Opening with some clean slide guitar, the mid-tempo ballad calls to mind Bruce Springsteen’s wall-of-sound style and progression, with Combs proclaiming his own blue-collar bona fides in the lyrics: “I’m a middle of the road, not much to show, underachieving average Joe,” he sings, before Church drops in near song’s end for a verse about “mama’s bible” and “Don Williams vinyl.”
It’s a guest shot similar to the one that Church’s hero, Merle Haggard, provided on “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag,” a fan favorite off Church’s 2006 debut Sinners Like Me.
“I definitely, definitely thought the exact same thing when I was having this idea,” Combs says of the comparison, going on to detail how the collab came about. “I had [my co-manager Chris] Kappy reach out to Eric’s manager and say, ‘Hey, if this is something Eric would want to do, that would be great,’ but I don’t want him to do it unless he thinks it’s something he would like. A couple months later, we got a date on the books and his vocal was the last thing we got for the record. It’s awesome.”
A pre-fame Combs once bought a signature Eric Church guitar and told the merch guy he’d see him again on tour with Church. Since then, they’ve played festivals together and Combs will open for the “Some of It” singer later this month in Atlanta.
Combs says there is some overlap between his fans and Church’s and in the subjects they write and sing about. But Combs makes one humble distinction.
“I think his stuff is better than mine, but you know, that’s the fan in me,” he says. “The attention to detail and the thought process and the care put into the entire experience, and the music and the shows, all that is very similar. That’s where the similarity lies, in making sure the fans are taken care of.”
Combs’ What You See Is What You Get is out now.