Texas-based singer Parker McCollum prefers to stray a little from the conventional. For one prime example, take his new album, “Probably Wrong,” marking the final installment of a three-part series of releases, with “Session One” hitting this past July and “Session Two” rolling out in September. Each of the previous two releases contained four songs, showcasing his blend of Americana rock and Texas country. “Probably Wrong” is a complete work, a full-length, ten-track record featuring the hard-hitting confessional “Hell of a Year” and his new single, “I Can’t Breathe.”
McCollum picked up the idea of the episodic release schedule from one of his musical idols, John Mayer. Mayer had employed a similar strategy with his album “The Search for Everything,” released in several small stages before building up to the final record. “My album shares some parallels with that,” McCollum explains, seated in the offices of his booking agent in Nashville. “I noticed how fast things were moving and evolving, mainly with social media. You release something and then in ten days nobody’s talking about it. I didn’t want that to happen with this record so I just gave it to people in smaller doses.”
The songs on “Probably Wrong” were born of experience and a good deal of personal pain, as McCollum will freely acknowledge. But unlike some artists who tend to blame society for their ills, McCollum points the arrow directly at one target: himself. “I essentially broke my own heart twice to write a lot of these songs,” he says. “I had done it to myself and I was probably wrong about doing that, which is where I got the title for the album.” With a wry laugh, McCollum adds, “People want to hear what your problems are, so I created my own.”
He cites “Hell of a Year” as one inspired, if you will, from a busted relationship. The tipping point was an emotional breakdown in his pickup truck at a fast-food parking lot, a lamentable state of affairs on its own. “That was the hardest song I ever had to write,” McCollum offers candidly. “Being honest about being wrong is not easy. It’s very hard to admit. But even at that, it’s my favorite song on the record because it just poured out. Usually, I can spend weeks on a song, but that one I didn’t tweak much at all. It needed to be what it was.” There’s a personal story behind “Memphis Rain” as well. “My grandpa passed away right in the middle of recording,” McCollum recalls. “I already had the first couple of verses. I wrote the last one about him.”
Make no mistake, McCollum does have his lighter side. It’s not all alienation and regret. “There are some happy moments on the record,” McCollum laughs in agreement. “I am really not a sad person, although I do like sad songs.” McCollum has managed to build a solid, loyal following through the wonders of digital technology and social media activity. And here’s a modern-day phenomenon: he actually passed on chances to appear on The Voice and American Idol, generally considered quick tickets to stardom.
“Yeah, The Voice offered us to skip auditions and go straight to live TV,” McCollum says in verification. “But I just didn’t want to be on a TV show. There is that stigma attached to being on one of those shows.” He notes that he understood the risks of saying “no” to such network stalwarts, but he’s comfortable with his decision. “I know there are people who have done amazing things because of those kinds of shows,” McCollum points out. “But I want to do this for a long time and I don’t think doing [talent shows] gives you that longevity.”
Given McCollum’s current success, you’d have to go with the inevitable. He was probably right.