Parker McCollum has a great Luke Bryan story that he can't tell on the radio. His George Strait story is G-rated, however, and it's one that left the "Pretty Heart" singer picking up his phone to tell mom about immediately after it happened.

The Texas-bred country singer says Strait and John Mayer are his two musical heroes, but he got a chance to meet the King during Loretta Lynn's birthday concert at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena in April 2019. The thing is, Strait wanted to meet him and the newcomer was the one who was hesitant.

"I hate being introduced to people like that, especially idols," McCollum tells Taste of Country Nights. "They're not going to remember. There is nothing significant about that moment. They meet a million people."

McCollum's record label representative (both he and Strait are on UMG Nashville) wouldn't take "no" for an answer, however, so the 28-year-old followed him to the stage area. He'd already watched as a stream of stars including Alan Jackson, Keith Urban and Jack White paid tribute to Lynn that night.

"He was sitting down in a chair," McCollum recalls, "and we walked over and he stood up and I said, 'Hey George, I'm Parker' ... he said, 'I hear you're killing it, keep up the good work.'"

Prior to moving to Nashville, McCollum made a name for himself in Texas. He grew up north of Houston, while Strait has long called the San Antonio area home. Word gets around the Longhorn State, however, and 68-year-old seems to have his finger on the pulse.

"My face had to have been the color of a red balloon," McCollum shares. "And literally, he stood up, shook my hand, said that and then walked up the stairs and sang 'Amarillo by Morning' all like in one motion. I was just like, 'My mom ain't gonna believe this.'"

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"Pretty Heart" is McCollum's debut single on MCA Nashville, and it's close to cracking the Top 20 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart. He tells ToC Nights' Evan and Amber that the song was the first he wrote with an established writer upon moving to Music City. The idea came from a years-old Instagram post he stumbled upon where he was singing this lyric over and over about a girl he'd been dating:

"What does that say about me / I could love somebody like you." 

Co-writer Randy Montana gets credit for truly shaping the song into what fans hear today. While it sounds like a song that could have fit on his last independent album (an album all about this same girl), it was actually written afterward. The couple had reconnected at the time, so he played her a version of "Pretty Heart."

“And she was like, ‘That’s a hit song.’ And I think she was crying," he says. "And then a few weeks later I don’t think I’ve talked to her since."

McCollum says his debut album on MCA is mostly finished, but it won't be released until at least early 2021.

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