This interview originally appeared on musicnewsnashville.com.
Andrew Combs and the New Face of Nashville
For a journalist, it gets a little wearisome for me to write about singer-songwriter after singer-songwriter, since practically anyone who can afford a guitar and a tuner can call themselves one. And it becomes equally boring – and usually foolish – to constantly compare these writers to Steve Earle or Townes Van Zandt or Hank or The Hag.
At least until I hear somebody who’s the real deal.
Andrew Combs is the real deal. He writes what he lives and sings like he needs to do it, and he’s creating a buzz in a Nashville that is becoming increasingly bored with what Music Row keeps churning out. Combs is part of a loose coterie of Nashville roots artists that includes such up-and-coming performers as Caitlin Rose and Jonny Fritz and instrumentalists like steel man Spencer Cullum and bass player Taylor Zachry (best known for his work in Nashville orchpop sextet Colorfeels). Combs has toured with Shovels & Rope and appeared at such iconic events as SXSW and the Newport Folk Festival, and his debut album Worried Man has everyone buzzing. I met Dallas native Combs at a function for his publisher, Razor & Tie, and found him to be erudite, informed, and a man who gets right to the point when he’s asked a question.
RM: You’ve gotten quite a bit of critical acclaim and you work a lot, but you’re still a ways away from the “brass ring.” Or are you? Where are you, in your opinion? What’s your ultimate goal?
AC: Well, I sure am grateful for any sort of praise, but I’ve got a long way to go. There’s so many things I need to get better at – my guitar playing, stage presence, songwriting, etc… It never ends. I have no particular goals besides becoming better at what I do.
RM: Your work can be compared to some of the older writers like Guy Clark, Neil Young and others in the sense that you really know how to craft a song, maybe somewhat unconsciously, but it might be that none of those old guys had anything to do with your style. What did you listen to coming up in Texas; who inspired you to do what you do?
AC: I heard a lot of good music from my parents’ collection when I was a young kid. They’d play Simon and Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, Jackson Browne, stuff like that. At some point in high school, my buddy gave me a copy of Guy Clark’s record The Dark. Since then I’ve been obsessed with the craft of writing songs. My influences are across the board, from pop to rock to country, but I guess I’d have to say Guy Clark and Mickey Newbury are my favorites.
RM: You’re part of a growing Nashville music scene that a lot of people don’t know exists, one that’s quite different from what the tourists come to Nashville for. What attracted you to Nashville instead of, say, Austin?
AC: I came here because all my heroes at one point worked in Nashville. I thought I better try my luck too.
RM: What guitars do you write and perform on?
AC: I mostly write on a 1965 Gibson B-25 or a 1967 Martin classical guitar. I play an old Gibson hollowbody ES-125 live mostly.
RM: You’re not a household name yet and, luckily for you, you probably never will be one in the sense that your love life will be featured in the tabloids or on Yahoo!’s home page. But you write a lot about failed relationships and the like. Is most of what you write experiential, or are you just kind of winging it sometimes?
AC: There’s a bit of me in every song I write. The last record was full of “failed relationship” lyrics because that’s what I was going through.
For more, visit http://andrewcombs.net.