Parker McCollum on New Album ‘Never Enough’: “I Hope it Finds Someone at the Perfect Moment”

Parker McCollum returns with his latest record, Never Enough (out May 12). The project finds McCollum in the gray area between his past releases—largely moody and focused on “love gone terribly wrong tales”—and something brighter, happier, and notably loved up.

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“Most of the songs I write are heartbreak songs,” McCollum tells American Songwriter. “So if I’m overdoing that I’ll intentionally try to write a love song or two, but for the most part, I just try to be as natural and honest about the process as I can.”

Songs like “Best I Never Had,” “Burn It Down,” and “Stoned” could easily blend in amongst McCollum’s past work while tracks like “I Ain’t Going Nowhere” find him looking optimistically into the future. Never Enough has just enough classic McCollum to appease fans and enough experimentation that no one could accuse him of falling into familiar patterns.

American Songwriter sat down with McCollum earlier this year to discuss the making of Never Enough, his songwriting journey, and how he hopes his music affects his listeners. Check out our discussion, below.

American Songwriter: What influenced the sound of Never Enough?

Parker McCollum: I was really digging into some old country that I grew up with. I was trying to write songs like that but I really only succeeded in that effort, like two or three times, and they’re all on the record. Some of them are borderline rock and roll songs. So it’s a pretty diverse record, I would say.

AS: Any particular artists you found yourself going back to often?

PM: I listen to a lot of old Keith Whitley. I grew up on a lot of his stuff. A lot of the Judds. I’m always listening to George Strait. I think on the next record, I’ll probably lean into that a little more – the classic country sound.

AS: You’re known for your heartbreak songs, but there are a fair few love songs on this record too – namely “I Ain’t Going Nowhere.” Was it hard to write about the lighter side of things?

PM: My life was really hectic there for [a while] touring and being on the road pretty much year round and once I met Hallie Ray (his wife), I had no choice but to find that happy medium and balance the two things. The hectic side of my life, being on the road, touring, and hustling provides so much juice for writing songs. When Hallie Ray started to inspire some songs I felt I could start stepping away a little bit.

AS: You don’t completely hang up the sad songs. How did you find inspiration for the break-up tracks on Never Enough now that you’re married?

PM: I like to think I can just turn it on when I need to. For a split second, if I’m running down the road or looking out the bus window, I have nostalgia for that free feeling that I had for so many years in my 20s. I can bottle it up and write a song around it.

AS: What keeps you going in the studio? What do you hope fans get out of your songs?

PM: It’s not about all my songs going double or triple platinum, it’s the hope that maybe somebody finds that song at the perfect moment and it helps them through something. Songs are powerful like that and certainly carry enough weight to have that effect on people. I know they do for me.”

AS: What would you say is the most affecting song on the record? Or the most vulnerable?

PM: I think “Have Your Heart Again.” I’ve had the melody for probably 10 years now and could never write it. [Once I finally did] and everyone I showed it to told me I was crazy for not cutting it. I cut it for this record and it just fits so well. It’s heart-wrenching. I don’t know if I’ll ever perform it live but, it’s on the record.

AS: Looking back at your songwriting journey, do you remember the first song you ever wrote?

PM: The first time I wrote was called “One-man Mariachi Band.” I think it was about running away to Mexico and starting a one-man mariachi band. I was probably in sixth grade.

AS: Who first inspired your songwriting?

PM: My older brother Tyler is such a phenomenal songwriter. He was really into Townes Van Zandt and Rodney Crowell—all these great songwriters. I’m six years younger than him, so I was exposed to it at an even younger age and really identified with those guys. Here I am, almost 20 years later, still trying to write songs like those guys.

AS: What’s the best bit of songwriting advice you’ve ever been given?

PM: My brother gave me a pretty good bit of advice around that same time, he said the best songwriters save their best lines for verses, not hooks. I’ve always tried to remember that, although sometimes I don’t follow that advice.

Photo by Jim Wright

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