It's not every day you stumble across a truly great songwriter who can also play his or her own songs in a way that is musically satisfying. That's why Andrew Combs has been turning heads and catching ears. In the vein of the type of country musicians that are all but extinct, the young Nashville-based singer-songwriter writes songs that are rough around the edges but touching enough to reach your soft spot.
It’s a humid August night and Andrew Combs stands quietly behind Stubb’s. Taking a slow drag off his cigarette, the young singer-songwriter rails off a list of names.
“I'm obsessed with Guy Clark, Mickey Newbury, Townes Van Zandt and Kris Kristofferson.”
Combs has something in common with all of these legends; he was born and raised in Texas but made the move to Nashville to pursue a career in music and, more specifically, be a songwriter.
“Initially what drew me to Nashville was that all of my heroes did it,” says Combs. “I'm a huge reader. I love books and literature. I was just attached to words, and I heard Guy Clark and that just made me want to write songs.”
The singer-songwriter has just finished a performance at Stubb’s opening for local honky tonk outfit Mike and the Moonpies (SHOW REVIEW). Chances are, those in attendance have never heard of Andrew Combs until this night, but with his style of alt. country that brings to mind performers like Gram Parsons and Ryan Adams, it is only a matter of time before people find out.
Although Combs is fairly new to touring and makes his living working as a professional songwriter for a Nashville publishing company, he has garnered praise over the last year touring with another up-and-coming singer-songwriter named Caitlin Rose. The two have toured across America and Europe, with Combs opening shows and playing as part of Rose’s backing band.
“There's really not much to it other than the fact that me and Caitlin became friends and respect each other's music,” says Combs.
Except that there is more to it. Through their own friendship the two young musicians have introduced each other to friends and fellow musicians who often play as the backing bands for both of them, mainly Jeremy Fetzer and Spencer Cullum Jr., who themselves have been generating quite a buzz with their own band, Steelism.
Caitlin Rose, Andrew Combs, and the Steelism boys are all part of a growing group of young musicians moving to Nashville to make it in the music industry. Part of the appeal of the city, versus a city like Austin, is the drive to stand out amongst so many other determined musicians.
“With Nashville you have that creativity. So many of the greatest musicians in the world live in Nashville. But there's this business structure and drive behind you that keeps you going. It's fierce. It can be cut throat a little bit, but if you're in the right scene and you know the right people everyone's super supportive,” says Combs.
This environment has pushed Combs to work harder at stepping outside the world of professional songwriting and into the difficult world of being a touring musician, even if writing comes first.
“Performing in the early days was just a way for me to keep writing. I want to tour and hit the big stuff hard, [but] I'm not a road dog. I like traveling but I also like being at home. I'm also learning to love performing,” says Combs.
Touring, whether as a solo act, part of a backing band, or as leader of his own group, has led Combs to highly praised appearances at this year’s South By Southwest and the legendary Newport Folk Festival. He’s currently making his way through a busy fall tour, sharing dates with Steelism and as an opening act for folk rockers Houndmouth, who have been gaining critical traction for a while now. Between his Nashville songwriting career and more time spent on the road playing to new audiences, it may seem like Combs is eager to make it big, but the singer-songwriter remains patient that only time will tell. Stubbing out one last cigarette, Andrew Combs calmly reflects on his approach to music.
“I figure it will come when it comes and I'm not worried about it. Throughout my life I've always been the guy where it takes a little while. I've always done well and in the end I'm happy and people are happy with me, but it always takes me a while to get there. I just look at it like, as long as I get to make a living writing songs that I love and playing music, than I'm fine.”
This article was originally written for and published by The Horn, an online news site in Austin, Texas. Original article