Good things come to those who wait, but luck favors the bold. And for Jeremy McComb, the balance comes natural.
A country-rock storyteller epitomizing “been there and done that,” McComb has explored nearly every facet of the entertainment industry, all on his own terms. From radio programming to tour managing Larry the Cable Guy, releasing four albums, growing an international fanbase and hitting the Billboard charts, he’s written songs for projects selling over 6 Million copies … including a Grammy-nominated soundtrack (Blue Collar Comedy Tour – One for the Road).
Newly signed with Average Joes Entertainment, McComb is back with an all-new album and the beginning of a new creative chapter – the bold steps following years of DIY diligence.
“I look around, and I always dreamed of living the life that I’m living right now,” McComb says. “Everybody talks about the 10,000 hours of mastering a craft, and I’m closer to 40,000. But over the last few years everything I’ve learned has started connecting. We got the coals of the fire going, and now we’re pouring a big ol’ can of gasoline on it.”
Proudly independent in both spirit and style, McComb was born in Idaho as a sixth-generation musician. Music is in his DNA, and there’s never been anything else he wanted to do – but he’s a distinct branch on the family tree. Obsessed with artists who share a gift for storytelling (and little else), he found inspiration in everything from Jim Croce to Tom Petty, and now bridges the canyons between country, rock and folk.
These days McComb spends over 200 days a year on tour, just as happy in a honky tonk as an amphitheater and backed by a band of spirit-brothers. Wrapping each song in context and electrifying frontier-rock energy, his nightly connection with fans develops faster than a Polaroid, and he calls life on the road his first love. But with his adventurous new album, he brings the show to fans.
Born largely from a tour of Sweden and a fateful writing session in the home of literary icon Leo Tolstoy (author of War and Peace), the project happened by “accident” … and is now reenergizing McComb’s career.
“It was one of those things where I finally got right in my head,” he explains. “I quit drinking a few years back, got healthy and added a lot of life philosophy to what I do. It’s just living better than I’ve ever lived, feeling better than I’ve ever felt, and doing all those things put me in such a good place it opened up a whole creative realm for me. We ended up in Leo Tolstoy’s house overlooking the Baltic Sea outside Stockholm, writing on a granite rock for five days, and that’s where the record came from.”
Sensing something special, McComb returned home to Nashville and immediately hit the studio, capturing the results with producer Nick Gibbens. A close group of friends and the same healthy vibe that inspired the project joined them, and it ended up being more invigorating than anything before.
“It’s kind of a genre-less approach, but I think the main vein is storytelling,” he says. “My whole career has been built on jumping through windows as they open, so we just started jumping through windows and seeing where it took us.”
First single, “Cotton’s Getting High,” sets the tone. A barn-burning twang rocker built for the anything-goes festival crowd, it was written by Luke Laird, Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally, lighting the fuse on McComb’s next chapter with the wry hook “More than just the cotton’s gettin’ high.”
“Sometimes you just get the feel that in a live setting, this song would smoke. And it kills, we’re having so much fun with it,” he says.
Likewise, “Last Man Standing” sways with cinematic resilience – the musical equivalent of a Tarantino flick (with a planned sequel promising all-star cast members) – and the swampy grunge of “Withdrawals” is the song that started it all. Co-written with Dan Olsen and Linnea Lundgren on Tolstoy’s rock, it now features an intoxicating vocal from Nashville favorite Jonell Mosser, all about the can’t-get-enough-addiction of lust.
But McComb’s storytelling obsession is best heard elsewhere – and perhaps better than ever before. The nostalgic “Under Glass,” for instance, packs a lifetime of memory into just over three minutes, inspired by an old basketball team photo of his friend and co-writer, Rick Huckaby. After hearing what each player went on to do with his life, McComb was overcome.
“I was like ‘Isn’t it amazing that the only place where all of you live together anymore is right here under this glass?’” he says of the epiphany. “That moment is still alive in that picture. Everybody’s still fine and happy. But the only place that’s true is under glass.”
Meanwhile, “13 Steps” tells a darker tale. A death-row ballad in the vein of bleak classics like Johnny Cash’s “25 Minutes to Go,” it’s written from the perspective of an inmate after McComb got a rare tour of Folsom State Prison. Combining the actual process used to execute 93 inmates and the story of one still-incarcerated man on the inside, it’s a chilling saga co-written once again with Olsen.
“There’s 13 cells, and as people got hung, you would move up to the next cell,” McComb explains. “Then another cell, until you got to the end and it was your turn. They take you up 13 steps to a platform, and hang you with a noose that had 13 knots on it, so [my friend] asked me, ‘Do you know why everything in here is 13?’ I had no idea, but he said ‘It’s 12 for the jury and one for the judge. So every one of these steps symbolizes a person who sent you to die.’ It blew my mind.”
Taken together, that song and the rest of his new work mark another step for McComb as well, sourced from the travels of a modern-day wanderer and outlaw poet. But even after 40,000 hours, it still feels like a step into the unknown – and that’s something that never gets old.
“The feeling of forward momentum? Every night getting on the bus and leaving, waking up and not knowing where I’m at? I can never get enough of it,” he says. “There’s something therapeutic in that for me, and my hope would be this project encourages people to come back out and keep seeing shows – especially after everything that’s trying to disconnect us from each other. We need that connection.”