NASHVILLE SINCE 2015.
Chris Kappy had a pretty great job when he saw a small artist named Luke Combs play a set at the 40 Watt in Athens, Georgia in 2015. He was running partner and sponsor relations for Sixthman, which does music charters on the ocean (if you’ve ever been on a music cruise, it was probably put on by Sixthman.) “I was with them for 15 years,” he says. “Essentially I sailed on a cruise ship from January to march in the wintertime in the Caribbean. I had the best job in the world.”
Then he saw Luke Combs.
“By the first song I knew he was a superstar,” he says. “By the second song I was ready to quit my job and move to Nashville.”
Though Kappy, as he’s been known since age five, had been interested in management for some time, when he saw Luke, he knew it was time to jump in. “I’d seen probably thousands of bands play … thousands of shows,” he says of his years on the Sixthman cruises. “The guy can sing, he was born to sing songs. Then he learned that he was born to write songs. When you put those things together then you know you were born to be an entertainer. So when you see him on the stage, the light just goes off. I think that’s what the coolest moment was, was when the light went off and I just knew it in my heart [that] it was right.”
Four months later, he was in Nashville, all-in on Luke’s career with his new management company, Make Wake Artists. “I didn’t just start as his manager, I was his tour manager, business manager, and manager,” he says. Kappy even hopped in the tour van with Luke and the band, running the ship and doing all of the driving.
Leaving the comfort and stability of his job to venture out with a new artist certainly posed risks. “There’s no guarantee, especially in the music industry,” he says. “But when you have someone like Luke, it’s like you’re in a race and you throw back the curtain on what you’re about to race in and you’re like, oh wow, it’s a Ferrari.”
Kappy and the rest of Luke’s team spent the next couple years grinding, working to build a fan base and connecting with fans. Two #1 songs, a gold record, and one of the fastest growing careers in country music later, it’s safe to say the pair certainly are making a wake in Nashville and beyond.
The name Make Wake, Kappy shares, first came to him after something a co-worker said in a meeting at Sixthman in 2007. It’s about making a ripple effect and having an impact. For Kappy, it’s also about making things happen but being out of the spotlight by the time their effects are felt. “I love it behind the scenes,” he says.
For Kappy, watching Luke’s rise has been its own reward. “Luke and the guys give me a lot of hell, [but] I cry, I’m a six-foot-three crier,” he laughs. “An artist wants to have a gold record, have a number one on the radio; when you can be a part of those moments, it’s extremely rewarding. I think that’s why you become a manager.”
In 2018, Kappy continues to grow Luke’s career while putting the pieces in place for the now-six artists signed to Make Wake.
“They all write their own music – that’s a requirement,” he says. “I want them to sing their songs and I want them to sing their life.”
Watch the video for Luke Combs’ first #1 song, “Hurricane”
Follow them @justkappy