Parker McCollum Is on One Heck of a Winning Streak, So What’s With the Self-Doubt?
Parker McCollum is having a small crisis of confidence. An outsider may find that hard to believe, but anyone close to him likely recognizes the pattern. He's gone through it before, he says, and overcame his own self-doubts. That's putting it mildly.
The tall, blond kid from Conroe, Texas, just notched a second straight No. 1 hit with "To Be Loved by You," and he did it one week after winning the ACM Award for New Male Artist of the Year. Short of the kind of viral hit that ignites — and usually burns through — a career like a Fourth of July firecracker, he couldn't be doing any better.
Even personally, he's got it figured out — he'll marry Hallie Ray Light later this month — but still ...
"I'm trying to write this new record and been writing a ton on the road by myself and then co-writing a little bit while I'm off the road, at home," he says. "Man, it seems like every melody, every line I come up with I just think is garbage and I walk away from it."
You know what they say about one man's garbage, however.
What sets McCollum apart from other country newcomers is his level of experience, pre-Nashville. Last month, he sold out the Houston Rodeo because fans in Texas have seen him work the road for years before giving corporate country a try.
A comparison could be made to Cody Johnson — a Texas artist who is in a similar place as McCollum, and someone he considers a friend who will pick up the phone when he calls. Texans like to stick together. Miranda Lambert is another artist he can reach out to if needed.
"It's actually kind of funny," McCollum recalls of a recent conversation the two had. "I've been wanting to get another bus. I've been wanting to go three buses and have my own ... Last time I talked about with her, she's like, 'Save your money as long as you can.'"
Prior to his win at the ACM Awards, McCollum, 29, talked to Evan Paul of Taste of Country Nights at length about his music, his family, his heroes and his insecurities. Country fans are starting figure out that Parker McCollum is among the most candid artists you'll ever meet. Post-ACMs, he shared that he didn't want to sing "Pretty Heart," but was told he had to by those in charge. Addressing disagreements is taboo in a format that finds artists afraid to publicly support a political candidate.
He's also admitted to drug use as a method to write songs. Talking to Sounds Like Nashville, he admitted that he thought that a fix was as necessary as a guitar. Speaking to ToC, he detailed when and why he quit — a dalliance had become a hinderance.
"The best song on (Gold Chain Cowboy), I wrote it when I was dead sober at like 10 o'clock in the morning sitting on my couch," he says. "And you just feel better about your day-to-day life when you're making the right decisions. You're way more proud of yourself."
There was no program or intervention — in fact, nobody really knew about his decision and few knew he was struggling. "I just kind of got my s--t together on my own and looked in the mirror and said, 'Man, you're a grown man I think it's time you started acting like it.'"
The switch flipped somewhere in the middle of creating Gold Chain Cowboy, his critically-acclaimed album from last July. You can see joy on his face. There's a certain ease as he shifts between topics like being "Uncle Parker" and why he really likes hunting with fiancee Hallie Ray Light. "
She wears a lot of smell-good stuff, so as far as sitting in a deer stand, she's not the best companion," he'll say, smiling. "I'm over there bathing in scent-killer ... and she's over there smelling like Victoria's Secret."
Old promotional pictures found him usually brooding. Now, it's not unusual to find him hatless and smiling. He's even willing to show his wife-to-be off a little bit.
Creators will recognize the insecurities that bubble up when you take away a vice, so to say McCollum's buoyant visage betrays his confession isn't quite fair. The music will tell the story. While it's not clear if his next single will come from Gold Chain Cowboy or a new album, it is clear he has surrounded himself with good people to support and even lift him past these mental obstacles. His parents, his soon-to-be wife, his record label and professional team are all-in. Then there's fellow artists like Johnson, Lambert and perhaps the greatest of them all: On two occasions, McCollum has sat down with George Strait, or "Mr. George" as he calls him.
"He had heard a little bit about me or the label (both artists are on MCA) had told him some stuff, and so he was kind of congratulatory on that," McCollum shares. "If there's anybody that knows the game and knows how it goes, it's him. Both times I've met him he's kind of said, 'I heard you're killing it man, just keep it going, keep your head down and hang on.'"
"That's enough for me," he adds as an exclamation point. That story might be a good one to come back to should McCollum start feeling the creep of self-doubt again.
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