Giving thanks for his blessings is nothing new for Luke Combs. But, the singer admits that 2017 has been quite the special one. The Columbia Nashville recording artist — who already had developed quite a loyal following on his own with a pair of self-released EPs — has enjoyed a banner year. His first two singles from the disc This One’s For You have topped the Country Airplay chart (“Hurricane” and “’When It Rains It Pours”), and he has been prominently featured on Brantley Gilbert’s The Devil Don’t Sleep Tour. If one had told Combs during Thanksgiving week of 2016 what was ahead, would he have believed it?
“I think I would have been really surprised by that if I’m being honest,” he humbly admits to Billboard. “All that stuff is great, and I’m very thankful for all that stuff, but it’s kind of hard to believe. It doesn’t feel real sometimes.”
Combs is particularly thankful of those who have been following him since day one. “We’d been out touring for a couple of years before we signed with Sony and everything,” he says. “And the fans had been coming out kind of in droves — just on a smaller scale than now, obviously. But, it’s been crazy to watch. It’s been cool to watch the fans who’ve kind of always been there for me. That’s just a special feeling every night. To go out and know that there is people that are proud, not just to be at the show but proud to be your fan, and they’re invested in what you’re doing.”
Combs is also mindful of his detractors, as well — not that he has many, but the singer recently appeared on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! to participate in a “Mean Tweets” segment. While the messages weren’t so complimentary, Combs had a blast taking part in the segment.
“It was funny,” he says with a laugh. “I was excited because I’ve been watching those for years. So, I was stoked to finally get to do my own.” And, he was impressed with the creativity of the tweets. “Some of them were quite elegant and some were not. Some were just very insulting, but that’s okay. It was all in good fun.”
All in all, 2017 has been a year of continuing education and on-the-job training for Combs. One of those teachers was Gilbert, whom he credits with teaching him a lot. “He gave me some great advice,” he says. “I learned a lot from him on the road — especially about how to treat your fans. That’s really what he cares about. Even when we were writing, he would say, ‘Man, what do the fans want to hear? What do they want to sing every night?’ He taught me a lot about how to reach the fans.”
Another fellow country star Combs learned from this year was Tracy Lawrence, with whom he appears on the new collaborations album Good Ole Days. The “Hurricane” singer lends his talents to a new version of “If The World Had A Front Porch,” originally a No. 2 hit in 1995. “I got a call a couple months ago and someone said, ‘Hey, man, Tracy Lawrence wants to talk to you.’ I had never met him and I’m a huge, huge Tracy Lawrence fan. We met, and he asked me to be on his album. I about fell over right there,” he says of his reaction to the invitation extended by one of his heroes. “It’s cool to get to be able to tell people to go pick it up because I get to be on it singing with him. I’m excited for people to hear it.”
With the holidays here, Combs is looking forward to celebrating his successes with his family and inner circle — though he says his work year will be going strong up to Christmas. “I think it’s going to be pretty busy. We’re touring all the way up to Dec. 16. But, I’m looking forward to going home and seeing the family and relaxing, and seeing all my friends and family that I haven’t caught up with over the past year. There’s been a lot of things can fall by the wayside when you’re doing this as a career. I’m just excited to go see some old friends and family.”
What might be under Combs’s tree this year that he’s hoping for? The answer might surprise you. “The coolest Christmas present I’ve ever received is probably socks,” he says. “My grandma always gets me socks — every year and that’s something that I’ve probably never bought for myself. If Christmas wasn’t around and my grandma didn’t get me socks, I wouldn’t own any, probably. I’m looking forward to getting a whole mess of socks from my grandma this year.”
Combs says he particularly loves being on the giving end of a present and seeing people’s reaction. And, who knows? You just might see him in retail lines amid the hustle and bustle. “I really enjoy the shopping and going out and getting stuff for other people,” he says. “I could really give a damn about getting gifts for myself, but I really enjoy giving gifts.”
Once 2018 arrives, Combs will be preparing for the next leg of his Don’t Tempt Me With A Good Time Tour, which begins on Feb. 2 in Toledo, Ohio. The North Carolina native will also be taking his music to foreign soil for the first time, which he is looking forward to. “I’ve never really done the overseas thing,” he says. “We’re going to be doing some dates in Australia. You know, we’re doing C2C in London and Glasgow and in Dublin, which is going to be awesome. I’m excited to see what the fans are like over there. I’m going to do the tourist thing!”