Parker McCollum On Writing Sad Songs and How A Past Breakup With His Now-Wife Inspired His New Single, ‘Handle On You’

When Parker McCollum wrote his latest single, “Handle On You,” he was in a dark place, and rekindling the flame…


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

August 23, 2022

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Parker McCollum; Photo by Jim Wright

When Parker McCollum wrote his latest single, “Handle On You,” he was in a dark place, and rekindling the flame with his now-wife Hallie Ray was literally the light he needed to guide him out.

Catching up with Country Now, McCollum recalled a time in his life when he was truly sad. He shared that he was writing songs that reflected those emotions, but his love story changed everything.

Parker McCollum; Handle On You
Parker McCollum; Handle On You

“She’s such a wonderful person. I mean, as good as God makes ‘em. You’re around someone like that enough, it’s gonna make you want to get your shit together,” he shared.

Co-written with Monty Criswell, “Handle On You” depicts the turmoil that can be caused by true heartbreak. McCollum sings from the perspective of someone who resorts to alcohol to try and get a grip on losing the one they loved and lost. For him, writing sad songs proved to be successful among his fanbase and he revealed he would intentionally put himself in a low state in order to achieve the popular sorrowful tracks. But this time, it was different because his emotions were not intentional, they were real and raw.

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“I feel like I’ve kind of gotten really good at writing those songs even when life is good. There’s still always that little part of me I think that’ll always hurt and that’s kind of where those songs come from.”

After writing “Handle On You,” he and Light were back together within just a month or two.  

Now that he has her by his side again, McCollum finds that those feelings are not as present anymore.

“That was probably the last time that I’ll be truly that down in the dumps.”

The lovebirds were first introduced through a friend, but even before he fell in love with her, he fell in love with her name. At first, Light wasn’t so sure about the Texas singer.

“We were both young and probably weren’t ready for it, but a buddy of mine had been telling me about her and I just really liked her name Hallie Ray Light. I started trying to put that name in a song before I’d even met her,” McCollum recalled. “Then she ended up coming out to a show and didn’t stick around too long. I don’t think she liked me a whole lot, but I was still pretty hell-bent on writing that song and putting her name in it.”

He added, “I ended up kind of writing a song over the course of trying to get her attention. We were talking a little bit back and forth, here and there and that’s kind of where I was stealing stuff for lines in that song. So It’s all pretty true.”

After deciding to come to see him play and hearing the song he wrote with her name as the title and bits and pieces of their story intertwined in it, Light decided to give it a shot.

“I think we started dating that night,” he shared.

Unfortunately, they were forced to endure the dreaded long-distance relationship for some time while she worked on pursuing her career in nursing and McCollum was putting his all into music. While they did break up for some time, they were fortunate enough to find their way back to each other.

Parker McCollum and Hallie Ray; Photo by Jason Kempin, Getty Images for CMT
Parker McCollum and Hallie Ray; Photo by Jason Kempin, Getty Images for CMT

“She’s kind of just like her dad, super laid back and chill and very low maintenance. I think she just kind of understood from the beginning that, that was just what it was. That’s what I was doing and if we wanted it to work, that’s what we were gonna have to do.”

They did receive a bit of guidance from Light’s parents’ who also dealt with long distance when her dad was working a professional baseball player in the minor leagues.

“Her parents kind of went through the same thing when they were our age so she had a lot of good insight and advice that probably helped a lot. But we’ve seem to somehow make it work pretty well.”

That time apart led McCollum to the conclusion that above all else, he needed her in his life.  Not having her in the audience of his Grand Ole Opry debut made him realize he didn’t want to miss out on celebrating anymore of life’s most valued moments together.

“I just didn’t wanna do anything that important and that big of a milestone and not have her there to share it. I was in the studio cutting at the time and I just remember sitting there not able to focus. I was like, man, I gotta make that right before I do anything else. So Life has a funny way of letting you know what you should do.”

Even though they have dealt with some pretty difficult times together, McCollum revealed that if he could go back in time, he wouldn’t change a thing about it.

“I mean to get to where we are now and life to be as good as it is and her and I being good as we are together, there’s nothing I think I would change because we ultimately ended up here. So it was all worth it.”

And the rest is history.

They tied the knot earlier this year after McCollum popped the question in July of 2021. While married life is going as good as they hoped it would be, their busy schedules have shown no signs of slowing down. Luckily, they will always have each other to lean on for support.

“She just the exact same person every single day, which is something that I envy a lot about her, but that’s a huge component to this whole equation. I mean, she is most certainly a steady one,” he gushed.

Parker McCollum; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Parker McCollum; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

McCollum is making a strong effort to “do his best” and write “real” country music while being as honest and genuine as he can be through his songs like “Handle On You.”

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.