We all know people who make a big deal about leaving Dallas, with dreams of a better life in a more glamorous town. We've also seen a lot of those people come back within a year. Andrew Combs is not one of those.
Combs spent the first 18 years of his life in North Dallas, but moved to Nashville after graduating Jesuit High School 11 years ago. Combs is still trying to make a name for himself on the national concert circuit, so he's hitting the road this month and trying to play as many cities as possible. He returns to his hometown on March 15 at City Tavern.
"I do appreciate the musical taste Texans seem to have," he says. "It's something in the water. There's more of an appreciation to storytelling and going out to see live music not just to see a band that they love, but just going out to see live music, period."
Combs has a sound that is somewhere between country or folk. He's not singing about catfish, trucks or partying. He's not a rock musician trying to get that country music crossover appeal. Rather, his music is blue-eyed soul with country and folk leanings.
His forthcoming third album — and first for New West Records — Canyons of my Mind, explores even more of this distinct sound. A song like "Blood Hunters" recalls Beck's Mutations material while the gorgeous "Dirty Rain" is reminiscent of Sondre Lerche.
He had to relocate to find his voice as an artist. He does miss some things about North Texas, but he's settled into life as a Tennessean. Many of the songwriters who inspire him, such as Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt and Kris Kristofferson, had to stay in one place rather than roam around to find artistic inspiration.
He finds the cost of living in Nashville affordable, and he's able to support himself through music thanks to a job with a publishing company.
Combs' love for live music had a bit of a delayed start. At an early age, his father and a cousin introduced him piano and guitar, respectively. He was not connected to the music scene in Dallas, yet he found himself holed up in his room writing and recording a lot of songs.
Starting out playing covers wasn't his forte. "I was never too interested in me learning other people's songs," he says. "I was like, 'Let's cut to the chase. I'll start writing my own.'"
Combs started a band as a teenager although they never performed in public. It wasn't until he moved to Nashville that he got out and played shows. When he finally did, he brought bits of Texas with him.
"I've been more and more interested in stretching my brain and capabilities in terms of melody and song structure," he says. "It's hard for me to say what were my influences for this new stuff, but lyrically, it's always been the great Texas songwriters. It's also been the great melody makers like Harry Nilsson and Paul Simon. Guys that were able to connect great lyrics with great melodies."
Combs says he writes 10 songs to produce just one great one. But that's not a problem since he writes all the time, as a way of coping with boredom and looking toward the future.
One thing that's in Combs' near future? First-time fatherhood. He got married last October and found out a few months later that his wife was pregnant.
In preparation for the April 7 release of Canyons of my Mind, Combs is touring the South and the East Coast. Next, he'll visit England and Europe. He also hopes to visit the West Coast at some point, in an effort to build up more of a following there.
Once the baby comes in August, he'll be back on the road, hitting a lot of the same spots again. "It's gonna be a crazy year," he says.
Andrew Combs, City Tavern, 1402 Main St., 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, $10, prekindle.com.
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