Luke Combs was writing and singing songs long before anyone knew who he was. The North Carolina native moved to Nashville to pursue country music, working hard to both create and sing songs that would resonate with other people. So when he had the chance to meet with a music industry executive, Combs was confident with the music he had prepared, only to have his hopes completely dashed.
"I didn't have a booking agent or a manager," Combs told Hits Daily Double. "I was making $2,500, $3,000 a month from those EPs, so for eight months or so, I could do nothing but write. But I couldn't get a publishing meeting to play or pitch my songs. I was getting pretty discouraged. It was defeating.
"I finally got a meeting with a big publisher in town. I had 'Hurricane,' 'When It Rains,' 'She Got the Best of Me' and a work tape of 'One Number Away' on my phone," he continued. "I played this guy all of it, and he says, 'I've got two things to tell you.' And I got ready. He says, 'First, you need to write better songs. And you're never gonna be an artist. No one is going to pay money to see you.'"
Combs knew his music had potential to be heard by a larger audience than he could reach on his own, even if others couldn't see it quite yet.
"I'm a big fan of constructive criticism," said the singer. "I always want to be better, and I thought, 'Well, okay, I've got to write some better songs.' But I also wondered how much better.
"I wasn't playing any shows, but I did some writers' nights," he continued. "People were driving in from Alabama and Kentucky, places I'd never toured. So I'd play Whiskey Jam, and they'd be like, 'Why is it so packed?' And I knew. People would be coming up to me, asking questions about songs or taking pictures. And the EPs, which were a year and half old, kept selling."
Combs has since become one of the reigning superstars of country music, with the songs the music industry executive passing on all becoming No. 1 hits for Combs. But the 29-year-old, who is marrying his longtime girlfriend Nicole Hocking later this year, is still just a regular guy, albeit with a bit more money and notoriety.
"[It's] pretty weird," Combs said of his fame. "I do try to separate myself from it. I'm very aware of all that stuff, because people keep me aware. And I'm very proud of it. But I don't sit around and bathe in the ego of it. I might be on a plane home after a show and be there an hour later. But then I'm still scooping the cat litter."
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Erika Goldring