Luke Combs’ “Even Though I’m Leaving” lyrics are heavy, to say the least. The circle-of-life ballad is a father’s note to his son until the final chorus, when the song turns. Songwriter Ray Fulcher says writing this song — Combs’ new single — was as moving as you’d expect.
“The emotion was palpable in the room,” Fulcher tells Taste of Country of a song he wrote with Combs and Wyatt Durrette. The trio penned the song more than three years ago, on Feb. 25, 2016, to be exact. That’s before Combs was on his way to becoming a legit country headliner and before any of his six No. 1 hits. “Hurricane” hadn’t even been released to country radio yet!
“We actually had it ready before they finished up the first record,” Fulcher, an artist with a catalog that includes his new single “Down on My Window” (available on streaming sites), says, “but I remember everybody going ‘This song is too big for album one. Let’s wait.’”
Neither Combs nor Fulcher are fathers, so it was up to Durrette to lead. He had an idea inspired by his son who was nearly a teenager at the time. The songwriting veteran (including “Chicken Fried” and “Toes” for Zac Brown Band) had an idea to write a letter to his son letting him know he’d always be there, and the two younger men got on board with it easily.
“It wasn’t that hard,” Fulcher explains. “Me and Luke love love songs and love country music, the lyrics of country music. And I love writing songs where I don’t pull from my own experiences, but put myself in someone else’s shoes.”
The first verse goes:
“Daddy, I’m afraid / Won’t you stay a little while / Keep me safe ‘cause there’s monsters right outside / Daddy, please don’t go / I don’t wanna be alone / ‘Cause the second that you’re gone they’re gonna know.”
The second verse about the boy going off to fight for Uncle Sam is where Fulcher finds his favorite lyric. It’s the line about “acting tough, but there’s a churning in my gut.”
“Cause I’m that guy,” Fulcher says. “If there’s a situation where someone needs to act tough in or stand up and be a man, I’m trying to be that guy.” Even though Combs is describing something specific, they all felt that every parent could relate. Kids leave — be it to war, a job out of state or to get married.
“Even Though I’m Leaving” follows a familiar script in country music. You know early on that the father is going to die by the end, and the songwriters know you know. That doesn’t take away from the power of the bridge and final chorus. It also speaks to what Combs does so well: turning familiar ideas just enough sideways to become new songs, stories and sounds. His hit songs — several of which Fulcher, his neighbor, has helped him write — are personal, but also universal.
“By the end of it, it was so emotional for us,” Fulcher remembers. “My dad is fine and in great health and so is Luke’s dad. It was so emotional that it almost felt like our story.”