Matt Combs

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Matt Combs
  Matt Combs.png
Background information
  • studio musician
  • Record producer
  • Composer
  • Arranger
  • Author
  • Fiddler
  • Multi-Instrument
Years active1997–present
Associated acts
  • Reba McEntire
  • John Hartford
  • Jerry Douglas
  • Patty Loveless
  • Marty Stuart
  • Alison Brown
  • Ray Price

Matt Combs is a studio musician (fiddler/multi-instrumentalist), record producer, composer, arranger, and author in Nashville. Since 1997, Combs has worked in studios throughout Music City with producers Dan Auerbach, T Bone Burnett, Dave “Fergie” Ferguson, John Carter Cash, Matt Sweeney, Don Was, Buddy Miller, Alison Brown, and others, and has performed live on stage and television with artists including Reba McEntire, John Hartford, Jerry Douglas, Patty Loveless, Marty Stuart, Alison Brown, Ray Price, and the house band of the Grand Ole Opry.

Early Life

Growing up in Wichita, Kansas, his musical life began after seeing a performance by violinist Itzhak Perlman. He studied the Suzuki method of violin playing and also began playing old- time jazz and pop tunes with his father and brothers in the Combs Family Band. This two-pronged approach to the instrument continued throughout his youth, as he continued classical study while also playing improvised music in bands throughout Wichita. He was accepted into the School of Music at the University of Michigan to study with world-renowned pedagogue Paul Kantor to embark on a degree in classical violin performance. Matt spent the summer prior to his freshman year at the Aspen Music Festival, and it was there that he met a group of musicians who would have a profound impact on the course of his musical pursuits and passions. The group were full-time buskers who had travelled from Key West to Aspen in a 35-foot RV. Matt joined them on the streets of Aspen and they introduced him to an array of music that broadened his approach to the violin.[1] He completed a degree in classical performance at the University of Michigan, but during his time there his love for fiddle music became a driver for his post-college plans.[2]


After winning the 1996 Rockygrass Fiddle Championship in Lyons, CO, Combs graduated from college, rented a U-Haul and literally drove straight to Nashville’s famous bluegrass club The Station Inn.[3] There he met and became part of a network of fiddlers that included some of the genre’s biggest names. Matt soon met the legendary John Hartford who became one of his closest friends and colleagues. He began playing mandolin occasionally in the John Hartford String Band, and when Hartford lost the use of his hands due to cancer treatment, Matt joined the band full-time playing fiddle.[4] Matt participated in the reunited John Hartford Band's Grammy-nominated “Memories of John” record that commemorated Hartford and his music on the 10th anniversary of his death.[5] Along with tunes, the book also features Hartford's reflections on the fiddle, his creative process, and interviews with musicians who worked with Hartford.[6] Matt has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry house band, Mike Snider’s String Band and the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble, and has performed with Reba McEntire, Jerry Douglas, Patty Loveless, Marty Stuart, Alison Brown, and Ray Price. He also helped produce “Pa's Fiddle”, a recording of the music said to have been played by Pa Ingalls from the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Combs works regularly with rocker Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys as a member of his Easy Eye Studio house band, and arranged and recorded strings for “Social Cues”, the 2019 Cage the Elephant release on RCA Records.[7] Combs appeared in three seasons of ABC Studios’s hit show “Nashville (TV series)”, both on-screen as a musician in the band of Hayden Panettiere’s “Juliette Barnes,” and behind-the-scenes on the show's soundtrack, produced by Buddy Miller.[8] His original music has been heard in Kevin Costner’s “Hatfields and McCoys” miniseries, and he recorded fiddle parts for the 2016 remake of “Roots.”[9] His collaboration with the legendary David “Fergie” Ferguson and Matt Sweeney appeared in “Red Dead Redemption 2”, the mega-hit video game from Rockstar Games.[10]


Combs is also a composer of new classical music. “Appalachian Rhapsody” was written in 2015, and is an orchestral work featuring the fiddle and piano. Co-written with Nate Strasser, Appalachian Rhapsody has been performed by the Wheeling Symphony and The Nashville Concerto Orchestra.[11] This piece is a cinematic look at the history of the fiddle in the United States though the original music presented by Combs and Strasser.[12]


As an educator, Combs directs the fiddle program at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music and lectures regularly on the history of country music and Music City including multiple lectures as keynote speaker for the Fulbright Scholars in Nashville.[13] In addition to his work at the Blair School of Music, Combs partners with Nashville Symphony and the Country Music Hall of Fame to develop an outreach program called “Is it a Fiddle or Violin?”[14]


  1. "Matt Combs Interview", "Melbay"
  2. Jeremy D. Bonfiglio, "Matt Combs follows call of late mentor", "The Herald Palladium", July 8 2018
  3. "Past Lineups", "Planet Bluegrass"
  4. Craig Havighurst "John Hartford's 'Mammoth' Influence And Passion For Fiddle Captured In New Anthology" "WMOT Roots Radio" June 4 2018
  5. "Review: Memories of John", "Bluegrass Unlimited"
  6. Lawless, J., "John Hartford's Mammoth Collection of Fiddle Tunes", "Bluegrass Today", May 14 2018
  7. Hal Horowitz, "Cage the Elephant: Social Cues", "American Songwriter", April 16 2019
  8. "Fiddle Demonstration: Matt Combs", "Do 615"
  9. [ " Matt Combs with Scott Simontacchi at Johnny's Speakeasy"], "Brown Paper Tickets"
  10. Dom Nero, "How Red Dead Redemption 2 Found Its Sound—and That One Perfect D'Angelo Song", "Esquire", July 12 2019
  11. "Appalachian Rhapsody"
  12. "Combs/Strasser Appalachian Rhapsody", "Mozart In Nashville", April 19 2018
  13. "Matt Combs"
  14. [ "Is It A Fiddle Or A Violin", "Nashville Symphony"

External Links

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