So much or so little can happen in 36 hours. One can experience a 180-degree life change, or just be going through the routine motions of life. For country newcomer Drew Parker, it happened to be the former.
Just on the cusp of the pandemic outbreak last year, the singer clinched his first Number One song as a songwriter with Jake Owen’s “Homemade,” quit his day job as an x-ray technologist, and welcomed his very first child—all in the same 36 hours. Artists sometimes hit these life and career milestones across several years. But for Parker, it happened in less than two days.
Since then, it’s been a journey of the Georgia native seeing his dreams become a reality. As a songwriter, Parker scored a cut (“Lonely On”) on Luke Combs’ 2017 debut album, This One’s For You, and another (“1, 2 Many”) on his sophomore record What You See Is What You Get. In March of last year, Parker also clinched his first Number One with “Homemade” and, as of this week, earned his second Number One as Combs’ “Forever After All”—which he co-wrote—reached the top of the Mediabase country chart.
Last October, Parker took his artist career to new heights by releasing his EP, While You’re Gone, with the title track eventually serving as his Warner Music Nashville and country radio debut single. The pensive breakup tune was also paired with a surprising music video last month, which includes a (funny) plot twist fans might not expect. “Well, that’s country music if I ever heard it,” Parker jokes of the visual treatment.
Sounds Like Nashville spoke to the emerging singer/songwriter recently about his journey to country music, launching in the pandemic, all things “While You’re Gone,” and what else fans can expect next from him this year.
Introducing the next artist you have to “Get To Know”: Drew Parker
What was life like growing up in Stewart, Georgia?
It was awesome! Stewart is about 10 miles outside of a town called Covington. I grew up with a typical family- mom, dad and a younger brother. Pretty much, we were at a ball field and church every time the doors and gates were unlocked. That’s what we spent a lot of time doing. Music really started for me in church in my hometown.
How did you end up getting into country music?
Country music was what my Dad listened to in the truck when we were riding around, and my mom sang too. That was what always got played. Growing up in Georgia, the music scene there is huge. So there was live music there all the time. So, getting to see live music and most of it being country music, I think is probably what really drew me into wanting to sing country music.
You went to school for radiology before pursuing it full time as a radiologic technologist? Talk about a 180-degree change in career path!
I always wanted to chase this dream of playing country music. My mom always encouraged me to play country music and have this backup plan, which I’m super thankful for. When I first moved to Nashville, I got a job being an x-ray tech and taking x-rays here in a hospital in Nashville. I actually did that until March of 2020. I pretty much quit the week my first song as a songwriter (Jake Owen’s “Homemade”) went Number One. It was pretty special. That was how I paid my rent and survived here in Nashville. I was able to write songs during the day and then go to the hospital and work during the night, just to provide for myself and eventually, my family.
What has been the biggest silver lining for you over the past year?
I became a dad for the first time right when the pandemic happened. My wife and I had a baby back in March of last year. I’ll tell you what: I had my first Number One as a songwriter with “Homemade” by Jake Owen on March 22nd. On March 23rd, I’m getting ready to put my scrubs on to work my last shift at the hospital, and my wife walks in the bedroom and says, “I’m going into labor, we have to go now!” So in a matter of 36 hours, I got my first Number One, quit my job and had a baby. All in the same 36 hours. And not to mention, the world was in a pandemic and shutting down. I was supposed to be gone a lot last year playing shows, but the silver lining was [that] I got to be home and spend time with my little girl and watch her grow up over the first year of her life.
You released your While You’re Gone EP in October of 2020. Still during the pandemic and when live music hadn’t returned yet. Was there any hesitation with that?
I mean, not for me honestly. We had [the music] and we were planning on putting it out and touring around it, and then the pandemic happened, so we held onto it for a minute. But come September or August of [last] year, I was like, “Man, I have fans and they’re dying for new music. I want to give them new music and I have new music to give them. Maybe I don’t have a ton of fans, but the ones I do have, they deserve the music.” So the ultimate thing was just the fans. I think the coolest part about what we do is whether we’re on the stage or playing on the radio, for that length of time—whether it’s a three-and-a-half minutes long song, or whether it’s a 90 minute long show— somebody can forget everything else in their lives and just focus on [the music]. I was in a position to do that for people. If they go listen to the whole EP, that’s 25 minutes [of not having] to think about the pandemic. I think that’s what it was for me. We had to get the music out to the fans because they deserved it.
Was there an overall theme or idea you wanted to capture with the EP?
For me, I wanted somebody to listen to this EP and know who I am as an artist. It showcases all the different aspects of who I am as a dad, husband, son and brother. I wanted [listeners] to know that I do have a lot of energy, but I can also break it down and sing a song like “House Band,” which is at the very end of the EP. That’s the saddest song I’ve written. I wanted them to listen to the six songs and say, “I know, for the rest of time, what kind of music Drew Parker is going to put out.” That’s why those songs are what they were. I’m so proud of that project. We worked really hard. I’m super thankful that the fans fell in love with it.
As a stellar songwriter, how do you decide which songs to keep for yourself as a rising artist or to give it to superstars like Luke Combs?
In the past, when I wrote with Luke Combs, we usually knew who we were writing for. And up until [recently], for the last six years, I’ve always written songs for him. We went on a writer’s retreat with Luke a few months ago and actually ended up writing a song for me and a song for him. So that was really cool. But, I don’t know, man. I think with “Homemade” by Jake Owen, that’s a song I would’ve loved to have for myself and be able to put out. But at that time when we wrote it, that was two and a half years ago. I was far from a record deal and I think it was just a smart decision for me to let an artist with a much bigger voice like Jake Owen to record that song. I don’t know, that’s a tough question. Because, it’s pretty tough for me to let them go now.
Now, how did y’all decide on going with “While You’re Gone” as the debut single? Because that EP is filled with so many radio-friendly hits!
Thank you so much. I really appreciate you saying that. I feel like we let the fans decide and the fans showed that this is the one that was a cut above the rest and the one that everybody was singing. I’ve played these songs out on the road before the pandemic and the fans that I did have at that time would sing the words to them. I think we really let the fans decide. After we put it out, [we saw] what was streaming the best and all that stuff. It also got picked up by SiriusXM’s The Highway late last year and went to Number One on their countdown, so that was really cool. It’s just been a lot of different things, but this song has always been special to me. It’s always been probably my favorite to sing on the EP because it takes a lot of energy and a lot of power to sing, and I love having to stretch a little bit to sing.
Just to set the record straight, what exactly does the lyric “BP PBR” in “While You’re Gone” mean?
PBR is Pabst Blue Ribbon. It’s a cheap beer. A BP stands for British Petroleum, which is a gas station. So, if you’ve ever seen a BP gas station, it has a green and yellow flower-like [logo]. They were all over Georgia when I was growing up. I didn’t know this, but apparently they were not everywhere in the United States. But I’ll tell you what, that’s been the most-asked question of my entire career and I have no problem with that, at all! (laughs)
The music video for “While You’re Gone” has this hilarious storyline and plot twist! Talk about the visual’s concept.
“While You’re Gone,” has always been a song, to me, that had different elements. I grew up on 90’s country music, so I feel like the songs they wrote back then, there were different parts of them. It could be sad, but it could be funny at the same time. “While You’re Gone” has always been that song to me. It’s a sad song. This guy is really missing somebody that he really cares about. But at the same time, it’s funny that he is going to sit there and drink beer thinking to himself that she’s just going to come back. So he’s just kind of chilled back and relaxed, drinking a beer and waiting on her to get back when, really, she’s not coming back. I think most people hear “While You’re Gone” as a sad song of this guy missing this girl, but I wanted to visually bring out the funny element in it. When the idea of this guy really being in love with the dog was brought to me, I said, “Well, that’s country music if I ever heard it, so that’s exactly what we’re going to do!” I loved how it turned out and can’t wait for everybody to see it.
What else can fans expect from you for the rest of the year?
Just more shows! We’re playing a lot of shows right now. I’m super excited to be back on the road to see the fans that I’ve had for a while and to meet the news fans that have discovered my music over the last nine months. I’m really looking forward to that. I’m also still writing songs, and hope to go back into the studio later this year. Who knows? We might sneak a song out to the public later this year. We’ll have to see.
What is one thing you want fans to know about Drew Parker both as a person and an artist?
I love my family with my entire heart, my fans are family, and I’m just a normal guy. I grew up in a small town just like a lot of people that listen to my music. I’m no different from anybody. I love meeting my fans, and all I’ve ever wanted to do is sing country music. I’m super thankful for the fans that I have who allow me to sing country music as my job.