By Maxim Mower
While in the midst of his expansive 2024 Burn It Down run of shows, Parker McCollum took some time out from his packed touring schedule to chat with Holler about his exciting plans for new music, his current single, ‘Burn It Down’, and more.
There's always been an alluringly enigmatic quality to Parker's music, with the Texan's slick, clean-cut image belying the depth and intricacy his songwriting consistently showcases.
When he stormed to the top of the Country Radio charts in 2020 with his brooding earworm, ’Pretty Heart’, many presumptively viewed his high-crown cap, crisp white tee and gold chain as symbols of Parker McCollum's status as a post-Bro Country artist.
Those that had been following him since before his 2021 major label debut, Gold Chain Cowboy, knew this was a major misnomer. Parker's two independently released albums, 2015's The Limestone Kid and 2017's Probably Wrong, were underpinned by a looser, alt-country flow, combined with sparse, traditionally-informed composition and a vibrant, richly layered lyrical foundation.
Parker admits, “Since I very first started, people have been talking about how I looked more than my songwriting. People see a picture of me, and they're not even gonna listen to my record, and people tell me that all the time...I get it. I don't look rough and tough. I'm not all tatted up, and I don't look like an outlaw - I get that”.
When listening to Gold Chain Cowboy and Parker's latest release, Never Enough, through the lens of his first two projects, it's clear he's retained that reverence for classic country songwriting - the only difference is, now, it's cushioned by sleeker production.
The fact that listeners would judge Parker McCollum because of stylistic choice this is symptomatic of the genre's current veneration of rustic, rough-around-the-edges sonics and aesthetics, which has sparked a modern tendency to look down upon anything that could be deemed comparatively ‘commercial’ or ‘mainstream’.
To this, Parker shrugs, emphasising that all he can do is stay true to himself, an approach that has helped him become one of the most popular figures in modern country.
His current single, ’Burn It Down’, is heating up on Country Radio and looks set to become his next No. 1; he's in the middle of a sprawling headlining tour; and his annual Spotify listenership rivals the numbers posted by some of country's biggest names. Nonetheless, Parker remains endearingly humble, brushing off suggestions of a Zach Bryan collaboration with the declaration that he's not “good enough” yet for that.
Despite his modesty, Parker McCollum's 2023 album, Never Enough, undoubtedly cemented his position in the upper echelon of the genre, with the project comprising the same lyricism, depth and wit of Probably Wrong, while still being given the trademark Nashvillian sheen that makes it an incredibly satisfying listen.
Excitingly, this fusion of weighty songwriting and polished production is something fans can look forward to hearing more of on Parker's next album, which he'll begin recording in March.
This is a blend Parker has sought since he signed his record deal, “The records I put out when I was independent were rawer and not as pretty-sounding, and I like that. But at the same time, I wanted the big clean record. That's what my heroes have, what George Strait and John Mayer have. Even so, some days, I want to give a song more of that acoustic, stripped-back feel. Other days, I want every instrument and every bit of production I can get on it. So I try to walk that line”.
Epitomising this duality is the fact that, once Parker McCollum has released his next studio album, he plans on spending an evening recording sparse, acoustic versions of each song on the project - something fans have been clamouring for him to do for years.
The ‘To Be Loved By You’ songsmith reveals, “I'm going to finish this next record, and once it's done, I think I'm gonna go sit in the studio for three nights in a row, just me and my guitar, hit record, and just play the entire album acoustically. Then, whichever night it sounds the best, I'll put that out as its own project. So you'll have the full-band version, all produced and pretty, and then you'll have the version that everybody seems to always want, with nothing done to it”.
As well as confirming his plans to release this long-promised acoustic album, Parker McCollum confirms he'll be including his fan-favourite unreleased song, ‘Hope That I'm Enough’, on the record. This is one of the many tracks Parker has teased in recent months that feels noticeably reminiscent of The Limestone Kid era.
At the end of the interview, Parker McCollum treated Holler to an acoustic performance of another beautifully poignant and introspective unreleased song, entitled ‘Big Old Fancy House’, that we hope also makes it onto the record.
Throughout the course of the conversation, Parker McCollum speaks with great self-awareness and clarity about his journey so far, and the direction he is keen to take his sound in. On this next album, it seems he'll continue to strike a balance between smooth and textured, shiny and rough, traditional and experimental, nostalgic and hopeful.
Across Parker's music, there's a constant, captivating ebb and flow between the classic, earthy ambience of his Texas roots and the glossy, gleaming modernity of Nashville, and he's able to seamlessly coalesce the two in a way few others can.
Having said this, you can't help but notice a sense of wistfulness as Parker reflects on his stellar discography so far. As he continues his unstoppable ascent towards the pinnacle of the genre, he appears to repeatedly glance back down with a curious eye to where it all started. It feels as though part of him longs to return to the simple, unfiltered approach from which he launched his career almost ten years ago.
He concludes, “I've gone as far into the clean and polished production as I want to. Now it's time to find my way back to how I first started making records. That's really what I'm looking to do on this next album. I'm cutting a new path back to the old me”.
In addition, Parker McCollum delved into the inspiration behind his current single, ‘Burn It Down’, his much-loved unreleased song, ’Got Damn’ and more:
“Honestly, that song came out of nowhere. I'm very happily married and have the greatest wife in the world. I think I was just in that broken-hearted space for so many years as I tried to write those songs. There's a little piece of me that stayed there, which means I can always go back when I'm writing and still feel those feelings.
‘Burn It Down’ was no different. I was sitting around with the Love Junkies [Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose] - some wonderful ladies that I write with - and I just started singing about burning it down. I thought that would just be the chorus - but then I was like, ‘What if we made that idea into the whole deal?’. It became, “Burn it down till its ashes and smoke, burn it down to the smouldering coals, burn it down till I don't want you know more”. I just thought that was so honest, raw and real, and that hit home on an emotion I've tried to touch on a million times. The one time I didn't sit down to intentionally write a song like that, I probably wrote the most successful one I'll ever write - it's funny how that works”.
“I think that song has lived its only life. I stole the verse melody for this new song called ‘I Don't Want To Be A Cowboy Tonight’. But I've been trying to write the idea behind ’Got Damn’ for a long time. I miss the nostalgia I feel when I experience certain smells, sounds, songs or seasons that take me back to when I was a kid. I miss it so much, I'm borderline depressed thinking about those days that are never coming back. It just breaks my heart a million times over”.
“I'm not sure I ever fully leave that headspace. Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, there's always a little part of my mind that's there. Maybe it shows its face a little more when I'm sitting down to write songs, but it's always there. I don't think it'll ever go away. It's been there since I was a little kid, before I was even writing songs. I feel like my heart will always be a little bit broken in one small corner”.
“‘Too Tight This Time’ is the only song I've ever written and released that I can listen to and that I do listen to all the time. I listen to that song like I listen to my favourite George Strait and John Mayer records. It's the only song I can really do that with”.
“There's no UK tour this year - not yet, anyway. They've asked me a couple of times and I've reached out to some of my friends that have gone over there. I've gotten mixed reviews - some people really enjoyed it, some people really didn't enjoy it.
I'm not a well-versed traveller - I went snowboarding in Switzerland about a year ago, and that's as far as I've been away from home in my entire life. The jet lag kicked my butt. I don't know, man. If I knew we had some fans over there and could sell some tickets and people cared about seeing us, then yeah, I'd go to the UK”.
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