Parker McCollum Stays True To Himself On New Album ‘Never Enough’ [Interview]
For his new album Never Enough, which released via MCA Nashville on Friday (May 12), Parker McCollum dialed in on the sound that differentiates him from the rest.
The 15-song project once again finds Jon Randall at the helm of production, polishing up the specific McCollum sound that first turned fans on to the Texas native with his critically acclaimed 2015 album The Limestone Kid. After making a hit album with 2021’s Gold Chain Cowboy, which included popular songs “Pretty Heart” and “To Be Loved by You,” McCollum and Randall have doubled down with Never Enough, which McCollum says was a welcomed challenge.
“I was bored of what I’ve always done and the style I’ve always cranked out. I didn’t reinvent it, but I tried to be fresh and almost entertain myself with the songs I was writing and the direction I was going this time,” he tells MusicRow.
McCollum’s songwriting skills have sharpened in the two years since Gold Chain Cowboy. Enlisting Music Row hitmakers Ashley Gorley, Hillary Lindsey, Brett James, Lori McKenna, Lee Miller, Monty Criswell and Liz Rose—as well as Texas mavericks and frequent collaborators Randall, Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers—Never Enough finds McCollum at the top of his game as a songwriter.
“[The writers on this record] are some of my favorite writers in town,” McCollum says. “They’re the best songwriters in the world and now they’re my good friends. They just come over to my house and write songs on my couch, so it’s a different opportunity. I didn’t have access to that before, so I’ve really enjoyed that.”
A songwriting highlight on the project is “Tails I Lose.” The tune, co-written with Bowen alongside Brad and Brett Warren, finds the subject drinking away his heartbreak at bar, toying with a quarter that he says decides his fate. McCollum wails, “Jukebox quarter up, I’ve done everything I can. It don’t matter where it lands, Ain’t a damn thing I can do. It’s heads you win, tails I lose.”
“I was kicking around this melody and I had written some other stuff to it. I really loved the melody but I knew that nothing I had rambled off to it was very strong,” McCollum says. “Somebody had the line ‘heads you win, tails I lose,’ which I had heard before but never in a song. So as any typical songwriter, we decided we had to write that before somebody else does.”
Another highlight, “Have Your Heart Again,” was several years in the making.
“I had that melody for about six years. It was one of my favorite melodies I’ve come up with and I didn’t want to take a chance at missing. I played it for Ashley and Lee one night at Ashley’s house and they were into it, so we sat around and wrote a piano heartbreak ballad,” McCollum remembers. “I was going to cut it for Gold Chain Cowboy, but it just didn’t feel like it fit. I’m not sure it fits on this record either, but I’ve never done a piano ballad, so it was chance to do something different.”
Never Enough has already yielded a hit, with the Monty Criswell co-written “Handle On You” topping the charts a few weeks ago. McCollum says that that song set the bar for the rest of the album.
“That song was what I was trying to go for more than anything else. Monty and I wrote that and I said, ‘Man, that’s what I would like to lean into more,'” McCollum shares. “But like I said, I get bored real quick, so I’ll write ‘Handle On You,’ ‘Tails I Lose’ and ‘Lessons From An Old Man,’ and then I’m bored of it and want to go write something like ‘Burn It Down’ that’s big and rocking. Then I’ll go write ‘Wheel,’ which is this waving goodbye song that ends the record on an upbeat note, not such a sad and terrible note like everything else.”
When it comes to “sad and terrible,” McCollum does it well. His hits often find him heartbroken, such as the self-loathing “Pretty Heart,” the downtrodden “Young Man’s Blues,” the agonizing “To Be Loved By You” and the regretful “Hell Of A Year.” The 30-year-old says he feels at home writing sad songs, and his new album has quite a few.
“Those are my favorite kinds,” he says. “Those seem to get the most attention from me.”
But Never Enough has more than sad songs. Tracks “Stoned” and “Speed” find McCollum on the rocking side of the tracks. “Burn It Down,” which is sure to be a hit, was written by McCollum with The Love Junkies (Lindsey, McKenna and Rose), and has earned some early attention from fans.
Though Never Enough finds McCollum leveling up in songwriting and zeroing in on his sound, he credits staying true to himself as the key to his success.
“Staying super authentic to what you are, what you like and what you think is good is how you sleep the best at night. You have to be able to stand behind whatever you do, regardless if the general public accepts it and embraces it or doesn’t,” McCollum says. “For lack of a better term, I never really gave a shit. I did not think country radio would embrace my songs like they have. I never dreamed any of my songs of be on country radio, go double Platinum or do all this crazy stuff. I think my biggest strength is that I just stuck to what I did best and tried to do it as well as I could.”
He credits his label, UMG Nashville, for allowing him to make the music he wants to make.
“When I signed my record deal, my biggest thing was creative control. I passed on all the advance money and all that because I was already selling tickets and touring, so I didn’t really need the cash advance like a lot of artists do when they sign a deal. I really just tried to leverage that and get as much creative control as I could.
“Luckily I got all of it,” McCollum says. “It starts and stops with me on what songs are written, what songs are cut and what songs aren’t cut. They can send whatever songs to radio that they want—they know more about what can be a hit than I do. Shout out to Universal Records because they’ve totally kept their word.”
When asked what he hopes his fans take away from Never Enough, McCollum says he hopes they see his authenticity in its 15 songs.
“I just hope they believe it,” he sums. “All of these songs come from a super authentic, genuine and real place. My favorite songs in the world hit me so hard every time I listen to them. I love to get lost in a song, so I really hope they get lost in these and it does something for them.”
Listen to McCollum’s new album Never Enough, out now.
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