Drew Parker Revisits Legendary Grand Ole Opry Circle for the First Time in 20 Years — This Time as an Artist

"It gets me thinking that maybe there's going to be another 10-year-old kid that's going to realize that they can do the same thing," the country singer-songwriter tells PEOPLE

Drew Parker was just 10 years old when he stood for the first time in the famed wooden circle of the Grand Ole Opry, in awe of the opportunity to stand in the same place that so many of his favorite country music stars once stood. And now, 20 years later, he's ready to do it again.

But this time, he's the star.

"It gets me thinking that maybe there's going to be another 10-year-old kid that's going to hear me sing or watch me play there and they are going to realize that they can do the same thing," Parker, 30, tells PEOPLE just days before his Tuesday night Grand Ole Opry debut. "It's really crazy to think about."

It is in fact crazy to think that yet another baseball-playing lad from Georgia has found a way to one of music's most legendary stages. But what might set Parker apart from the rest is the fact that this was never really the plan.

"I didn't think of music as, like, my dream career," he says with a slight chuckle. "I mean, I grew up a fan of '90s country music and that's what I listened to with my dad in his truck. But I never really set my sights this high."

But here Parker is, one of an onslaught of old souls finding their way into the hearts of country music fans thanks to not only their talent, but their openness to lead with their truth.

"I grew up loving the outdoors, baseball and country music, and to be able to now write songs about that lifestyle and the things that I grew up doing is pretty cool," says Parker, who grew up on the sounds of Keith Whitley, Merle Haggard and Travis Tritt. "You don't realize as a kid how important those moments are until you get older. When you start talking about those things in your music, you realize how relatable your life and your story is to just about everybody."

It's this relatability that most fans first noticed within the endearing lyrics of Jake Owen's No. 1 hit "Homemade," on which Parker served as a co-writer. And now, with the success of his current single "While You're Gone," Parker is finding that you can't go wrong with good 'ole authenticity.

Drew Parker
Drew Parker. Jason Myers

But what his growing legion of fans might not know is that on top of this budding country music career, Parker also spent a good piece of his life working in a completely different field.

"After high school, my goal was to get to Nashville, but I felt like I needed to have some sort of backup plan, so I got my degree in radiology," says Parker, who made the move to Nashville in 2015 and has since written several songs for Luke Combs, including "1,2 Many" and "Forever After All." "And once I got into it, I fell in love with it. I would write songs during the day when I first moved to Nashville and then I'd go take x-rays in a hospital at night."

In fact, his last day as an x-ray technician happened to occur in the very same week last year that "Homemade" reached the top of the charts — and his wife Mallory gave birth to their first child, daughter Harley Greer, now 18 months.

"I go back and think about that one week and how many things happened that week to line up everything that was going to happen for me," says Parker, who went on to sign his record deal that very same year. "I used to feel guilty about saying this, but I have realized that people have good times and people have bad times. And my goodness, I've had my share of bad times. But yes, 2020 was the best year of my life."

But heck, 2021 isn't looking bad either for Parker. Recently, Parker was nominated alongside Combs and fellow songwriter Robert Williford for song of the year for "Forever After All" at the upcoming CMA Awards.

"I try to see the good in everything," he says quietly. "But at the end of the day, whatever is going to happen is going to happen. And it's totally out of my control. And when you feel so confident in that, you start seeing things in a better light and things start going your way. That's what I feel like is happening in my life right now."

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