Honesty in music is as important to Parker McCollum as breathing. He rejects the music of mainstream, not for its fabricated artists or over-produced sound but, for its lack of creativity and genuine stories of truth and passion. As a musician and performer, he looks up to the art of pioneers such as Ryan Bingham, Ryan Adams and Townes Van Zant, artists who have lived their songs and have the battle scars to prove it. A mix of Americana, Texas Country and Indie Rock is the genesis of McCollum’s music career and he channels his creativity into delivering a genuine sound all his own. Kicking things off with his first single, “Highway” is a driving introduction to this spirited artist who aims to inspire and entertain in a way only one who declares he has no story of his own to tell can, by making one up with words and music.
A song about living on the road, “Highway” was inspired when McCollum went on a tour for the first time with Six Market Blvd. Being on the road and playing shows was something he had dreamed of since he was a kid; when he finally got out there and saw what it was all about, he jotted it all down for easy reference.
“When I got home, I just wrote all about it,” he said. “I sat in my room for about an hour and that’s what came of it. It’s all true: the Louisiana woman, my momma and my baby being so far away that I didn’t even bother trying to go home. I was just out there, on my own, living and playing, at last, on the highway.”
Before the highway beckoned, McCollum lived the life of a college kid in Austin. He was raised in Houston during the heyday of country music listening to greats like Willie Nelson, George Strait and Johnny Cash while his family introduced him to Texas artists like Cross Canadian Ragweed, Pat Green and Cory Morrow. Working with his grandfather on a ranch, he was exposed to legendary songwriters like Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, and even Porter Wagoner and Buck Owens. Music was a staple and his own experiences began when he learned the violin and played in the orchestra during his years in elementary school. He picked up the guitar at 13 and began playing open mic nights at Puffabelly’s Old Depot in Spring and even scored a few other shows “here and there” finally managing to get a gig in Giddings when he was a sophomore.
“I got to drive there by myself and everything,” he recalls. “I was 16 yet looked like I was about 10 or 11. But, I played, and I think I turned a couple of heads. It was just enough to want to do it again. From then on I’ve just been picking and writing and singing, hoping someday it would take me somewhere that school never could; otherwise known as a dream.
With a penchant for writing poetic lyrics, McCollum follows the masters: Hayes Carll, Todd Snider, Ryan Bingham and other talented songwriters who saw major success. As he grew older and began to grow with music, it was guys like Adam Carrol, Joe Ely, and Chris Knight that he was drawn to.
“All these artists crank out beautiful songs one after another. During my last two years of high school and my first year of college, I went through phases where I would learn their songs and start to sound like them and dress like them.”
It wasn’t until he bought John Mayer’s CONTINUUM on vinyl, that McCollum felt the urge to be different.
“Mayer was so different and honest from such a young age that I just kind of took that and ran with it. He taught me to let my writing be free, and let the melodies and lyrics create themselves. His knowledge and ability are something that I will always envy.”
Following the work of Ryan Bingham just as closely, McCollum acknowledges it is the emotion that a songwriter portrays that makes the art so honest and real.
“You can hear the heartache and past troubles in every word of his songs. That is what catches me and inspires me to be so genuine,” he admits.
As McCollum goes in to the studio to complete his first full recording, fans are getting a sneak peek with the EP, A RED TOWN VIEW which was produced by Corby Schaub, long-time guitarist with Ryan Bingham. Inclined to create music reminiscent of a bygone era, McCollum says he feels a more rock vibe but that country music roots are the driving force of his music.
“I find myself loving blues, soul and folk rock these days,” he says. “I have always loved them, I was just so heavily influenced in country music that it took a while for me to break away and really follow my ears and my heart. It’s not about a genre, it’s just who I am, I guess.”
As with most great songwriters, the question of how they write their material is at the forefront. For McCollum, it all goes back to the beginning: his older brother, Tyler, drilled into him that “all you have to do is write a great song.” Hoping to follow in his footsteps, McCollum admired the ability Tyler showed in stringing lines together with witty, clever and intelligent lyrics that put the listener in a special place where everything made perfect sense.
“My brother had this really cool blank leather book, like a diary that he used for songwriting,” McCollum tells. “He wouldn’t let me open it because it was all of his thoughts, writings and personal stuff. He headed back to college one afternoon, and I noticed that he had left his little book. I wanted to look inside and read some of it. I opened the first page and it said, ‘Write on. Love, Tyler.’ It was brand new and he had bought it for me to write in. I didn’t waste a second; I walked right into the living room and wrote one of the worst songs ever written, but it was a song and it was mine. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked, always searching for ‘that song.’ And, yes, I still write in that same book to this day.”
McCollum doesn’t have a formula for writing and says each song is written in a different manner. He admits to driving down the road and thinking of a line, or hearing a song that sparks a melody. He also reveals that, “it’s never the same, it never repeats itself. It’s always changing and it’s such a compelling thing to do all of the time I think that’s why it’s so addicting. It’s wild and it’s what I love to do. Every single song I write is just the moments of my life finally coming out in words. If you ever want to know what I’ve been going through, just listen to my latest songs.”
With every stroke of pen to paper, McCollum aims to maintain his artistic integrity, writing about real experiences and emotions, all the while staying true to his oath of authenticity and desire to make music that rings true.
“Every single bit of my music begins from honesty; my lyrics are my honest thoughts and feelings about the world and how I’m getting through it. Honesty is my foundation and it’s all I have. I didn’t have some crazy childhood like Bingham, I didn’t go to Berkley like Mayer. I haven’t overcome any adversity and don’t have a story about how music saved my soul. I am just a kid who loves music and really respects what a true artist stands for.”
McCollum’s debut album is due in the fall and he is playing shows to build his fan base with performances alongside artists such as Six Market Blvd., William Clark Green, Bri Bagwell, Zack Walther and Grady Skelton. To date he has played Firehouse Saloon (Houston), City Limits (Stephenville), and in his hometown of Conroe at Red Brick Tavern to a record-breaking crowd. He has also appeared on The Shiner Sessions w/ Katie Lee and the Suzy Q radio programs.
As he works towards success and finding ways to achieve his dream of being on that “highway” full-time, McCollum continues to write his stories, gathering inspiration from his everyday life and from those around him. With an authenticity that is hard to come by in young adults these days, he is humble and passionate, two factors that will hopefully show through as he makes his way in today’s music scene.
“I know there is no right way to pursue music these days so I do it honestly and in a way that honors those that paved the way before me,” he reflects. “I just so happen to love it, and I don’t want to do anything else. I want to carry on and, hopefully, leave my little brand on it one day.”