Luke Combs has a Top 5 hit with “Fast Car,” one of three songs that he didn’t write for his latest Gettin’ Old album, released in March. The song, written by Tracy Chapman and released in 1988, might seem like an unlikely choice for Combs to record, but the reason had a lot more to do with nostalgia than anything else.
“I’ve had a million favorite songs, from the time I was born until now, at any given time,” Combs tells Sony Music Nashville. “But that was one of the first, ‘Oh, that’s like my favorite song right now.’ My dad had this old pickup truck that had a cassette player in it, and I have the actual cassette that me and my dad used to listen to, the exact one of that album. That song just always stuck out to me. That was probably one of my first experiences, subconsciously, even knowing what a hit song was, because I didn’t know at the time that that was a hit song.”
“Fast Car” was released two years before Combs was even born, but from a very young age, Combs resonated with the song, in a way he hadn’t with other ones.
“When I first heard that, I was probably three … But I remember hearing it and being like, ‘Man, I like this song,'” the 33-year-old says. “I liked every song on that album. But that song, for whatever reason, really just stuck out to me, and I didn’t really know why. So I listened to it my whole life. I always come back to it. And then when I started teaching myself to play, it was the first song that wasn’t just this thing that I taught myself to play. It took me a long time to learn how to play that song.”
“Fast Car” is one of the songs Combs has played at soundcheck for years, but he wasn’t ready to add it to his setlist until recently, thanks to his improving guitar skills.
“It took me a really long time, because that song was way more advanced on guitar than I was when I learned it,” Combs explains. “I feel like I’m just now really proficient enough to play that song well enough to do it on stage, just at this point. But I could play that song ten years ago, because I just sat there and played it. It took me months to be able to play it, and then to be able to play it and sing it took even more time. And so, I always would just cover that in my bar gigs, and people loved it as much as I loved it.”
While it wasn’t until Gettin’ Old that Combs recorded songs written by someone else, it’s not because he was opposed to the idea, at all. The North Carolina native looks to a long line of successful singer-songwriters who haven’t been afraid to cut songs written and previously recorded by someone else.
“You hear Chris Stapleton do Tennessee Whiskey,’ and how many people’s only impression of that song is Chris Stapleton?” Combs reflects. “Not to mention that George Jones has cut it, and David Allen Coe’s cut it. All these people have cut this song. It’s been around for generations of country music fans, and has even been a single for other people too. And then when Chris did it, it got this whole new life. I love that song so much. And I think it’s such a great song that it deserves to be heard by a whole generation of people that haven’t heard it before.
“And so, to be able to have an opportunity to do that, especially with a song that’s meant so much to me and my love of music from as far back as I can remember is super unique,” he adds.
Combs is currently on his World Tour, with Riley Green, Lainey Wilson, Flatland Cavalry, Brent Cobb, Cody Johnson and Lane Pittman serving as opening acts on select dates. Find music and tour dates at LukeCombs.com.