By Lisa Morgan
There are some songwriters that make other songwriters kick rocks when they hear them: Bob Dylan, John Prine, Leonard Cohen…all of which have a lifetime of experience to draw from, poetically give every poet and writer something to strive for. Andrew Combs, at only 28 years old, pulls stories together along with all their emotion to craft 3.5 minute melodic that generate jaw dropping awe. His perfectly imperfect soulful vocals just add salt to the wound. He would fit in very comfortably in a room with Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst and the ghost of Roy Orbison, with only the slightest kiss of his native Texas twang giving him a country/folk edge over the others.
Andrew Combs released his debut EP Tennessee Time in May 2010, which has been compared to Mickey Newbury and Guy Clark. In April 2012, Combs released a vinyl 7-inch called Big Bad Love. In July 2012, Andrew Combs signed to the Nashville-based music publishing arm of New York City record label, Razor & Tie. In October 2012, Andrew Combs released Worried Man, which American Songwriter gave a 4-star review, writing: “As singer/songwriter first albums go, it’ll be tough to beat this as one of the years finest, from a newcomer who is hopefully just tapping into his talent.” In 2013, Combs supported Shovels & Rope and Caitlin Rose on national tours and performed at the Newport Folk Festival. Combs’ incredible new album, All These Dreams, is out now to critical acclaim. The Wall Street Journal recently praised, “Drawing comparisons to the likes of Kris Kristofferson and early Ryan Adams, Mr. Combs is an adept writer, his lines catching small, resonant details, and he possesses a strong yet understated voice that carries them across. His excellent second album, All These Dreams, shows great promise.”
With a strenuous touring schedule to support the acclaimed new album, CV Weekly was fortunate to catch up with him at home, just before he hit the road again to make his way to California and this weekend’s Stagecoach Country Music Festival:
CVW: When did you first start honing your craft, and what were your early influences?
Combs: I picked up the guitar and I was immersed in 70s songwriters like Guy Clark and Kris Kristofferson. Lyrically speaking, they are still some of my main influences. Musically speaking, I draw from Jackson Browne and J.D. Souther. I’ve been trying to combine those two worlds.
My dad plays piano. He’s played all his life and always played around the house. My cousin was a guitar player in Austin, and he gave me my first guitar. My dad showed me a couple of chords. My cousin also gave me some recording software when I was in high school, and so I started recording my own songs and trying to make my own imprint. It wasn’t like I had a huge record collection, but my dad did introduce me to artists that I still love to this day – Jackson Browne, Simon and Garfunkel, and early Eagles.
CVW: When did you think you might become a full time musician?
Combs: A few years ago I got a publishing job, and so I got to quit my day job. That’s when I knew. It’s not much of a salary. I’m barely breaking even, but they shop the songs for me, and the quota is easily attainable. Right now my touring is pretty constant, so I’ll wait to have a couple weeks to sit and write.
CVW: You write from an old soul. What do you draw your inspiration from?
Combs: I always put a little bit of me in everything I write, but obviously I haven’t experienced everything I talk about in my music. I just try and soak everything in. I read a lot, which is a big part of it. I’ll hear a title or a line in a conversation and I’ll try taking it and running with it to make a great short story out of it. Toughest part is putting it in to 3 1/2 minutes. But mostly it all comes from listening and observing.
CVW: Is there a song you feel closest to on your newest record?
Combs: I like them all. My favorite changes day to day. But the song that encapsulates what I wanted to say on this record is “Rainy Day Song”. It touches on where I am in my life… searching for more meaning be it spiritual, through music or my relationships with friends or lovers…
“A friend once told me, he said boy
You sound so lonely all these cheatin’, leavin’ done me wrongs
Have you ever heard of a happy song
Offended I sat down my glass
Smiled and let the moment pass
Tabs on me if you think I’m lying
Laughing ain’t a pleasure til’ you know about crying.”