Parker McCollum Forges His Own Path with ‘Gold Chain Cowboy’

“The only thing I could hope for is just that they’ll believe it."

Parker McCollum Forges His Own Path with ‘Gold Chain Cowboy’
Parker McCollum; Photo credit: Tyler Conrad

Parker McCollum is taking the Country Music world by storm and he’s forging his own path while doing it. With a trademark sound and creative direction that is entirely his own, McCollum is releasing his first, major label Country album titled Gold Chain Cowboy.

The album’s title is a perfect depiction of the Texas native: Country to the core with an edge and honesty that is 100% unique. With raw, gritty, truth-filled lyrics, he’s not afraid to be different and turn some heads while doing it.

Parker McCollum; Cover art courtesy of MCA Nashville

“It kind of just represents where I am right now as an artist and trying to figure out which direction I want to go,” McCollum tells Sounds Like Nashville about the album title. “I really just want to do this for a long time and be on the top level for a long time at some point. I love country music, but I love all kinds of music and I’ve had a lot of different influences in my life and so when I kind of think about myself as a songwriter and think about the title Gold Chain Cowboy it just kind of fit really well… I think it’ll hopefully kind of rub some people the wrong way and make them kind of go ‘Who the hell is this guy?’ but then they’ll listen to the music and be like ‘Oh okay, I’ll let him get away with it.’”

Gold Chain Cowboy follows the success of his Hollywood Gold EP. The wildly successful EP not only introduced McCollum to the Country audience as a major label artist, but it allowed him to make a grand entrance even in the midst of a pandemic as it became the top-selling debut Country EP of 2020.

“I mean it was a great feeling to watch that thing [Hollywood Gold] be successful,” shares McCollum. “It was super strange putting out. It was the first time we’ve put out music and not been able to tour and feel how well the music was doing every night. So to know that it was the best-selling [debut Country] EP [of 2020] was certainly a nice little lift in spirit during such a crazy time and kind of gave you a little reassurance…‘cause usually you can go out and you can feel every night whether that music’s connecting or not and so not being able to do that, having that success and kind of that little mark to know that it’s doing well was great…”

When making this album, staying true to himself and his sound was a top priority. Both lyrically and sonically, this collection of songs stem from McCollum’s creative direction and intuition. “I just really wanted to have the ability to stand out,” explains McCollum. “There’s so much that doesn’t stand out nowadays and I really just wanted to avoid falling in the mix.”

The decision to enlist the legendary Jon Randall to produce this album was a move that McCollum didn’t take lightly as he felt that Randall would play an integral role in helping bring his vision to life.

“I really wanted to kind of remain me as much as I could on the major label side of things. When I was thinking about who in the world could kind of help me lead that charge and kind of develop my own sound and make sure it stayed about the songs and stayed really about putting out Country Music, [it was] Jon Randall. It was kind of a no brainer,” shares McCollum. “I was like this guy gets it, he 100% has what it takes to do what I’m trying to do and he kind of, since the beginning was like ‘You have to do what you do. You can’t come here and sign a record deal and start putting out beer songs, it’s not what you do’… There’s nobody else in the world I’d rather have producing me.”

In addition to his No. 1 hit “Pretty Heart” and current single “To Be Loved By You,” the album is comprised of songs that cut so deeply, listeners can feel McCollum’s emotions of pain, loss, longing, and love.  

While different verses and choruses to songs like “Wait Outside and “Heart Like Mine” had been around for four or five years waiting to be finished, the song “Falling Apart” was written the day before it was recorded for the album.

Written with Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall, and Randy Rogers, “Falling Apart” culminates with a guitar solo that is a bit out of left field for a Country album, but finds its place perfectly in this song. After writing the song, Randall and McCollum were listening to 38 Special when Parker asked “Why does nobody cut records like this?…There’s no sounds like this anymore?” So Randall encouraged McCollum to take a different direction with the freshly penned song. “He was like ‘Well let’s do it! Let’s take “Falling Apart” and do an ‘80s anthem track vibe,’” shares McCollum. “It’s so different from anything else I’ve ever done, which I was really looking for a couple spots on the record that were different and would maybe make people go ‘What in the world is he doing?’ and so that was just the perfect opportunity for it.”

While most artists are writing Country songs about states like Texas and Tennessee, McCollum catches listeners’ attention with a track titled “Why Indiana.” After a show three years ago in South Carolina the line, “Why Indiana? I can’t believe you took forever and forgot about me” came to him but he didn’t know what it meant yet. That line—which didn’t end up making the final cut—was brought up in a writing session with co-writer Randy Montana and Erik Dylan, who suggested the pair finish the song, telling the fictional story of a couple calling it quits in the most unlikely of places. “So, we really just kind of wrote the story as the song kind of unfolded,” remembers McCollum. “He was like ‘Literally just like close your eyes and tell me what you see.’ And I was like ‘Standing in the rain…touring musician all over the place and of all places why did you have to do this in Indiana?’ It was just really organic, and it was just kind of a whirlwind of a song. I have no idea how that song came about. Sometimes it just feels good.”

McCollum pays homage to his Texas roots with the track “Dallas,” which features fellow Texan Danielle Bradbery. The two collaborated earlier in McCollum’s career when she asked him to sing with her on a cover of “Shallow” from A Star Is Born, so he was excited to incorporate her into this song and return the favor.

“She had asked me to do the ‘Shallow’ cover a couple years ago when I really first got to town. She really was a fan and I think she thought I had something to offer to the world of Country Music and to be on that song and was really good to me,” he explains. “It was actually Jon Randall’s idea trying to find someone to sing some cool harmonies on it and he was like ‘Why don’t we get Danielle to do it?’…and I kind of owed her one with doing the ‘Shallow’ song with me and helping kind of push the needle a little bit on my side of things. I just kind of wanted to throw a little bit back her way and get her on here.”

While the record is filled with lyrics that make listeners feel a range of emotions, the standout song on the album is “Rest Of My Life,” an autobiographical song McCollum wrote entirely on his own.

The song came to him at the beginning of the pandemic and he immediately shared it on Instagram with fans the day after it was written. After receiving an outpouring of positive response and requests for the song to be released, he knew the song was going to be an important one in his career. “I really was like ‘Man, that may be the best song I’ve ever written’ and I just loved it and I knew it had to be on the record. So there kind of was no backup whenever we were picking songs for the record… Of all the songs that would go on the album, I knew that one had to be cut and go on there,” he remembers. “At the beginning of COVID I was not living right, I was doing a bunch of things I shouldn’t have been doing and trying to write songs and it wasn’t working and I woke up one morning dead sober and wrote that song in about fifteen minutes… It may be the best song I’ve ever written, which isn’t saying much, but it may be the best one.”

McCollum values the history of the genre and hopes to make a lasting name for himself in Country Music.

“The only impact I could ever hope to have [on the genre] is that maybe some kids someday look at me the way I looked at the guys I looked up to and want to keep it all about the songs and write songs that come from a real place,” he says. “If I can inspire one or two kids to do that one day, then that’d be all the impact I could ever ask for.”

McCollum has played to sold-out crowds around the country and has built an impressive following of dedicated fans that has only continued to grow with the success of his Platinum-selling No. 1 hit “Pretty Heart.”

“It is as good as it has ever been,” he says of being back on the road and playing to a live audience again. “It’s amazing. I mean after having a No. 1 the crowds are just massive, comparatively speaking. We were doing really well before, but we’re doing really, really well now. But you can just tell, I mean they’re just as ready to be at the show as we are, so it is as good as it’s ever been.”

He’s been on the road all summer with no plans of slowing down any time soon. McCollum will be joining Dierks Bentley’s 2021 Beers On Me Tour as an opener with Riley Green in August. He’s ecstatic for the opportunity to open for Bentley and he doesn’t take the role lightly. After he’s done with his set each night, he’s looking forward to the opportunity to learn from one of the best in the business.

“To just be on a major tour like that and to be able to go sit and watch Dierks every night and see how he operates on that level and how he goes about his business and what that level looks like is something I’ll be doing all twenty-something nights that we’re on the road with him,” says McCollum. “It’s really just about kind of being on the road and you go out and you play your set, but it’s really about being out there and learning and something what you can take away from each show.”

What’s McCollum hoping that listeners take away from this album and his music?

“The only thing I could hope for is just that they’ll believe it. I just really hope whenever they listen to it, they believe it and if that’s all I get then I can live with that.”