Luke Combs Is Putting His Name Behind Independent Country

Photo: David Bergman

When making the case for the character of someone, it’s not just about how they rise to the top, but what they do when they get there. In the case of Luke Combs, he’s been using his platform and his time off of the road during the pandemic to promote and collaborate with some of the best artists in the independent country and roots realm.

Right now there’s nobody bigger in country music than Luke Combs, only rivaled by the surging success of Morgan Wallen. But he hasn’t been using his newfound prominence to hobnob with P-Diddy and Post Malone, or give tabloid publications fodder through leaked stories of his personal life. To keep his name in the press, he’s been putting out promotional singles beyond his radio singles to continue to seed and satiate his surging fan base.

When Luke Combs revealed he’d written what has become one of the signature country songs during the COVID-19 shutdown in “Six Feet Apart” with independent country songwriters Brent Cobb and Rob Snyder, we were pretty surprised. But perhaps we shouldn’t have been. Earlier in his career, Luke Combs regularly collaborated with others, including releasing a couple of promotional singles with Leon Bridges in 2018, where Leon appeared on a version of Luke’s “Beautiful Crazy,” and Luke on Leon’s song “Beyond.”

In mid September, Luke Combs released another promotional single with Amanda Shires called “Without You.” Again, it seemed like a surprise pairing, until you recalled that Amanda also played fiddle for Luke Combs on the 2019 ACM Awards.

Luke Combs also made a big stink about the Texas music supergroup Hill Country, and their new, self-titled record, tweeting out “I just can’t stop listening to this Album, it just strikes every chord that I want it to. The melodies, the harmonies, the instrumentation, and the songs. All just grade A. Y’all check this record out.” (Editor’s note: Hill Country has now changed their name to Wilder Blue.) Luke Combs later said he heard about the band while reading Saving Country Music. Who knew Luke was so attune with what was going on in independent country?

And these Luke Combs collaborations and shout outs aren’t just perfunctory or performative. They’re putting attention behind these artists, and cash money in their pockets. “Six Feet Apart” became a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and even hit #36 at radio without any promotion behind it. “Without You” with Amanda Shires hit #15 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs upon debut, and is being used to promote the upcoming deluxe edition of Luke’s latest album What You See Ain’t Always What You Get out October 23rd.

Then on October 1st, bluegrass maestro Billy Strings tweeted out (and Luke retweeted) that they were in a writing session together. Maybe something magical will come of it, maybe it won’t. But the fact that Luke Combs is working with what many consider one of the most talented musicians of our time is another sign that not only is he willing to work with important independent artists, but that he’s paying close attention.

You mention the name “Luke Combs” among the independent country and roots set, and you apt to hear some grumbles, like you will with most any mainstream country star. But Luke Combs doesn’t reciprocate. He’s listening to many of the same artists as they are, and doing things that and support those artists in ways much of the mainstream won’t.

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