He may perform to sold out crowds and have back-to-back number 1 hit songs, but for Luke Combs, one of country music’s biggest breakout stars, this genre wasn’t always part of the plan.
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"I mean, I didn’t really listen to country music at all. And then when I got to college, I got introduced to a guy named Eric Church," the 28-year-old singer told ABC News’ "Nightline."
"I guess that was kind of the thing, when I picked the guitar I was like, well man, if that guy's from here you know and he can like do it... I think I can probably do it too.'”
Before his rise to country music fame, Combs worked various entry-level jobs growing up. He says he hadn't flown on an airplane until he was 25.
"I worked at like a go-kart place. I worked at U-Haul. I worked at Home Depot," Combs said. "I always tell people I had everything I needed, but not everything I wanted."
Since then, he’s dropped back-to-back hits, "When It Rains It Pours" and "Hurricane," but despite the newfound stardom, he refuses to lose touch with his fans.
"It's not about how cool my clothes are, or how famous people think I am, it's really, they've spent their hard earned money. A lot of those folks who don't have a lot of money," Combs said. "There is nothing else without fans, and so I've taken the songs and put them out when I write them, and I'll put a little video of them up and say, 'What do you think about this or what do you think about that?'"
And he wants to keep a good thing going. Back on the road in West Virginia, "Nightline" sat in on a tour bus songwriting session with Combs.
"I'm definitely very critical when it comes to the songwriting. I'm [a] super, super perfectionist when it comes to that. Even the small words, this should this be a 'but' or an 'and' or an 'or,' that stuff is super important," he explained. "I think that's translated into why the album has done so well is because we just care about what we're saying, and we want to make sure we're saying it the right way."
Combs says what he enjoys the most about songwriting is "the camaraderie."
"It's kind of like if you're going hunting. Half the fun is waking up, calling your buddy, checking the weather, getting a cup of coffee, driving an hour or two, where you're going to go, that's half the fun," he said.
Many of his songs are personal, like "Beautiful Crazy," which was written about his girlfriend Nicole Hocking and hit number one on iTunes across all genres.
"That got me some serious brownie points. That was before we were officially dating," Combs said of the song.
Combs recently opened for Jason Aldean’s High Noon Neon Tour at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Just last year, Combs watched Aldean perform at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas when shots rang out.
"It’s one of those things you don’t love to relive it, I guess, but it’ll always be a part of you a little bit, as much as you’d like to forget it. You don’t want those people to be forgotten either," he said. "It makes you appreciate what you do a whole lot more. And so, yeah, I’m definitely blessed to be out here and still do this and sing and change people’s lives in a positive way."
And when it comes to his fans, Combs said he doesn’t get nervous about living up to their expectations.
"I think we’ve already lived up to that in a way. I wouldn't be here if there was anything to live up to. I just don't buy into the nervousness. 'Oh so many people like me now.' It’s the same music as when nobody liked me at all. So it’s no different," he said.
He added, "[I] want to give the folks what they deserve. I think that they deserve my best and I want to give my best to make sure that they get it."