Tulsa’s Mat Maxwell’s Rise To Fame As Luke Combs’ Bass Player
Mat Maxwell, bass player for Luke Combs, is a fan of Beavers Bend State Park and Broken Bow Lake. He’s played the area several times and stayed at Mountain Vista Cabin. Mat was featured in my book with Bob Burke, “Explosion of Prosperity, A History of Broken Bow Lake, Beavers Bend State Park and Hochatown.”
The Tulsa resident has toured with Corey Kent, The Swon Brothers, Lauren Alaina and others. He joined Luke Combs in 2021 and shared the journey that led him from Tishomingo, OK to sold-out arenas around the world.
The Early Days
“I came to music late compared to most. I started around 17 in my buddy’s garage band in Tishomingo. No idea what I was doing and musically very ignorant. I graduated high school and then went to junior college, studying commercial music and audio technology. Music theory, ear training and other music-related courses helped a lot. I worked pretty hard during that phase of my life, trying to make up for lost time. From there, moved to Tulsa and played in many different bands. Casinos, dance bands, weddings, churches, jazz gigs and local theatre. I also took private lessons on bass and piano. Piano helped immensely and I’d recommend it to everyone. I kept gigging and doing just about everything imaginable, saying yes and learning new skills and genres along the way. Larger artists continued to hire me over the years, and I eventually landed the gig I have now. I’m 35 and have been playing professionally for about 14 years.”
Landing The Gig with Luke Combs-Life On The Road
“I didn’t have a history with Luke prior to about eight months ago. I met his bandleader about 14 years ago and was in his band then. He remembered me, believed in me, and recommended me. I went in, did my best, and the rest is history. Always do your best and leave a good impression on people. You never know when it’ll pay off. The travel is fun. New people, places, food, planes, buses, hotel rooms and Uber. Keeps you on your toes. I usually try to get some practicing in before the show and stretch. If I can, I’ll go for a run earlier in the day. We visited Fenway while in Boston and getting to do fun things like that is great while on tour. You don’t always get a chance to take in the cities, but it’s nice when you can.
Some days are busier than others. A lot of the time you don’t get a chance to fully enjoy where you are. The main reason you’re there is to work and that has to come first. It’s incredible. Absolutely incredible. The boss, band, and crew are all awesome and hilarious, so that makes touring really enjoyable. Super talented and professional folks bringing a great show. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s different than what a much younger me would’ve expected, but I’ve been doing it long enough that I knew some of the “ropes” of touring beforehand. It’s definitely a fun job, but a job nonetheless and it does take you away from home and family. Wouldn’t trade it for nothin’ but everything in life has trade-offs. I’m very, very thankful.”
Advice for Aspiring Musicians
“Contacts are essential. Strong ones. Ones where the person not only knows you but believes in you. It takes time and you don’t always make a lot of money. Especially in the beginning. Stay humble, be kind, show up on time, say yes, do what you say you’ll do, and always hit home runs (musically speaking). They’ll remember you. It’s typically a marathon, not a sprint, from what I’ve seen and personally experienced.”
Onstage Past and Present
“Early on in my career we were paid to quit playing because a high school reunion came in the bar and wanted to hear Bon Jovi all night. We were an original Americana band! Once…the drummer in our cover band fell asleep during a slow song. He had drank too much and leaned on his snare. People sometimes throw hats or their phones on stage at Luke’s shows. I’ll put the hat on and throw it back a few songs later. That’s fun. During the show I can’t do anything besides hand a phone back between songs.”
Maxwell Loves Beavers Bend State Park/Broken Bow Lake
“Any musician that has done a fair bit of touring can tell you fun and interesting stories about places they’ve been. Some of those are more memorable than others, and Broken Bow is one of those for me. It’s obviously a place known for aestheticism, but the local artisans and overall art and music culture is part of what makes it so special. It was my dad’s favorite place on earth, and it definitely makes that same list for me.”