•The band’s single “Carolina” has been on the Billboard Country Airplay chart for 44 weeks.
•It moved to Nashville and lived in an RV that doubled as a studio and office space.
Parmalee recorded its first demo in a makeshift studio in the back of an RV parked outside a Comfort Inn.
The band had come to Nashville from North Carolina, given up steady gigs as a regional cover band to play for $100 a night in hopes of breaking into the scene. The RV was their studio, office space and a temporary home.
“We put everything on credit and went for it,” says Parmalee’s singer and guitarist, Matt Thomas, in advance of the group’s performance Thursday, April 23, for the opening night of the Clovis Rodeo.
They are still paying off the debt, Thomas says.
It’s probably easier now that Parmalee is one of Nashville’s biggest up-and-coming acts.
The band was one of MSN Entertainment’s breakout stars in 2014 and one of Clear Channel radio’s artist to watch in 2013. It’s single, “Carolina,” is the longest climbing single by a duo or group in the 24-year history of the Billboard Country Airplay chart. It’s been listed for 44 weeks. The band recently finished touring with Brad Paisley on his “Country Nation World Tour” and follows Thursday’s rodeo performance with a set at Stagecoach, a country music festival in Indio, California.
Making a mark in Nashville and on the national country scene has been a struggle, even after the band began to see success, Thomas says. In 2010, one show into a mini tour of North Carolina, drummer Scott Thomas was shot during an attempted robbery at the venue it had just played. He spent 10 days in a coma and was hospitalized from more than a month.
The tragedy might have ended other bands. For Parmalee, it was motivation, Thomas says.
“That’s what got us through,” he says. “We had that much more reason to do it.”
After close to five months, Scott recovered and rejoined the band. His first gig back, they band played a six-song label showcase that landed Parmalee its first deal with Stoney Creek Records.
In a way, Parmalee has the right sound at the right time, following the path set by guys like of Jason Aldean and Eric Church. It has it roots in bluegrass, traditional country and southern rock. Thomson and his brother Scott grew up listening (and eventually playing) in their father’s southern rock blues band with their cousin, bassist Barry Knox. Their close friend, Josh McSwain, played in his father’s bluegrass band before joining the brothers to form Parmalee. The bands influences run from southern rocker like the Allman Brothers Band and Bob Seger, to country acts like Travis Tritt and Garth Brooks and, because of their age, ’90s rock like the Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots, Thomas says.
And while the music may not be what the average person associates with country music, especially “country-western,” it still holds a common thread.
“It’s the attitude, the lifestyle,” Thomas says.