Walking into Make Wake Artists off Nashville’s Music Row, it’s clearly evident to Marley Sherwood who the powerhouse artist of the label is. Every wall is roofed in plaques doting accolades for nation star Luke Combs. Many won’t understand how quick the journey to stardom was for Combs, however the man, the parable and the legend in Nashville behind his profession is right here to elucidate all of it… women and gentleman, Chris Kappy.
First issues first, is your actual identify Kappy?
My God-given identify is Christopher Thaddeus Kappy, a household identify. But everybody simply calls me Kappy. Once I was very younger, I started going by just Kappy because Chris was a very common identify. There were so many once I was growing up, it just made sense. Once I was in school, pledges in my fraternity truly had to figure out what my real identify was.
How did you make it to Nashville?
It’s truly an amazing story. I used to be dwelling in California, down in Huntington Seashore. I had the best setup on the earth. Bradley Jordan — who owns Peachtree Entertainment — is my greatest pal. We grew up together. He advised me about this superb sound that was coming out of Georgia. At the time, he was working with some new guys: Jordan Rager, Travis Denning, Cole Taylor and Jon Langston. He reached out because he knew I all the time needed to handle an artist. I might all the time transfer again to California, so this was the prospect to make something happen. I packed every part up and moved to Athens, Ga.
Have been you working within the music business in California at this level?
On the time, I used to be working for this firm referred to as Sixthman. I had been with them for 15 years. We labored with festivals on cruise ships and I helped with acts like John Mayer, Kid Rock, 311, Paramore and lots of extra. I spent about 12 weeks of the yr in the Caribbean. The rest of the yr I used to be establishing sponsor relations, which was great. But the perfect factor I took away from my time there was studying about rabid fanbases.
What occurs after Bradley convinces you to make the move?
So, I make it back to Athens, Ga. and four months later Bradley calls me and says he was watching this man carry out in Rome, Ga. He stated, “His name is Luke Combs, you need to come see this guy, this is your guy.” I asked once I might see him and Bradley tells me he can ebook a show for him on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend in Athens. I requested Bradley if he was positive that was a good idea. School is out by then, it’s a Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, he was going to lose on this present. It was the one open date he had, so he booked it for $750. Eighty-three individuals confirmed up at the 40 Watt after which it all happened.
Not a nasty displaying for considering solely Bradley, Luke and you’d present up.
Precisely! This was additionally the primary time Luke had ever performed “Hurricane” stay to a crowd. He had the track on his YouTube web page… and rapidly, these 83 individuals in the crowd begin singing the words to all his songs! “Can I Get an Outlaw,” “The Way She Rides,” “She Got the Best of Me.” I used to be blown away as a result of those songs have been released on an EP only. Then he begins enjoying “Hurricane.” And for it to only be out there on YouTube, the gang knew every phrase— actually showed a fanbase already. By the primary music in his set I knew the man was a celebrity, by the second music I knew I needed to work with him. I turned to Bradley and stated, “This is my guy.”
And this was the first time you had ever seen him perform?
Sure. After the present, I went as much as him and asked if I might write a comp. Like an honest-to-goodness comp of the show. I wrote down every thing I assumed was good and dangerous concerning the show. I gave him real suggestions. I made an entire PowerPoint presentation, complete nerd of me! He thought it was actually cool to see, and genuinely appreciated the suggestions. So, Bradley and I booked him for a charity event in Athens a month later. The third time Luke came to play in Georgia, I went up and informed him, “Hey man, I have never been a manager before, I don’t know anything about it.” However I informed him, “I do know this. I will work super hard for you. I know that my job is to get people in the door, but it is your job, as the artist, to get them to stay.” He talked to 3 other managers in Nashville and then he referred to as me up on July 29, 2015… and he stated, “Hey man, what do you want me to do? Where do you see me?” And I stated, “Well, what did the other managers say?” And he wouldn’t tell me, he needed to see what I needed him to do. I flat out advised him, “Luke, I want you to get on stage every night and I want you to sing your face off.” And he stated, “Good. Because every other manager I met with in Nashville told me I was a really good songwriter, but I wasn’t an artist.” I knew Luke was an artist from the first word, and typically it’s a must to see previous what ‘the norm’ is and go rogue… outlaw, some would say. It was a chance that paid off for both of us.
Had Luke moved to Nashville at this level?
Yes. He was now dwelling in Nashville to pursue a music profession. He was there writing songs and I finally moved to city on September 6, 2015 and started being his manager. Monday by means of Wednesday I used to be being a supervisor and advancing exhibits and dealing with Luke. Thursday via Sunday, I used to be tour manager and would drive the van to exhibits and then we might come again into city and sit down at his round glass table he had in his house and I turned the enterprise manager.
The desk everyone has in their first condominium that is sort of a hand-me-down from their grandma?
Exactly! We might sit on the glass desk and pay out the band, pay out the payments after which pay off whatever was wanted. And the leftover change we had, we put into a Maxwell House espresso can on prime of the fridge and that was our financial institution. That’s really how we started each single week. It was really that rudimentary and raw. I informed him I might not take a commission from him till he was in a place where he was snug and the profession was shifting forward and then I might take a commission at that point.
You came to town to work with an up-and-coming artist and collected no revenue at first. Did you will have some savings from your previous Sixthman gig that helped you?
I did… kinda. I had some financial savings and I moved to city and lived with a good friend for a bit. And then found a place in Nashville of my very own, nevertheless it was ironic as a result of I used to be by no means residence. But I used to be burning via savings as we built Luke.
What gave you the arrogance to keep going as you have been dwelling in Nashville off primarily a “no-name country artist” making zero commission?
He was a no one to everybody on the town, however to Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and the South, he was every little thing. Luke had built such a robust fanbase on his own. Let me inform you how Luke Combs made it. At 21 years previous, Luke didn’t know the right way to play guitar. He picked it up and within a yr he was capable of play and sing at the similar time. Ok the place he might play open mics. He went to each single open mic night time he might get into. If it was a hen wing restaurant, he was there. It didn’t matter, if he might play, he did. His aim on the hen wing locations was to get the gang to cease consuming for one second and take heed to him, then he gained. That was his aim. A lot of individuals ask me all the time, “What is the secret sauce? What does it take in the industry?” I all the time say it’s exhausting work and great songs. Luke works actually arduous at enjoying music. He works actually onerous at writing songs. He didn’t wake up someday to see he was a terrific songwriter. Luke labored and continues to work actually onerous. He needed to write plenty of ‘bad’ songs to seek out the good ones, and that was all exhausting work. In a time and age when everyone needs on the spot gratification, the ones who work exhausting and are patient will succeed.
It goes back to what you stated about how virtually each manager on the town advised him he was just a songwriter, not an artist.
True. Nobody noticed the artist in him, but Luke knew he was an artist. He wrote songs that may match into the lifetime of everyone. He tells individuals all the time, “If I am going through it, so is someone else, so they can relate.” He also knew that being an artist was a really arduous job. The van rides, the load-ins, the exhibits, the signings after which to sleep and rise up super early to drive to the subsequent city. Those early days are the hardest, the true grind of it all, but he did it. The band did it. We have been six dudes in a van, enjoying music and constructing one thing very special. I miss these days. I all the time will as a result of that’s where it all started.
When do you know Luke was going to be a household identify?
Luke needed to get himself a new automotive, not even a pleasant automotive. I am speaking like a working automotive to literally get him to and from writing periods. Nothing special. I was getting right down to the bottom of my financial savings and doing what I might— I was consuming off the McDonald’s greenback menu and ramen, plenty of ramen. I used to be promoting all the things I might promote. But then, we have been capable of purchase Luke a Ford Fusion. Like an honest 4-door automotive that worked. So, after we bought the automotive, that subsequent weekend we had $500 left over from that run of exhibits and I took my first fee. I made like $75. I went to Wendy’s that night time, not McDonald’s! That’s when all of it tipped. We acquired Luke what he wanted and it was like karma stated, “Good job, now hang on!”
Was there a difference within the crowds displaying up?
Oh yeah, we went from like 40 Watt to the Georgia Theatre. We have been jumping from smaller clubs to theaters shortly. The actual thing that allowed the fans entry to his new songs and acquired them coming to exhibits with out him having a deal was Facebook and phrase of mouth. I had discovered the way to actually use Facebook from my time at Sixthman, and that’s how we saw the reaction of followers and ultimately created his fan club referred to as The Bootleggers. We have been capable of speak to them via Facebook… we related. Once we had the power to succeed in them and serve up content and allow them to into Luke’s life, individuals felt part of it all. Individuals needed him to win, and all we needed to do was give them an escape from actuality and an amazing present every night time. It was a win-win.
What happened next to take Luke to the subsequent degree?
So, I performed his music one night time for my good friend Lynn Oliver-Cline, who has not only been one in every of my dearest associates in life for a very long time, however has fairly the identify for herself in the business, too. I didn’t inform anybody why I had moved to town, I just moved and started with Luke. I was at Lynn’s one night time for dinner and played Luke’s music for her. When Lynn heard the music, she knew it was something nice, a lot so she stopped cooking and sat down and made me play her all I had. Lynn had simply created her personal unbiased label and was in search of an artist. Growth, all of it clicked. Luke was signed shortly after to a report cope with Lynn and we have been off!
“Hurricane” had been charting by itself as an unbiased, but now it was backed by a label. How did that help?
Lynn and the group at Thirty Tigers did an unreal job to get Luke on some stations and it began to make some noise, like actual noise. There was a buzz, some would say. Then he also had just played Whiskey Jam, it was a type of big exhibits and you couldn’t get by means of the door. It was insane. It was simply the proper individuals on the right time… with the suitable music, with the correct momentum and it simply started to snowball. We ended up with Sony Nashville, and I can’t say enough good things about them. They are a implausible companion. We additionally moved to CAA for touring and right here we at the moment are with a sold-out area tour and five No. 1 songs in three years. It is onerous to wrap your head round it at occasions, but I’m just grateful for all the individuals who believed in Luke.
What advice do you’ve for these eager to pursue a career in artist administration?
You must go all in. You need to be in Nashville to make it occur. You must be here, in L.A. or in New York. You must be present to win. It’s a must to be where your artist is. I will inform you this, watch the documentary referred to as “Supermensch: the Legend of Shep Gordon.” About three days into managing Luke, he informed me to observe this. It was like someone gave the me the rule ebook on how you can be a manager. Luckily, I had a number of experience prior to now that helped me understand what it takes to be a supervisor, but that taught me about good enterprise. [That movie] is unbelievable. I still watch it every 10–14 days. I spent an hour with Shep in December. He advised me that the only person who has a heartbeat is your artist. That hit house with me and I give it some thought lots. Positive, I’ve screwed up and I have made rookie errors, however I study. Luke understands this and knows I’m working onerous for him and we’re figuring it all out. Being a manager isn’t just about a tour, an album or merchandise. You need to be there for all of it. That is their life, their profession, their dream. You’re their managing companion and it’s a must to adore it simply as a lot as they do, or you gained’t really be invested, for my part.
It looks like greater than a full-time job.
It’s. When that telephone rings at 3 a.m., you reply. Once they need you at 10 a.m. and you have a day deliberate, you pivot. When they want you on the street, you go. You signed as much as be part of their life, so the standard 9-5 and Monday-Friday is completed… no extra. You’re employed on a regular basis, but you like it because it isn’t work — within the time period that most individuals use the term work — it’s a way of life and keenness. Hell, I get up each Monday excited to get into the meat of it. That is aggravating, enjoyable, scary, exhilarating, crazy and rewarding! No two days are the identical… ever.
How do you notice up-and-coming expertise and determine to work with the artist?
The songs. It truly is the songs. It doesn’t solely matter how nice you’ll be able to sing because there are plenty of TV exhibits that show how great individuals can sing. There is something particular about listening to somebody sing their stories. [They’re] singing one thing they wrote and putting all of their heart and soul into the music and present, leaving it on the stage… that makes it special. The songs are the core of it all. They’ve to hook up with the fan. No connection means no continued listening.
What is a moment on this journey that made you probably the most emotional?
Luke profitable the CMA Award for “Best New Artist” actually tore me apart. Principally as a result of I understand how exhausting he labored. When his identify was referred to as, it was just ringing in my ears the whole time. I jumped up and bear hugged Lynn and simply threw my arms up and on prime of my head. I just couldn’t consider they stated his identify. Then after he gave his speech, I ran backstage and we both simply broke down. It was unimaginable. I don’t have youngsters, but that felt just like the closest factor I can imagine to your personal youngster profitable something. Like an award for something and you realize they labored so exhausting for it … It was pure pleasure.
Two massive guys with beards, crying backstage…
Yeah, it was a multitude [laughs]. However that’s who we’re, we don’t care if individuals see our emotions, we just put all of it out there. Now, if we are speaking about it this yr, there was a present on the Ohio State campus at the Schottenstein Middle. I needed to evacuate due to the flooding on the Cumberland River, so I went on the street with the fellas. I’m in the pit in the course of the present and the complete area of 14,000 individuals have been singing again louder than the PA. That was just a nice moment, searching understanding this can be a moment not just for Luke and the boys, however for the followers. It was surreal.
In the event you might have a drink with anybody, who wouldn’t it be?
I in all probability would say both of my grandfathers. One I by no means knew as a result of he handed away once I was younger, and the other I might identical to to have a beer with as a result of I can never recall doing that. Sit them both down together, and chat with my grandfathers and take heed to them tell me tales about how they grew up and then get some good stories on my mother and father… I’m positive I might have gotten some real good ones from them.
Jordan Merrigan Images