Newton County native Drew Parker is beginning to see his years of work playing country and gospel music in area restaurants and bars pay off.
The Country Music Association (CMA) recently nominated Parker with fellow songwriter Robert Williford and country music star Luke Combs for the CMA's Song of the Year award for "Forever After All."
He also was scheduled to make his debut on the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville, Tennessee, this week.
Parker's Opry debut Tuesday, Sept. 14, comes after opening for Combs on his current tour and releasing songs he performed, including "While You're Gone" which has been on the Billboard Country Airplay charts for 14 weeks.
Combs surprised Parker, a frequent songwriting collaborator, with the news on a video posted on Parker's Facebook page in July.
"I stepped on the Grand Ole Opry stage for the first time when I was 10 years old. Me and my family were on vacation and did a backstage tour. I would have to say that night watching Travis Tritt was pretty influential in me wanting to be a part of country music, and definitely poured gas on the dream I’ve had for a long time.
"Here it is 20 years later and I actually get to step into that circle and make my Grand Ole Opry debut. Thanks to everyone who has believed in me, encouraged me, and helped me get here. There’s no bigger goal on my bucket list than this one right here and we get to check it off this Tuesday!"
Parker is an Alcovy High School graduate who grew up in the Stewart community. He performed gospel music in area churches in his early teens and performed around the Newton County area and throughout Georgia before moving to Nashville in 2015.
He signed a publishing deal with River House/Warner Chappell in 2017 and signed his first record deal with Warner Music Nashville in early 2020.
Parker is a collaborator on Luke Combs’ platinum albums "This One’s For You" and "What You See Is What You Get." His first No. 1 song was Jake Owen’s “Homemade” in early 2020.
"Forever After All" was released in October 2020. It debuted at No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart in November 2020 and reached No. 1 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart in June 2021. It was the sixth song to reach No. 1 from the "What You See is What You Get" album.
Parker said in a posting on his Facebook page, "Are you kidding me!? I moved to Nashville just hoping for something as big as this."
"To be nominated for an award that has been won by many of my heroes is pretty surreal. To be nominated with 2 of my best friends just makes it that much better. Thanks for letting me have a hand in this song."
He recalled meeting Williford for the first time in 2015 when he performed with Parker and Combs at Eddie's Attic in Decatur.
"I had written a few songs with Luke at this point but this was the first night that I had ever met Rob. The three of us immediately started a friendship that none of us knew would turn into what it did.
"We’ve written many songs together but over the course of the last few weeks we’ve just celebrated our first #1 song together. I’ll never forget the day we wrote ‘Forever After All’ out at Luke’s new place and the three of us having that high five moment in the middle of the write when we knew that we had created something special.
"Luke, Rob, thank you guys for believing in me as a songwriter and pushing me to be a better writer and artist every time we get together. I love you boys like brothers and am so happy to celebrate this song with y’all! Here’s to many more and I hope many years down the road we can still be Doin’ This!"
The CMA Awards are scheduled to be broadcast live on ABC-TV (WSB-TV Channel 2 in Atlanta) Nov. 10.