Andrew Combs
S&S Presents

Andrew Combs

Selfmyth, Bly Wallentine

Ages 21+
Andrew Combs is coming to Salt Lake City!

Andrew Combs is a singer and songwriter whose work bridges the freedom and

possibility of his visual art with the influence of classic writing and storytelling. On his

new album, Ideal Man, Combs worked with producer/engineer Sam Cohen (Kevin

Morby, Benjamin Booker) to achieve a more raw, direct sound. The collection was

captured live in Cohen’s Brooklyn studio, with compact, muscular arrangements fueled

by taut, elastic grooves, and also featuring Combs’ longtime collaborators, drummer

Dom Billet and guitarist/keyboardist/bassist Jerry Bernhardt. While Combs may be best

known as a singer/songwriter in the classic 1970s Laurel Canyon sense of the term, he

proves the true versatility of his work here, often setting his acoustic aside in favor of

atmospheric synthesizers and distorted electric guitars. The songwriting for Ideal Man

was partly inspired by Combs’ recent fascination with painting. Combs started painting

when his wife was pregnant (They welcomed a daughter in 2017). “It really changed the

way that I write songs,” he reflects. “When I paint, I might start with a very abstract idea

or maybe even just a feeling, but from there I’ll paint and scrape and paint and erase and

keep on painting until something starts to take shape. I just let nature play out.”

“I’ve never felt so visually stimulated as I am right now, and this has been a really

unique way for me to make sense of the record as a whole, to find some sort of common

thread between the music and my life.”

Enamored with the fresh creative avenues that painting opened up for him, Combs

applied the same approach to his music, beginning songs with an emotion rather than a

concept and treating lyrical and melodic ideas as raw material that could be added to or

layered over at any point. When he heard the finished recordings, the songs in turn

suggested entire canvases in his mind, and Combs began work on a series of oil

paintings designed to accompany each track on the album.

“I started seeing all these motifs and symbols when I listened to the songs,” reflects

Combs, who plans to present the album and the paintings together in a gallery show.

“Some of the pieces are more representational and some are more abstract, but I’m

ultimately trying to capture the mystical qualities of each tune rather than the

analytical.”

Fatherhood is another obvious source for Combs’ change in perspective and the record

reflects the emotional rollercoaster that comes with raising a child in such turbulent

times. No longer simply an observer documenting the world as he sees it, Combs finds

himself thrust into the role of protector and guardian on these songs, which means that

joy and hope often come packaged with fear and frustration, anger and anxiety. “So

often I find myself just sad and disappointed in humanity these days,” he explains. “I’m

scared for my daughter and her future on so many levels,” adds Combs, explaining the

tumultuous character of some of the album’s lyrical content.

Combs first began garnering national attention for his music with the release of Worried

Man, his acclaimed 2012 debut. The record, which received the deluxe reissue treatment

this year, earned Combs a slot at the iconic Newport Folk Festival alongside dates with

Shovels & Rope and Houndmouth, and it prompted American Songwriter to proclaim

that “[as far as] first albums go, it’ll be tough to beat this as one of the year’s finest.”

Combs followed it up in 2015 with the similarly well-received All These Dreams, which

landed him performances with Kacey Musgraves and Eric Church among others, and

then signed to New West Records in 2017 for his breakout third album, Canyons Of My

Mind. Songs from that record racked up more than 15 million streams on Spotify and

prompted raves from Rolling Stone to NPR, who hailed him as “one of Nashville’s most

poetically gifted young singer-songwriters.”

A Dallas native, Combs has called Nashville home since 2006, but when it came time to

record Ideal Man, he opted for a change, heading to Jupiter Recordings in Brooklyn,

where he and his bandmates—drummer Dom Billet and multi-instrumentalist Jerry

Bernhardt—cut the album in a series of short bursts with Cohen both playing guitar and

producing.

“One of the things I really admired about Sam is that he wants to capture a moment,”

says Combs. “In the past, I’ve tended to pursue a studio sound that was really polished

and clean, but I wanted to do something different this time, and I knew that working

with Sam would lead to more of a loose, psychedelic, spaced-out vibe. We did everything

live in the studio, even my vocals, and there’s a sense of immediacy and discovery in

those early takes that you can’t recreate.”

It’s that immediacy that reaches out and grabs you by the lapel on album opener “Stars

of Longing,” an insightful, questioning gem that begins the record with a snare drum

cracking like a gunshot. Propelled by a deep-in-the-pocket rhythm section groove, the

track marries elements of classic soul and funk with psych-rock and sweeping folk as

Combs challenges and explores the spiritual journey he’s been on since his Catholic

school days in Texas. “All I’ve learned is all I really know / There’s only love,” he sings,

piercing through the pomp and politics of organized religion to get down to the core of it

all. The hazy title track bluntly grapples with identity and insecurity, while the

R&B-influenced “Hide and Seek” laments the games lovers play to avoid saying what

they really mean, and the minimalist “Like A Feather” strips romance down to its bare

essentials.

“This was the first song I wrote for the album, and it started as an experiment to see if I

could write something with just three chords,” says Combs. “I was trying to get myself

out of the mindset that the more chords you use, the better the song is, and this one

really opened up the door for me to write the rest of the record.”

Combs worked with some of his favorite writers on the album, including Dylan LeBlanc,

Jeff Trott, Joe Henry, and Kenny Childers, but the stories he tells here are deeply

personal and remarkably vulnerable. The heartrending “Firestarter” watches helplessly

as a friend self-destructs, and the tender “Golden” finds Combs balancing the beauty of

witnessing his daughter grow up with the wistfulness of knowing that she can’t stay a

child forever. It’s perhaps “Born Without A Clue,” though, that best captures the

emotional push and pull at play on the album.

“That song’s about being a dad, certainly, but I also think it’s about all of us,” says

Combs. “I’m a hopeful, positive person, and I don’t like to dwell too long on the

negative, but it’s so in our faces. There’s no way not to be apprehensive of the world

around you right now.”

A sense of danger and violence underlies the entire record, much as it does the entire

country, but it only serves to make the moments of beauty and connection here that

much more poignant. Life is short and the clock is ticking. Andrew Combs doesn’t plan

to waste a second.

Venue Information:
Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 E.
Salt Lake City, UT, 84102