Luke Combs' North Carolina roots run deep within his passion for music. He's an admirer of fellow North Carolina native Eric Church, and the two singer-songwriters have much in common down to the college they attended — Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. So, it comes as no surprise that Combs looks up to Church, even admitting that he's an "Eric Church historian."

"It was like, 'Man, if this guy that went to App can do it, I can do it,'" Combs tells Taste of Country. "I just connected with his stuff. I credit his [music] for getting me back into country music."

At 26 years old, Combs is getting his first taste of radio success with his latest single "Hurricane." It's an impressive feat for an artist who picked up the guitar only five years ago.

"I was sitting at home one summer and my mom said, 'You know, Kenny Chesney didn't learn guitar until he was 21.' I was like, 'Well, I can learn guitar because I'm 21,'" he recalls. "I've been singing my entire life. The guitar came to me later on down the road. [Then I] started messing around with writing songs with my buddies."

The first song Combs remembers writing in college was a track called "Day Drinking." While he admits it was "terrible," he knew he was on to something when Little Big Town released their single of the same name years later.

After several years of writing with his friends in Boone, Combs decided it was time to make the move to Nashville in August of 2014. Having visited Music City several times and with two EPs under his belt, he felt he was ready to give songwriting a real shot. Eight months in he garnered a booking deal and hit the road and he says everything fell into place soon after.

"Once I moved here, I really could lock in and focus on writing better songs and becoming a more well-rounded performer," he says.

Combs has continued to gain an avid following of fans who have latched onto his previous EPs and new single "Hurricane," which he says he had the idea for in his phone for a long time. When he sat down to write the song with Thomas Archer and Taylor Phillips, one of his co-writers told the story of a friend who recently went through a breakup and saw his ex everywhere.

"It was that small town Nashville thing where he was like, 'Every time I go out, she's out. I can't say no when she's out.' I was like, 'Well, let's try to meet this title, 'Hurricane,' somewhere with that idea of that.' That's really how it came to be," he explains.

"When I go into a room to write, it's like I'm not trying to say, 'I need to write a song that sounds like Eric Church or Jason Aldean.' I just try to get the best song that's in the room that day. Whatever style or sound that may be, I'm not afraid to attack it at that angle," he adds.

Combs says "This One's for You" is one of the more honest songs on his latest EP. The title track is a thank you of sorts to those in his life who have helped him along the way, including his parents. Another track, the heartfelt ballad "Used to You" about going on in life without a loved one, is a song that Combs says many fans have taking a liking to — and he has, as well.

"I do gravitate towards the sad songs because I find them to be more of a challenge for me, from a writing perspective," he shares. "There are things about those songs that do touch people in a way that a fun song can't. I've had so many more people come up to me and say, 'Hey, 'Used to You' helped me through the passing of my uncle or my grandfather or my brother that went to war.' Those moments, to me, are so important. It's cool when a song can help people deal with their emotions."

Writing from the heart is a suggestion that Combs received from another fellow North Carolinian, Chase Rice. It turns out Rice and Combs both attended the same high school, and when Combs began thinking about a career in songwriting, he reached out to Rice for advice.

"He said, 'Write stuff that you know about that's true to you.' At the time, I was upset by that advice. I was like, 'Man, what a copout answer. This guy doesn't want to talk to me.' It ended up being some of the best advice that I ever got, because I get it now. Now that I'm here, [I've realized to] write about what you're going through because I guarantee you there's a million other people who are going through the same thing that can relate to that process."

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