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GRAMMY TALK: LUKE COMBS
When It Rains, It Pours

Luke Combs has electrified the country scene since his arrival, passing the platinum milestone this summer with his critically acclaimed This One’s for You (River House/Columbia Nashville). 
Tellingly, it’s the fastest country debut album to hit that milestone since Chris Stapleton’s Traveller in 2015. The 28- year-old North Carolina native is also a trendsetter, in that This One’s for You is the most-streamed country album of 2018, while Combs has surpassed the 1 billion-global-streams mark. He’s the quintessential millennial country artist.



At a point in country where many of the
songs sound the same and many of the artists look the same, you are different on both fronts. When did it hit you, “This shit just might work”?
I think if I had to have a moment, it was when a deep album cut was sung verse/chorus, just as loud and passionately as a single was. When that happens and you look out at a roomful of people and they are in the moment with you, it’s unmistakable. Their passion for the songs is what drives me every night on stage.

What do you think has made this album and these songs so special to people? What are fans telling you?
I don’t think I ever put myself in a category to begin with, with my music or even my fans. I tried to make songs that were timeless and that spoke to anyone. If I was going through something and wrote a song, I knew other people were going through a similar situation too. I tried to create what was going to actually relate to anyone, and I knew it was working when they started to sing the songs back—all of them, not just the radio singles. The fans tell me all the time that this song got me through a loss, or this song got me over a breakup, or this song got me out of a depressing moment. That’s why you do this—you write songs to relate.

Your first arena headlining run, the Beer Never Broke My Heart Tour, kicks off in January. What have been the biggest takeaways for you from the road?
I don’t expect people to come to my shows to see me play; what I expect of myself is to play a great show for them. That’s my job, to go onstage every night and deliver a moment in time where they can forget about their job, their bills, their problems. It’s my job, and the band’s job, to bring a top-notch, high-energy, “leave it on the stage” show for them. It doesn’t matter how tired I might be from touring for a month. What matters is the hard-earned money they put down to buy that ticket, and this may be their only concert for the year, and I have to be at 100%, even if I’m not. And I expect my band, crew and team to bring the best every night for my fans.

How did the collaborating with Leon Bridges on CMT’s Crossroads come about?
When the idea first came up, I wasn’t all that familiar with Leon’s music, and I doubt he knew mine. But I dove into his songs, and they were outstanding. His phrasing, the melodies, and just the way he frames a song is legendary. I really became a student of the lyrics and got into all of it. I’m a huge Sam Cooke guy, and I could feel a lot of that in what Leon was doing—it came through the speakers. There was true emotion in what he was doing. So I said I was in and when we met, we totally clicked. As much as our songs are different, I feel they have a lot in common, as do our fans, and the people we surround ourselves with. It was a great four days, and we still talk all the time. He’s a great dude and one hell of an artist, and I’m happy that the two of us were able to create together.

What do the Grammys mean to you?
They are the artistic pinnacle. It’s hard to really put into words what a Grammy can mean to me, or to any artist. It’s your peers, and your peers from other genres, that vote on your work. To win one is a lifelong dream. We all watch the Grammys, and we all want to stand and hold that piece of art in our hands and tell our story on that stage, in front of the entire music world. It’s a lot, and one day 
I hope I have the honor to do that.

 

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RIC OCASEK,
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