Big Boots to Fill
“Ain’t no chance if you don’t take it.”
Guy Clark — “Picasso’s Mandolin”
If you’ve been around Nashville long enough you’re bound to have gotten word of Andrew Combs. His recent album, All These Dreams, features Spencer Cullum, Jr. of Nashville-based band Steelism and has received praised recognition by Rolling Stone and NPR Music. Although the Texas native moved to Nashville to follow the path of his heroes, he’s forged his own destiny with the wisdom learned from a well-established songwriting tradition combined with the experience of modern life. Combs’ music dances on the line between struggle and triumph and settles somewhere softer in between.
Catch Andrew Combs while he’s on his tour promoting his sophomore debut, All These Dreams, this Thursday April 16 at The Stone Fox.
Q&A WITH ANDREW COMBS
What drew you to Nashville?
People ask me this question a whole lot. And I always say the same thing – the main reason was all my heroes came here. Guy Clark, Mickey Newbury, Kris Kristofferson, etc. I figured if they did it, I ought to give it a shot as well.
How do you feel about the future of Nashville as a “Music City?” Do you think that authentic country will stay alive with different genres beginning to play in the historic venues — for instance, Alt-J at The Grand Ole Opry?
Nashville has got a good thing going right now with a talent pool that is deep and wide. I find it inspiring to be based here with so many different types of writers and musicians around. I think it only helps the whole “Music City” label. As for the “authentic country” you speak of, I think it will always be around. People want to hear it.
If a tourist asked you where to go in Nashville for good authentic country what would you recommend?
Robert’s downtown or Country Sundays at The Stone Fox.
How do you like to write your music? Are you a day or night writer?
I have no set formula to writing. Sometimes it starts from a melody or chord progression, other times it’s the words that come first. I find that I write best in the morning. My mind still seems to be in a hazy state, which I like because I don't overthink things.
Something many country artists do really well, like Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, is balance their music between sadder ballads and dancing tunes. When you’re playing live, is it difficult to go from slower tunes like “Please, Please, Please” to upbeat songs like “Worried Man” or “Emily”?
No it’s not difficult. To me it just depends on the venue and type of crowd I am playing to. If I am at a theatre or listening room, it’s easier to play the slower, softer numbers because people are more attentive. In a rowdy bar I tend to turn to the up-tempos with a few ballads thrown in the mix. It’s just a matter of reading the crowd at that point.
We heard you were a Southern literature fan. Flannery O’Connor said, “All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal.” Her work includes themes often used by country writers — loneliness, loss, and humanity. Why do you think you find yourself drawn to this type of writing?
I honestly don't know why I am drawn to the more tragic side of life, but I am. I find it much more fascinating than happiness. For me though, there must be an element of hope along with the “loneliness, loss, and humanity.” You have to be able to feel the sorrow and the triumph.
Do you remember your first experience with country music?
I heard country music on the radio all the time growing up in Texas and actually blew it off. It kind of all changed though when I heard Guy Clark, in specific, his song, “Let Him Roll.” That's when I knew I wanted to try and write my own songs.
What’s your favorite Willie Nelson song? What are you listening to right now?
I like ’em all. I guess one of my current favorites is “I Guess I've Come To Live Here In Your Eyes” on his album Spirit. It's a great simple love song. Being on tour in a van with four other guys, I hear a lot of different music. Currently we've been playing John Hartford, Tom Rush, the new Father John Misty, and a bit of Tupac.
Who designs your album artwork?
Melissa Madison Fuller has done all the photography to date, and Jeremy and Beth Fetzer did the design on my new record. All talented folks.
Bands? Steelism, Luke Bell, Erin Rae
Record shop? Grimeys
Juke Box? Mickeys
Food/Bar? Thai Phooket/Mickeys