The untold truth of Luke Combs

Seemingly overnight, Luke Combs went from a local performer to country music superstar. The humble big fella with a golden voice started hot out of the gates and his "first eight singles all reached #1 — a first on Billboard's Country Airplay chart — extending his record-breaking streak at country radio," according to Combs' website. In the summer of 2019, the Grand Ole Opry announced via Twitter that Combs would become the newest member of the historic country show. The singer became understandably emotional when he received the honor. Capping off his amazing year, Combs released his second studio album, What You See Is What You Get. The record was a hit and helped Combs become the "first artist ever to have their first two studio albums spend 25 weeks or more at #1 — breaking Taylor Swift's previously held record at 24 weeks."

But this performer does more than just sing, and his path to country music domination was nothing but straight. We'll dive into his wandering career path full of successful gigs and more as we explore some lesser-known facts about the Grammy-nominated crooner behind tender ballads like "Beautiful Crazy," and rocking songs like "When It Rains It Pours."

Do you have a favorite jam from the man? Grab your camo Crocs because this is the untold truth of Luke Combs.

Wait, Luke Combs wanted to do what when he grew up?

Luke Combs' original career path looked a whole lot different than a country musician touring around stadiums. In an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Combs told the titular host, "I wanted to be a homicide detective" so his college major was actually criminal justice. The singer said this often surprises people and joked, "If you've noticed, I don't actually have the physical build of a police officer necessarily." So, he and Kimmel agreed that perhaps going "undercover" would be the best role for Combs in the field.

What inspired this love for justice? TV shows like CSI definitely helped. As Combs said, "It was solving the puzzle that was the intriguing part to me, which is what I love so much about writing songs. It's a puzzle that has no pieces. So, you make the pieces and then you have to put them together." Add puzzle-solving to his list of talents. But maybe he can be a singing detective on the next CSI?

Luke Combs knocked it out right out of the gate

One of the most memorable shows for any musician is their first. Plus, it helps if the singer makes money. In a chat with Pollstar, Luke Combs talked about trying to play in different areas around campus when he attended Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. "I was in college, working two jobs, and there was a bar. I played rugby in college and that was the bar we always went to, so I asked the owner if he would let me play there and he said, 'Sure,'" Combs said in the interview. If only everything was that easy. The singer continued, "I charged $1 a ticket to get in and I sold 200 tickets. That was more money than I made at both of my jobs that week." Up to that point, he just wrote and performed songs just for fun and "never really thought of it as something I'd do for a living. And I was like, 'Wow, I could actually do this as a job!'"

Combs didn't quit his one job as a bouncer after the performance. But he used the successful show as leverage to play even more gigs. As Combs revealed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, he went back to his boss and said, "I played a show next door, 200 people came on a Wednesday, I can either keep doing that or I can do that here. The choice is yours." The boss chose wisely and Combs started his rise.

How close was Luke Combs to finishing college?

Yes, Luke Combs started gaining local popularity as a singer while at school, but he still dealt with homework like all the other students. "Nothing about me wanted to go to math or science, you know what I mean? I was just more concerned with drinking and playing rugby and singing," he explained in an episode of Sunday Sitdown. "Obviously you can't drink for a living, so that was off the list and then I quickly realized I couldn't play rugby for a living either and so there was really only one choice."

Then, Combs dropped out with only "21 credit hours left," equivalent to about a semester and a half. Why the abrupt finish? "I was a pretty bad student so that helped a lot," Combs quipped on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. He admitted, "I had been in school for five years at that point and I'd been singing my whole life — and I didn't understand that, wow, you can do something that you like and people will pay you for it."

Years later, Combs returned to Appalachian State University for a homecoming performance. Considering he didn't really keep in touch with teachers from his time as a student, because "[he] just wasn't in class a lot," Combs told Kimmel that he sent no specific invites. However, he did say that he would be sure to get his "high school chorus teacher" a seat, because they're "still very close."

Slow and steady is how Luke Combs won the race

Luke Combs' down-to-earth and easygoing attitude isn't surprising, considering the fact that he set realistic goals from the start. "When I first picked up the guitar, I didn't go, 'I want to be Garth Brooks,'" he told Pollstar, adding, "To me that's an insanely unrealistic goal that would let you down mentally pretty fast." That's smart, since Garth Brooks may be the most popular country singer ever. Instead, Combs planned out a systematic approach to become a performer: "My goal was to learn one chord. Then it was to be able to learn two. Then it was to be able to play a song. Then play enough to play three hours. Then put together a band. Then it was book some shows. Write some more songs. Move to Nashville." 

Turns out all those affirmations turned true — probably to a bigger extent than ever imagined. And as an only child, he kept his parents in mind. "If I mess up, there's no other kid that's a lawyer that can save my horrid reputation," Combs joked to Rare Country.

Things can still go up and Combs is again looking towards the future. But with his big fame that means more tours. Combs told Billboard that his idols like Brooks and Eric Church have been headlining shows for many years in a row, "20-something, 30 years almost" for Brooks, "so there's a lot of catching up to do in that area."

Luke Combs has inspirations outside of country

Like any true artist, inspirations can come from seemingly normal places to wildly creative ones. Sure, it makes sense that Luke Combs likes country music, but would you have guessed boy bands? During an interview on Nightline, correspondent Adrienne Bankert asked about the songs that Combs sings to himself "around the house." The country music star confessed, "As I got a little bit older, singing what all kids that were born in 1990 were singing was Backstreet Boys — NSYNC." He then said any viewer who "didn't listen to Backstreet Boys" is lying. Combs also said, "I didn't really listen to country music at all," until he learned about Eric Church while at college.

Then, in an article for Billboard, Combs talked about more inspirations outside the country music genre. "I listen to Ed Sheeran pretty routinely. That's what's on in the car and that's what's on in the green room. When I find something, whether it's new or old, I'm really bad about wearing it out and then I'm like, 'Okay, I won't listen to that for a couple of weeks now 'cause I listened to it so much.'" That includes Post Malone, The Avett Brothers, and Adele. Oh, and rapper DaBaby. "I know it doesn't seem like I would be a DaBaby fan, but he's from Charlotte. I'm from North Carolina. You gotta get hyped before the show. Everybody's got a chance if they're from Carolina for sure," Combs said.

Watch out Yeezy, Luke Combs has his eyes on the lucrative celeb shoe market

"Fashion icon" may not be the first two words you think of when describing Luke Combs. But it's actually not that crazy. See, Combs designed a pair of custom Crocs, the foam clog shoes that are so often ridiculed. The singer clearly tapped into the right market though since "the first editions went out so fast," he said on Jimmy Kimmel Live! That's right, Combs' shoes were so successful that the brand collaborated for a second time with the singer. And he lovingly referred to the second iteration as "high camouflage fashion." Combs said the camouflage helped match his self-proclaimed "Jiffy Lube look." And what about the orange accents? Combs warned the host, "If you're in the woods and you're hunting and you don't have this orange on, how do I know that you're not a fox?" 

Even more, the second edition came complete with a beer bottle opener and hunting-themed jibbitz — those little pins in the holes. According to Footwear News, "Luke Combs crocs" was the most searched shoe term on Google in 2019. As of 2020, the original line of Combs' crocs were selling for over $200 on StockX, a site mainly for sneakerheads looking for rare kicks. Would you buy a pair at this price? The singer may have even more surprises in the future so keep an eye out for Combs at the next fashion week event.

Luke Combs sings from the heart

With jams like "Beer Never Broke My Heart," it's clear that Luke Combs can party with the best of them. But the country music star is just as popular for his heartfelt songs. Speaking with Billboard, Combs revealed which song of his holds the most meaning. "'Beautiful Crazy' definitely is that song, because I wrote that about my fiancée," he said. The music world loved it too, as it went on to win song of the year at the Country Music Awards. "I still can't believe that happened," he told Billboard. Combs said of his then-fiancée, "We're getting married next year and it's just a cool story for us to have forever. And so that one is really special to me for sure."

This was no one-hit-wonder. Combs posted on Twitter a teaser for a new song, a continuation of his musical love letters to his wife. "1st came Beautiful Crazy, then Better Together, and now Forever After All," the singer said. On the Taste of Country radio show, Combs talked more about his love, Nicole Hocking, and her role in his music. "She's constantly inspiring me to write songs, which is great to have somebody like that that makes you feel like that so you can have ideas like that."

An awkward moment led to Luke Combs meeting a legend

After Luke Combs dropped out of college to pursue a music career, he landed in Nashville, Tenn. as a mostly unknown singer and songwriter. Fortunately, he got an invite to go watch a show at the famous Nashville music venue 3rd and Lindsley. "I didn't have a publishing deal or record deal. I had just moved to Nashville a couple of months before this," he said in an interview on the Taste of Country radio show. While at the event, Combs described the scene of him standing on the crowded stairs, only to accidentally bump into an older man. And not just any man, but famous country music star Vince Gill.

In his typical self-deprecating manner, Combs reflected, "Sorry that I was born to be here to run into you." Combs said Gill was very polite but the young singer still felt bad. "I ruined Vince Gill's day, I ran into him and his whole day is ruined," he thought to himself. Combs probably felt bad since Gill is actually one of his favorite musicians to listen to, he revealed to Nightline.

Going from a long shot to collaboration

Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. produced not one but two country music stars. The first was Eric Church. And like Luke Combs, Church relocated from school to pursue music. According to the Grand Ole Opry's website, Church's "presence could still be felt on campus as his career began to take off in distant Nashville" when Combs began to make music during school. In fact, Combs followed exactly in the same footsteps as Church and moved to Nashville to play music. Combs once told Billboard he is a "huge Eric Church guy" and "always loved his stuff."

In 2018, Combs opened five shows on Church's tour. As Combs told the Taste of Country radio show, Church was often "in-and-out," so even though Church had "been a big influence on [Combs] for a really long time, [the two] didn't really get to hang out or meet." Combs said he took a risk and passed along the demo of "Does to Me" over to Church's manager, hoping it would be a genuine connection for a collaboration. Unsurprisingly, Church liked the song and according to Combs, the two singers became closer after this.

Luke Combs nearly lost his life in Las Vegas

On Oct. 1, 2017, the last day of the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nev., tragedy struck when a gunman fired into the crowd, killing 58 people and injuring 869 more. It's one of the darkest days in American history. Jason Aldean was performing when the devastation began. In an interview on Nightline, Combs revealed he was on stage watching Aldean's performance when the chaos broke out. "It's one of those things you don't love to relive it, I guess. It will always be a part of you a little bit." 

Combs then admitted, "As much as you'd like to forget it, you don't want those people to be forgotten either. It makes you appreciate what you do a whole lot more. Because it all could be gone. Especially that night, it could have been gone for any of us."

Like Aldean and the other performers, Combs miraculously went unharmed during the massacre. He confessed, "I'm definitely blessed to be out here ... and [to] change people's lives in a positive way."

Getting down and dirty

Part of what makes Luke Combs so endearing is his tender heart — and yeah, his affection for singing NSYNC, as he revealed to Nightline. But so do his simple honestly and deep-down, country boy roots. Take for example, his personal hygiene routine. During an interview on the Taste of Country radio show, the host asked Combs if he uses a loofah in the shower. He definitively answered, "No. I do not." Then to clarify, Combs confessed, "I'm a 'get right in there, hands only dude." That's a little more in line with his lovable, grizzly bear persona, no?

Alright, so no loofah, but the other host asked about his preference between bar soap and shower gel. Combs assuredly answered, "I'm shower gel for sure." The singer seemed almost appalled at the thought of a solid cleaning solution. "Bar soap? Come on man, what is this the Great Depression?"

How much is Luke Combs worth?

Luke Combs' career took off like a rocket, with all his smash singles, records, and tours. Combs landed on Billboard's list of highest-paid musicians of 2019 and "closed out the year with the best streaming numbers of the genre: 3.2 billion overall streams." With his massive success, the singer and songwriter is worth an estimated $5 million. Most of his net worth comes from record sales and touring, but don't forget about the Luke Combs X Crocs collaboration.

To celebrate his success, Combs told Nash Country Daily that he was looking for a home near Nashville, Tenn., where his fame started. "I'm looking for a piece of land. I want some acreage to hunt and kind of get away from everything. I really like that space. I'm excited. I'd love to get that peaceful spot." He definitely earned it with his hard work.

All that money should also come in hand for growing his family. According to People, Combs proposed to Nicole Hocking in 2018, and even though the pair were too busy for much wedding planning, he said they definitely wanted to ensure that they both "like" the venue they end up choosing. We're guessing it won't be a VFW. At least the couple had the time to adopt their rescued puppy, Jojo. And likely, Combs uses some of his net worth to spoil the little pup.

How did Luke Combs spend his time in quarantine?

Luke Combs was touring in Europe before he needed to return home and quarantine amid the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Not content with pausing his performances for the fans, Combs switched to playing livestream performances. As reported by Rolling Stone, he's played old favorites and debuted new songs like the social-distance-themed, "Six Feet Apart," plus a few covers like "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman. 

Outside of music, Combs has lived his best quarantined life alongside his future wife. The singer has reportedly cooked for the two of them, in addition to "turkey hunting, and playing Call of Duty on Xbox to let off some steam. "If I just had three months off, this is what I'd be doing," Combs explained. "A simple existence is something I enjoy — and just finding joy in the quiet." Noting that he also tends to a garden and chickens, Combs added that, with no neighbors in sight, he was free to "ride ATVs, go look for morel mushrooms in the woods. I'm just living the redneck dream out here right now."

The country crooner also celebrated his 30th birthday in March 2020 ... though it didn't go exactly as planned. In an interview for ET Canada, Combs revealed that a tornado rolled through Nashville on the night of his birthday. His then-fiancée threw a surprise party for him, the guests went home, and around midnight, "I was in a closet in my house. So, that was interesting." Luckily, Combs remained safe during the destructive storm.

Luke Combs finally got hitched

Luke Combs met his future wife, Nicole Hocking, well before the fame. He told People the two started dating when Combs had "no publishing deal, no record deal, no booking deal," plus an inexperienced manager. He added, "I didn't have anything when we met." But his music eventually career took off, and Hocking stayed by his side the entire time. 

Ready to take the relationship to the ultimate height, Combs proposed to Hocking in 2018 — though not exactly in a romantic location. He referenced the engagement alongside a sweet snapshot of the couple in the picturesque Hawaii that November on Instagram: "She said yes a while ago but this is a way better place to take pictures than the kitchen." 

In an interview with ET Canada, Combs explained his help in the wedding planning. "I'm like the booze guy. Probably gonna dabble in some playlists," he said. "I'm just a good-time engineer." Though he also admitted that Hocking was "doing all the heavy lifting." 

The two officially tied the knot in the summer of 2020 in a gorgeous beach wedding. Combs announced the happy news on Instagram with the caption, "Still seems like a fairytale @nicocombs, I love you. Probably gonna post a lot of these so just get used to it." He also called on his new wife to make a special cameo appearance in the music video for his single, "Lovin' on You," which released a few weeks after the wedding (via Taste of Country).

A busy 2020 for Luke Combs

Despite being stuck inside for much of 2020 due to a global health crisis, Luke Combs appeared to have made the best out of the scenario. His second album, What You See Is What You Get, continued to dominate the airways and charts. Due to the success, Combs announced on Instagram that a deluxe version, titled What You See Ain't Always What You Get, was scheduled for release that October. The expanded record would come with five new songs from the country star.

Sharing all the remaining stops on the rescheduled What You See Is What You Get tour that July, Combs revealed on Instagram that his last show of the initial tour was in Europe, before the tour was cut short. "Playing shows for y'all is what I love to do, but I want y'all to be completely safe," he explained. "... I can't wait to see y'all in person next year."

Once again, 2020 saw the Country Music Awards recognize Combs for his tremendous talent. The award show nominated the singer-songwriter in major categories like entertainer of the year, album of the year, and song of the year. In an Instagram post that September, Combs thanked his team, family, and fans for all their help and support, writing, "None of this is possible without any of you. WE did this. THANK YOU!"

Luke Combs has a special set of fans

It seems that Luke Combs' main goal with music is to provide entertainment for the world. According to his biography on the Grand Ole Opry's website, Combs once said, "I'm going to give everything I've got on stage and play songs that I've written that are genuinely important to me. That, I think, is what really translates." 

It shows the power of music, to bring people together and help heal when needed. But does that really work with songs like "Beer Never Broke My Heart"? In a March 2020 interview with The Times, Combs explained why he sings about the simple pleasures in life, like beer or even mediocre careers. According to the country music crooner, "People who drink beer and have boring jobs are the fabric of our society." Perhaps most importantly, however, Combs added, "They're also my fans." Indeed, per Combs' website, he calls members of the official Luke Combs fan club "The Bootleggers."