Country Singer/Songwriter Parker McCollum Talks About His Hit “Pretty Heart,” His EP Hollywood Gold And Writing His Songs

Parker McCollum
Parker McCollum
(photo credit: Carlos Ruiz)

In the past six months, country singer/songwriter Parker McCollum has emerged as a talented artist to watch. His debut single, “Pretty Heart” (on Universal Nashville Records) has steadily moved up the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and has reached the Top 10. In addition, he has just released his major label debut EP, Hollywood Gold.

Originally from Conroe, Texas (near Houston) and now living in both Austin and Nashville, McCollum has been a regional favorite artist in Texas, and he previously released two independent albums: The Limestone Kid (in 2015) and Probably Wrong (2017). He was encouraged by country artist Randy Rogers (of the Randy Rogers Band) to further pursue his music career in Nashville, which led to him signing a publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music and a label deal with Universal Nashville.

His hit single, “Pretty Heart,” is an excellent, heartfelt ballad that is deserving of its chart success. McCollum wrote this song with hit songwriter & artist, Randy Montana (who co-wrote Carly Pearce & Lee Brice’s recent hit, “I Hope You’re Happy Now”). “Pretty Heart” was released in April, and it has continue to rise on the charts during this period of quarantine and the pandemic.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Parker McCollum, who tells how he wrote his hit “Pretty Heart” (with Randy Montana).


McCollum’s new EP, Hollywood Gold, contains six songs that displays his strong, expressive lead vocals and his songwriting ability. Three of the EP’s highlights are “Young Man’s Blues (also written with Montana), “Love You Like That” and “Hold Me Back.” The EP was produced by Jon Randall, a hit songwriter & producer who has recently worked with Miranda Lambert.

McCollum has been a hard-working touring artist, who previously performed 130 shows in a year. Like many other artists, he’s looking forward to touring again when things reopen.

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Parker McCollum. He tells how he co-wrote his hit “Pretty Heart,” and discusses his new EP, Hollywood Gold.

DK: I read you’re from Texas and when you were growing up, you learned to play guitar and started writing songs. Can you talk about your early years with music?

Here’s the video of Parker McCollum’s hit, “Pretty Heart.”

Parker McCollum: My early years were interesting. My older brother Tyler is six years older than me, and he’s a phenomenal songwriter and super-talented. Our granddad would listen to old school classic country, like Porter Wagoner, Buck Owens and Johnny Cash. And around that time my older brother started playing music. I would watch him play guitar, and write songs and sing.

When I was around 13, I learned to play guitar myself, and began to write songs and sing. And when my brother started getting into songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and James McMurtry, he turned me onto them and I was so influenced by them. When I was around 15, I started to write songs and kind of steal from those guys and do what those guys were doing. And man…here I am 10 years later, still doing it.

DK: I read that the title of your EP, Hollywood Gold, was named after a prized horse owned by your grandfather. Did you have a special relationship with your grandfather?

McCollum: Yes, he was a special guy…he was born in the Great Depression and died a very wealthy man. He literally became a definition of the American Dream. I think my work ethic comes from him, and the way I go about business. He was just a real cowboy, and he had a special talent with horses. He know, just by looking at them, what was worth his time and what wasn’t. And he had a beautiful, championship race horse shipped over from Australia, named Hollywood Gold. To make a long story short, the horse was stolen, and my granddad spent months, going out all night long and creepin’ around town, trying to find this horse.

After several months, they did find the horse. They brought it back, and they were able to breed some great horses that came out of him, from his lineage. And my grandmother would always tell me this story, [so I finally decided] to go there with a song. The name Hollywood Gold just sounds great.

DK: Earlier in your career, you released two albums on your own: The Limestone Kid and Probably Wrong. Can you talk about those two albums?

McCollum: I wrote The Limestone Kid during what I call my lost years, which is a phrase from John Mayer. He said that his lost years were super important in his growth as a human, and as musician & songwriter. At the time, I was living in Austin, and I knew I wanted to record an album and try to have some material to show people. So I sat down to write this album, and that was The Limestone Kid. At first I didn’t think much of it, but when I look back at it now, the record’s not that bad for a kid who was just shooting in the dark.

Here’s the video of Parker McCollum’s song, “Young Man’s Blues.”

My second album, Probably Wrong, had the song “Meet You in the Middle” and we got some regional success, so we were touring a lot. I was playing about 130 shows a year It wasn’t the healthiest of lifestyles, and it was a crazy time. And I had a girlfriend who I was in love with, but I broke up with that girl, quite literally to commit to chasing this dream and go write those sad, lonely country songs that I wanted to write for the record. Again, as I look back at it, it was like…What was I doing? But it turns out that two songs from this album became key songs for us.

DK: When did you start coming to Nashville, and how did you connect with Warner Chappell Music and sign a publishing deal with them?

McCollum: Randy Roger (of the Randy Rogers Band) had taken me under his wing and started to manage me a bit. He had been pushing me to go to Nashville, and he believed in me. Randy had a condo in Nashville at the time, and he let me stay there for free. He took time out of his life to get me meetings with publishing companies. He got me a deal with Warner Chappell, and a year later we went through the same process with record labels, and I signed a deal with Universal MCA.

DK: I like your hit song, “Pretty Heart.” What inspired you and (hit songwriter) Randy Montana to write that song?

McCollum: At that point, I hadn’t been co-writing much. When I signed with Warner Chappell, that’s when I started co-writing more. Randy Montana was one of my co-writes there…he’s a tremendous guy and we’re good buddies now.

A couple days before that co-write, I knew I wanted to go in with a good idea. So I looked back through some old recordings, and I found this melody of me singing, “What does that say about me, I could love somebody like you.” I thought that line was killer and the melody’s great…maybe he’ll dig that. So I played that for Randy, and his eyes kind of lit up. He was like, “Dude, let’s chase that.” And he was just pulling it out of me, about what I was going through and what I was feeling. But I remember when we wrote it, I left that day and I was like, “Man, we just ruined that great idea…this is not it.” Then a few months later, I ended up getting in the studio and cutting it, to try it out and see what came out of it. And I remember when I was singing it, tracking vocals, I said, “This isn’t that bad…this deserves a little attention.” And so it’s mind-blowing to see that once again, I was wrong (laughs). t’s been doing great, and it’s really bizarre to see how well it’s doing.

Here’s the audio for Parker McCollum’s song, “Love You
Like That.”

DK: We’ve all been experiencing the pandemic and shutdown the past seven months. But it’s been during this period that “Pretty Heart” has kept moving up the charts. So what’s it been like for you during quarantine, to see your single move up the charts?

McCollum: I don’t look at the charts that much. I always say, regardless of whether it goes to number one or falls off the charts, it’s not like I get to retire. I’ve still got to keep doing this. But Man, to see the work that my record label and radio team put in to get “Pretty Heart” out there, and get it some love and attention on national radio, I really don’t take it for granted. And now that it’s Top 10, it does speak a little to me. I say…Okay, it is doing really well. It’s incredibly humbling.

DK: You wrote another song with Randy Montana, called “Young Man’s Blues.” Is that your new single, or it a separate song you’ve put out to keep the music flowing?

McCollum: Yeah, “Young Man’s Blues” was just for the DSPs and for the fans, to gain some momentum and traction, and to get my EP noticed and get exposure. You know, I’m kind of living that song’s story. A lot of these songs I write I lived already, and that seems quite a bit later it’ll be extremely relevant again. And so “Young Man’s Blues” is a prime example of that, just trying to walk that line between growing up, but not getting old and bitter. And all I’ve ever known and done is being a kid. That’s all that I’ve been good at or had to do. So it’s something that’s on my mind lately, and really that song came from one very late night at my house here in Austin, kind of looking in the mirror and seeing…How are you gonna wish you had done all this when you’re an old man? Then I sat down and wrote “Young Man’s Blues,” and I finished it a couple weeks later with Randy Montana.

DK; For your EP Hollywood Gold, besides “Pretty Heart” and “Young Man’s Blues,” what are your favorite songs on the EP?

McCollum: “Love You Like That” is one that’s really cool. It kind of happened in a very raw moment. I was frustrated with the significant other in my life, and I remember sitting down, and the same thing as “Young Man’s Blues.” It was like…Can I do this? Can I have a career and balance someone else in my life and possible a family one day? It was really this raw honesty of…you know, I really want to do this, but I just don’t know if I can. And I don’t like talking (laughs) about my feelings, I don’t do it well or often for that matter. And so anytime that I can get out what I’m trying to say in a song, and I feel like it speaks the truth of what I was feeling and going through, it’s kind of a home run with me. So “I Love You Like That’ stands out in that aspect.

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima