How Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs' 'Fast Car' Performance Came Together

The pair met in person just five days before their Grammys performance, according to a new 'Rolling Stone' feature

<p>John Shearer/Getty </p> Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs perform onstage during the Grammys in Los Angeles on Feb. 4, 2024

John Shearer/Getty

Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs perform onstage during the Grammys in Los Angeles on Feb. 4, 2024

Securing Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs' performance at the Grammy Awards on Sunday was "a long process," Grammys executive producer Raj Kapoor told Rolling Stone.

In a new feature detailing how the pair's full-circle "Fast Car" team-up came to be, multiple key players opened up to the outlet about how they connected to make one of the night's biggest moments come together.

As the outlet notes, Kapoor and Grammys executive producer Patrick Menton first came up with the idea of a "Fast Car" duet in May 2023 and went through Combs’ publicist Carla Sacks of Sacks & Co. to get in touch with SVP at Nonesuch Records (and friend of Chapman) Matthew Rankin.

“We knew we were working towards something rare and special,” Rankin said, “but the performance was everything we hoped it would be and more, and the subsequent response has been incredible, exceeding our expectations in so many ways.”

Related: Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ Hits No. 1 on iTunes After Duet with Luke Combs at 2024 Grammys

As for piecing it together, Sacks called it "pure magic" that she knew how to reach Chapman, 59, who lives largely under the radar in San Francisco. “I knew the doorbell to ring. And quite frankly, I think that made it very helpful to not be reaching out as a stranger and to be able to open the line of communication.”

When reaching Chapman last year with the performance pitch, Grammy producers asked Rankin to "let her think about this creatively and what it could be. And when you’re ready, come back to us," Menton recalled saying. Kapoor added to Rolling Stone that getting an eventual nod of approval from Chapman in January "felt like a long yes."

“It never felt like a no or a maybe," he added. "They said, ‘We agree; let’s take our time and walk through this. And let’s make sure this is what we all want it to be.’ ”

As Rolling Stone reports, Rankin said speaking with Chapman about the performance helped them realize it was "a moment of confluence, coming 35 years to the month since Tracy first performed ‘Fast Car’ at the Grammys, and following a year of such success for Luke with her song."

Combs’ longtime manager, Chris Kappy, told the outlet that the 33-year-old country star — whose cover of "Fast Car" topped the country charts and reached a peak of No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 2023 — insisted Chapman had full creative control of the performance and wanted her to have "every opportunity to shine."

It was ultimately Chapman's idea to collaborate with several longtime friends for the song, including original "Fast Car" recording musicians, drummer Denny Fongheiser and bassist Larry Klein. They were also joined by band members Larry Campbell on fiddle and guitarist Joe Gore, Rankin told Rolling Stone. Combs' bandmate Kurt Ozan was brought on to play pedal steel.

“The one thing that was really mentioned was that there was enough time to rehearse, for both artists to come together and have enough time to explore, to play through it,” Kapoor told the outlet. “There’s a lot of different things on our show ­— sets, production, visuals — but ultimately, this performance was about the music and the song.”

Related: Luke Combs, Justin Bieber and Other Musicians Who Have Covered Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car'

<p>Kevin Mazur/Getty</p> Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs perform onstage during the Grammys in Los Angeles on Feb. 4, 2024

Kevin Mazur/Getty

Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs perform onstage during the Grammys in Los Angeles on Feb. 4, 2024

The two musicians finally met for the first time in person at SIR studio in Los Angeles on Jan. 31, three months after they initially touched base on the phone.

Rankin called it "a significant and emotional moment," given that it was their first time meeting and Chapman's first time seeing some of her bandmates in years. As the outlet noted, her last live performance performance for television was during a 2015 episode of The Late Show With David Letterman.

The band rehearsed for two hours on Wednesday and four on Thursday, with Kappy noting that the pair "just kept running through it and running through it."

“All of this was done to honor the amazing woman, songwriter and artist that she is,” Kappy said, adding that Combs was happy to take on the original folk version of the song and sing in a lower key. “The entire opportunity for us to even be on a stage with Tracy Chapman is what this was all about.”

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Rankin told Rolling Stone that "the roar from the audience as Tracy and Luke were revealed onstage proved how powerful this moment was, as did the tears in the eyes of countless people around us."

Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Nashville Randy Goodman added that the team-up "was breathtaking and radiated pure happiness from both artists," calling it "a full-circle moment for Luke and the perfect culmination to an amazing story."

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