COVINGTON, Ga. — Drew Parker is not one to sit around and wait for “dreams” to materialize.
He’s been working toward a certain goal from age 12 when he began traveling to area churches and performing as a Southern gospel singer, or sought to hone his skills as a young baseball player.
Ultimately, he used the money he made performing around the Covington area and working as an X-ray technologist to move to Nashville, Tennessee, to try to make a living in the country music industry.
“I dreamed of writing songs and writing hit songs,” Parker said. “The odds of that happening are so slim.”
But with help from friends like Luke Combs — whom he met in Rome, Georgia, before Combs became a country music phenomenon — Parker worked his way in a relatively short time to become a hit songwriter and now, among Warner Nashville's newest signed artists.
Parker’s aunt, Covington resident Debbie Gober, said she believes Parker will be successful because he is “one of the most dedicated people I know.”
“This has always been his dream and Drew has never given up on going after this dream,” Gober said.
"Success comes with hard work, determination and dedication. Win or lose you have to stay focused and keep pushing and that's what Drew has done and continues to do."
"Drew doesn't forget where he comes from and how he's gotten to where he's at. He's very humble," she said.
Parker is set to perform shows on March 26 at 7 p.m. at Peaches in Rome, and March 27 at 7 p.m. at The Warehouse in Athens, before embarking on a nationwide tour with Combs and Ashley McBryde. Tickets are available at drewparkermusic.com.
His self-deprecating video for his new single, "While You're Gone" combines his self-penned song about drowning his sorrows for a lost love with familiar visuals like a pickup truck bed filled with beer cans and fishing gear.
The song also may coin a new catchphrase with "BP PBR" — combining two familiar brands to which anyone who ran out of adult refreshment in the summertime at the lake in the rural South can relate.
“While You’re Gone” has taken Parker to the top of the Hot 30 Weekend Countdown on SiriusXM satellite radio’s The Highway country music channel.
It soon also will land him on traditional radio stations as well, he said.
Another of his songs, “The Runway” from his “While You’re Gone” EP, also is in heavy rotation on The Highway.
He now lives in Nashville after moving there in 2016. He and wife Mallory Sauls Parker, an Eastside High School graduate, are parents of a 9-month-old daughter who was born in mid-2020.
“She was definitely a highlight of my life,” Parker said of his daughter.
A native of the Stewart community in south Newton near Jackson Lake, Parker attended Heard-Mixon Elementary and Indian Creek Middle schools before graduating in 2010 from Alcovy High School.
Parker got his start as a live performer singing at age 3 in front of church crowds.
Stewart Baptist Church was “where the passion for music and the whole thing started for me,” he said.
Along the way, Parker gained confidence as a performer through playing Southern Gospel music in churches beginning at age 12 and learning to play guitar and piano.
He released a number of CDs as a high school Gospel musician, and the Georgia Country and Gospel Music Association awarded him its Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year awards in the male new gospel category, as well as CD of the year, in 2008.
Parker later changed the kind of music he wanted to perform — country — after being inspired by musicians like the late Keith Whitley and his classic hit, “Don’t Close Your Eyes.”
However, in Parker’s younger days he also had a passion for baseball.
One of his “earliest dreams” was playing baseball professionally and he grew up in leagues at City Pond Park and elsewhere in Newton County.
He then went on to play for Alcovy High School before an injury ended his playing career his senior year, Parker recalled.
That was a turning point because he then turned his focus solely to becoming a professional musician, he said.
“It’s funny that a moment like that — something as small as getting injured — can change what you had planned for your life,” Parker said.
Later, he knew he needed some way to support himself while earning enough to make the move that any serious country music artist must make to the heart of the country music industry — Nashville.
Parker earned certification as an X-ray technologist from the School of Radiologic Technology at Grady Hospital in Atlanta. He then worked part-time for two years at what is now Piedmont Newton Hospital while working on his music and performing around the area.
In 2014, he was invited to audition for “The Voice” and ultimately traveled to Los Angeles to perform for the NBC-TV music competition show but was not chosen to move on.
The encouragement from fellow performers, however, gave him the push he needed to make the move to Nashville — which he did in September 2015, he said.
At one point he was performing for a crowd of about 50 in Rome, Georgia, and was on the same bill in 2015 with another up-and-coming musician from Asheville, North Carolina, named Luke Combs.
The two hit it off and led to Parker finding success as a songwriter and a songwriting deal with River House/Warner Chappell in September 2017.
Parker was co-writer on Combs’ platinum-selling debut album “This One’s for You,” and Combs’ hit “1, 2 Many,” as well as Jake Owens’ No. 1 single “Homemade.”
He also continued his quest to become a performer in his own right and continued to support himself with live shows at venues like the legendary Ryman Auditorium — until they stopped in March 2020 because of safety concerns surrounding COVID-19.
The songwriting deal, though, helped him get through the past year because it allowed him to earn money without performing — which has become the main source of income for most musicians in the digital age, Parker said.
He said he was looking forward to performing in Rome and Athens this month and Texas in April, before embarking on a series of festival shows and as part of Combs’ national summer tour.
“I’m excited to get out there,” Parker said.
Those who want to have their songs played on country radio stations nationwide need to move to Nashville, Parker said.
He said “anybody can share this dream” of being a country star but it requires hard work and sacrifice.
“It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life,” he said.
Musicians seeking to make a career out of country music could make a “good living” performing in nightclubs and street festivals, he said.
“It depends on your plan,” he said. “I want to share my story with the world.”
The support of his family — many of whom still live in the Newton County area — and owners of local businesses like Jimbo’s Grill at the Mill in Porterdale provided the encouragement he needed to keep working toward his goal of making a career in music, Parker said.
Gober said Parker's parents and a younger brother have been "very supportive" of him through the years.
Parker wrote on a Facebook post in February that he thanked his wife and family for helping him gain his record deal he announced in February.
“Thanks for pushing me all these years, and for not telling me I was crazy to chase this dream,” Parker wrote. “Thanks for the sacrifices that you’ve made so that I could run this dream down.”