more.
Lauren Black: Congratulations on your success! Have you had a chance to really soak it all in yet?
Luke Combs: I definitely haven’t had the chance to soak any of it in. I hope I get to do that in the coming weeks. It’s been a pretty wild year. We’ve done so much that it’s hard to even make a top ten list of things that we’ve done this year as far as the cool factor goes.
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Black: What has been the most rewarding part of it all?
Combs: It’s really helped out everybody that works on my team tremendously. It’s allowed us to expand our team and pay people more. I am really thankful for that aspect of it because it not only improves my life, but the lives of 50 or 60 people, which is really awesome.
Black: At what point did you realize that this was really going to work?
Combs: After "When It Rains It Pours" went No.1. I was like, ‘Alright, we’ve got two now.’ That’s the hardest thing to do. Getting one is hard enough, but getting another one is real tough.
Black: You’ve had four No.1 singles now. That’s got to feel pretty amazing, right?
Combs: It’s just everything that you dream of when you start doing this for a living. You want to have a platform for people to hear your music and you hope that people love it. So far they do. It’s a really awesome feeling to get up on stage every night and not have to wonder if people are listening, or if they’re gonna know your songs or know who you are. You spend a lot of time trying to prove yourself and validate yourself. It’s a really awesome feeling, at least for right now, that we can go on stage and have songs that people have been hearing on the radio.
Black: Can you tell me more about your new single, “Beautiful Crazy?”
Combs: I wrote it about my now-fiancé before we started dating. I think it was a first-time thing for me as far as having that direct inspiration for a song. It’s fun and it’s lighthearted, but it also has a message: you’re supposed to love someone for who they are. That was the idea when we wrote the song. There might be things that are quirky or weird about somebody, but sometimes, those are the things that draw you to that person.
Black: If someone would have sat you down a few years ago and told you what was to come, would you have believed them?
Combs: I always had confidence in myself and my abilities, but I never would have imagined it being to this extent. I think my real goal was just to be able to make a decent living playing music. Everything else on top of it is so awesome and so amazing. My team and I are thankful for everything.
Black: If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Combs: I am doing what I would be doing anyway. I would be doing this in some capacity, whether I was known or a complete nobody.
Black: What did winning the CMA Award for New Artist of the Year mean to you?
Combs: That was my first CMA win. It was pretty wild. It is hard to explain that moment. I don’t get choked up a lot and a lot of things don’t get to me that much, but that was one of those moments that really took me by surprise from an emotional standpoint. It felt like the culmination of all these last seven years. It’s been a really long process, so it was a really nice affirmation that all of this work that I have done has paid off.
Black: You recently sold out several shows at pretty massive venues. How does it feel to go from playing small bars and theaters to selling out amphitheaters?
Combs: We’ve been out playing for a long time. I’ve never really stopped playing live gigs since I was good enough to play for an hour in front of people. I’ve always liked singing and playing and the atmosphere of a concert, seeing people have fun listening to good music. It’s been awesome to have gotten to do all of this. To go from playing a chicken wing restaurant in Asheville, the Wild Wing Cafe, to selling out PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte where I used to go see concerts when I was a kid is absolutely mind-blowing. Having 20,000 people buy tickets, that is insane to me.
Black: Can you talk about your Grammy nomination?
Combs: The Grammy nomination is something we did not see coming. It’s an absolute honor and doesn’t even seem like something that can happen to somebody like myself. There are things that when you grow up lower middle class that seem very unattainable or unreachable. Goals that you think would be impossible to hit or could never happen to you and that is one of those things. It’s cool to be one of the guys, or gals, from Nashville to represent our genre out there. To know that my peers have voted on me is something that I don’t take lightly. It’s something that carries a lot of weight for me and I am grateful for it.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.