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Do It For The Right Reasons: How Authenticity United Parker McCollum and Raising Cane’s

McCollum and Cane’s Founder-CEO Todd Graves discussed music, chicken, and ambition ahead of last week’s ACM Awards.

The authenticity debate perennially rages within country music, but it has never once applied to Parker McCollum. Even as his sound has evolved and his resume has grown to include multiple #1 hits, successful concerts, and high-profile awards show moments, the artist has remained unapologetically sincere – and undeniably country.

Authenticity also applies to Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, which parlays its “One Love” mantra into consistently delicious, high-quality chicken fingers served by unequivocally upbeat, engaging team members. Founder and CEO Todd Graves embodies that authenticity, never wavering in his display of legitimate passion for the business he is in, the food Raising Cane’s serves, and the people who provide customers with consistently special experiences.

The ongoing partnership between Parker McCollum and Raising Cane’s is therefore utterly sensible. And their shared authenticity was on full-display during the Academy of Country Music Awards week in Dallas.

After taking the stage in support of ACM Lifting Lives and working a Raising Cane’s food truck, McCollum visited the brand’s Dallas headquarters on the morning of Thursday, May 16. During his Todd Graves-led tour of the facility, McCollum and the executive took a moment to meet reporters and social influencers for an immensely enjoyable, wholly down-to-earth media event.

While indulging in Cane’s’ famous Box Combo, McCollum answered questions related to his passion for the brand’s food, his excitement for that night’s ACM Awards, his new music, and the ongoing evolution of country music. McCollum’s sincerity was on display with each comment, providing a front row seat to why he and his music have proven so resonant with country music fans.

This commitment to authenticity is by no means an aversion to change. McCollum’s desire to progress as an artist is, in fact, a key reason why he recently halted efforts on his next album – likely delaying the release until 2025.

“It felt like we were rushing it, and I just kind of put the brakes on it recently,” explained McCollum. “I didn’t just want to phone it in … I need to go back in the woodshed and put more time in and make sure I get this right. I didn’t just want to put out a record that sounded like the last two.”

The authenticity is also not breeding any snobbiness on McCollum’s part. The artist spoke positively about the surge of recent pop and hip-hop crossovers, trumpeting the resulting attention as a win for the genre and the artists within it.

“I love country music from way back in the day, and I like a lot of the new stuff,” declared the artist. “Just to be in the conversation, just to have any kind of a platform in a genre that’s going so global right now … I feel like that’s a win for everybody involved.”

McCollum added that by expanding the reach of country music, the growing pop and hip-hop influences should also serve to extend careers in a genre already famous for longevity.

Authenticity does, however, mean that McCollum is never going to lose himself as he writes and records future records. The artist proudly declared himself “country” rather than “pop country,” and though he cannot totally ignore ubiquitous modern trends, he will not let them pull him away from the kind of music he has always dreamed of making.

“From the time I was a little kid, till today, I’m still sitting around trying to write songs that George Strait, or Randy Travis, or Reba [McEntire], or Dolly [Parton], or Townes Van Zandt, or any of those [artists] would listen to and think that was quality country music and did something for the genre.”

McCollum’s approach to authentic country songwriting aligns perfectly with Raising Cane’s approach to the restaurant business. Rather than focusing on new types of food to sell, the organization instead channels its creative energy and ambition into making its core offering consistently exceptional. The enthusiasm with which the available employees discussed their production process – from ensuring food quality, to evaluating suppliers, to improving the dine-in and take-out experiences, to scaling tastefully – reflected the kind of straightforward yet rare honesty on which lasting customer loyalty is built.

But the connection between the Cane’s brand and McCollum is not simply a symbolic one. It is something that actively brought the two parties together, evidenced by the manner in which Graves and McCollum raved about the other throughout the event.

“He likes to hunt, I love to hunt. He’s a family man, I’m a family man.” noted McCollum. “We put a lot of time into working very hard but also spending a lot of time with the people that we care about, the people we love … We’re just very like-minded, and at the end of the day, it’s really about friendship. You can have all the success in the world, but if you’re not surrounded by the people that you’re really happy to be around, that you truly love and you care about, everything else seems like it doesn’t matter.

“It was very organic, the chemistry between him and I was very genuine. We were fast friends, and we were friends long before we ever did business together. Once it came time for me to start thinking about being part of the Raising Cane’s team, and vice versa, it was an easy yes. It’s a very, very genuine relationship. They’re one of our big tour sponsors. We’ve got Raising Cane’s on all our 18-wheelers for our Burn It Down tour this year. Any time we play in a Cane’s market, I’ve got enough on my bus to feed a small village. They take really good care of us, and we try to take really good care of them, and it makes the business aspect of it really easy.” 

“It’s good to be around people that lift you up and inspire you,” offered Graves. “Whether it’s fried chicken or being a country music star … it’s doing things for the right reasons. What I like about Parker is that he’s always trying to get better – [as a] songwriter, singer, what he does to give back … his headlining ACM Lifting Lives raised $700,000 … that inspires me … I want to be around people that fire me up.”

That desire to surround oneself with sincere, admirable people also explains the wonder with which McCollum was approaching that night’s ACM Awards.

“The big win for me is being thought of in the likes of Lainey Wilson, Cody Johnson, Reba McEntire, and all the incredible talent in country music that comes together for a night like the ACM Awards,” articulated McCollum. “When I was a kid, my big dream was to be a country music singer. Now I walk the same halls, and do the same interviews, and play on the same shows and the same stages as all these people who were huge country music superstars.”

A 2024 winner for Visual Media of the Year, McCollum would go onto perform the victorious, chart-topping hit “Burn It Down” during Thursday’s ACM Awards.

“Burn It Down” recently followed “Pretty Heart,” “To Be Loved By You,” and “Handle On You” to become the artist’s fourth career country radio #1. The ever-popular Raising Cane’s continues to expand its reach, opening in new markets and winning new, passionate fans along the way.

Brian Cantor

Brian Cantor is the editor-in-chief for Headline Planet. He has been a leading reporter in the music, movie, television and sporting spaces since 2002. Brian's reporting has been cited by major websites like BuzzFeed, Billboard, the New Yorker and The Fader -- and shared by celebrities like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj. Contact Brian at brian.cantor[at]

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Brian Cantor