Parmele, NC. Population 262.
From this tiny town that’s home to a gas station, two blinking
yellow lights, and a small tinroofed barn dubbed Studio B, country
rockers Parmalee launched their long journey to
Nashville. The near-fatal robbery Parmalee experienced after a show
would have destroyed most bands. But brothers Matt and Scott Thomas,
cousin Barry Knox and longtime friend Josh McSwain didn't call it quits.
Instead it reinforced their intense motivation and dedication to one
another and to their determination to succeed.
Each obstacle that delayed Parmalee’s arrival to Nashville was an
extra mile that allowed the groundbreaking sounds of artists like
Jason Aldean and
Eric Church to pave the way for the worlds
of country radio and Parmalee’s brand of country music to meet at the
Parmalee’s country rock sound has its roots in the bluegrass,
traditional country, southern rock and blues covers the guys grew up
hearing their families play.
Matt and Scott Thomas grew up near
Greenville, NC watching their father Jerry front a popular local
southern rock blues band. The boys watched and learned, picking up their
own instruments and jamming along with their dad's band. From this they
learned how to integrate their own style into the songs they were
playing. Barry Knox, who played drums for the church choir, loved what
his cousins were doing and soon joined them.
All that practice paid
off one night when Matt and Scott, then teenagers, snuck into a club to
watch their father perform. "The guitar player got too drunk before the
gig and didn't show," Matt explains. "I knew all the songs so my dad
called me on stage. I was in the band from that point on." Scott
replaced the drummer, and Barry learned bass in order to secure his spot
in the band. The line-up became the newly minted The Thomas Brothers
The Thomas Brothers Band cut their teeth on the local club
circuit and would often share the same marquee with a cover band that
starred their friend Josh McSwain on guitar and keys. Josh’s upbringing
paralleled Matt, Scott and Barry’s. Josh also traveled and played with
his father who was in a bluegrass band called “Get Honked.” A fan of
Josh’s musical prowess, Matt invited Josh to play with Barry, Scott and
himself. The foursome clicked immediately on stage. Their first gig was
held at local watering hole, Corrigans, near East Carolina University
where the guys went to school. From this moment in 2001 Parmalee was
The band set up camp every Tuesday and Thursday evening in the
Parmele, NC barn they named Studio B after its original builder Mark
Bryant. They added an extra “e” to the band's name to make it easier for
those outside the area to pronounce it. “Tuesdays and Thursdays were the
only nights we could all get together and rehearse – the rest of the
time we were each out working in order to fund Parmalee,” Matt says.
“Every person in town could hear us practice in the barn, so we also had
to stop at 11 p.m. to be considerate of the neighborhood."
residents of Parmele weren't the only ones within earshot. The band
developed a devout regional following based on the intensity of their
live shows. But, the guys knew to turn their dreams into reality they
would have to leave North Carolina. Their journey took them all over the
country including New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta as they tried to
find their musical direction. All of the producers, managers, and label
representatives said the same thing: "you guys need to be in Nashville."
Matt, Barry and Josh parked their RV, which doubled as their studio, in
the Comfort Inn parking lot on Nashville’s famed Demonbreun Street near
Music Row. For the next month the parking lot was home and office. They
began writing new material and networking. Their new connections led to
a co-writing session with David Fanning, who is part of the celebrated
production team New Voice with Kurt Allison, Tully Kennedy and Rich
Redmond. "Going into these appointments, you never know who you're going
to meet or how it's going to go," Matt explains. "But when I wrote with
David, we hit it off."
During the same weekend as the infamous
Nashville flood, Parmalee and Fanning wrote “Musta Had a Good Time” -
even recording the demo in the RV’s recording “studio” - oblivious to
the devastation that was happening to the city around them. After the
“Flood Sessions,” Parmalee went into the studio with New Voice to record
some sides, including “Carolina,” and “Musta Had a Good Time.” NV played
the songs for BBR Music Group President/CEO Benny Brown who was
impressed and asked to see a showcase as soon as the band returned to
Parmalee put together a short tour in North Carolina to
fund the trip back to Music City. But after the first show, plans
After their September 21, 2010 show, Josh and Barry were
packing gear in the venue while Matt and Scott were outside loading
their RV when two armed men knocked on the door. The men put a gun to
Matt’s head and demanded money. Shots were fired. Scott, who possessed a
concealed weapons license, fired back. One of the gunmen died and Scott
was shot three times. One bullet hit Scott's femoral artery causing him
to nearly bleed to death. "He bled out on the air flight to Charlotte,
and his heart stopped twice," Matt recalls. "When we got to the
hospital, the doctor gave him a five percent chance to live."
was hospitalized in Charlotte, NC for 35 days - 10 of which he spent in
a coma. News of the shooting spread like wildfire and the local news
stations carried weekly reports on Scott's progress. Parmalee's fans
turned out in droves to show their support. Through Facebook campaigns
and benefits they raised enough money to help cover Scott's medical
bills. The Nashville community also rallied behind Parmalee donating
autographed items and VIP packages to help cover Scott’s medical
expenses. "We knew we had a lot of friends and fans," Josh says. "But we
found out exactly how many we had.”
By February 2011, Scott was well
enough to get behind a drum kit for the first time and the band finally
performed their promised label showcase. "We wouldn't tell everybody how
bad off I was because there was no
way I wasn't going to play that show," Scott says. "I was in a leg
brace, but I only had to get through six songs. Parmalee had fought for
so much for so long that we decided we hadn’t come this far to stop
now." Through sheer willpower, the band nailed the set and landed a deal
with Stoney Creek Records, home to ACM Vocal Duo of the Year Thompson
Square and chart-topper Randy Houser.
Looking back on their
experiences, the members of Parmalee have no regrets about the path they
chose. “All the obstacles and craziness we’ve been through allowed us to
help find our home in Nashville,” Matt says. "It took us going through
all that to mold us," Barry continues. "In Hollywood and New York we
were always pushed in opposite directions. But Nashville helped us
capture our sound – a sound that’s authentic to who we are as both
artists and as people."
“Artists like Jason Aldean and Eric Church
helped pave the way for our country rock sound. If you think of Jason
Aldean as the rockin’ side of country then think of Parmalee as the
country side of rock,” Matt explains.
All of Parmalee’s hard work,
dedication and perseverance is paying off in a big way. Country fans
recently voted the band’s debut single, “Musta Had A Good Time,” #1 for
4 consecutive weeks on SiriusXM’s “The Highway,” and the song is a Top
40 hit on mainstream country radio. The fun-loving party anthem has been
featured in national sporting event broadcasts from the PGA to MLB.
Parmalee has been highlighted in USA Today, AOL’s The Boot, Country
Aircheck, Country Weekly and been named a “Bubbling Under Artist” by
The signs are clear that after a long, tumultuous
journey to Nashville, Parmalee is home at last.