Known for their distinct family harmony, irresistible melodies, and sure-fire radio favorites, including Billboard’s Most Played Country Song of 2022, “Take My Name,” Parmalee has not-so-quietly become one of the genre’s most undeniable contemporary country hitmakers.
The group – comprised of brothers Matt Thomas (guitar/lead vocals) and Scott Thomas (drums), along with their cousin Barry Knox (bass) and life-long friend Josh McSwain (guitar) – has accumulated more than 1 billion on-demand streams and three No. 1 hits including their breakthrough hit “Carolina,” the Blanco Brown collaboration “Just The Way” and “Take My Name.” Parmalee’s current single, “Girl In Mine,” is a Top 10 hit and climbing. All but “Carolina” are on Parmalee’s new album “For You 2,” which, at 18 songs deep, is the deluxe version of the band’s third studio project “For You,” which was released in 2021.
Matt co-wrote 17 of the 18 songs on “For You 2.” After the album was initially released, the singer took a break from writing for a few months but soon jumped back in with the intention of beating songs he had already written. While Parmalee had enough tracks to complete their fourth full-length album easily, the men decided to extend the legs on “For You” with five new songs and attract even more people to the undeniably hit-rich collection.
“I’m a melody guy,” Matt says. “If I have a melody I love, I’ll start there, then work on the lyrics. These five new songs are my favorite melodies of the songs that I’ve been a part of. That’s obviously first.”
Getting to this point took a near-death experience, a second mortgage, and over 20 years of grinding it out together. The band formed in 2001, worked day jobs, and toured on the weekends until they signed with Stoney Creek Records in 2011 – a milestone the band nearly didn’t achieve.
Parmalee played a showcase in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2007 and an executive from a major label came to see them perform. They went to dinner with their investor and the executive, and though Matt had the feeling the guy wasn’t going to sign them, he asked what the label would do if they did. The executive told him he’d send the group to Atlanta to work with a producer. Matt called the producer the next day and booked studio time in the following days. The band had four songs they wanted to record – including “Carolina.” Members racked up an $11,000 bill in the studio and paid with a check from their investor, which bounced. Matt was embarrassed to ask anyone but his mother for financial help. She worked at the local utility company and had the little three-bedroom house where the Thomas brothers grew up. Without knowing “Carolina” was in the mix or hearing a single beat of the music, she used their family home as collateral and got them the money to pay for their songs.
“We paid her back,” Matt said. “We made sure she got paid first before any of the other band expenses were paid, but she believed in us enough to write a check and mortgage her house without hearing one song!”
In September of 2010, with “Carolina” a staple in their live shows, Parmalee was playing as many concerts as they could in preparation to come to Nashville and showcase for labels the following month. One night, the band performed a set for 15 people in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and made $15. They were traveling in an RV outfitted with bunks and parked at the venue. Scott was in his bunk when someone knocked on the bus door. Matt opened the door and was met with a gun to his head.
“Two guys in bandanas stepped into the RV screaming, ‘Give me the cash,'” Matt said. “I said, ‘I don’t have any cash. I don’t have any cash.'”
The robber fired his gun in the RV. Matt shouted for Scott, who had his carry permit and his pistol tucked under his bunk. Scott emerged from the back to diffuse the situation and while taking out both assailants, was shot three times.
“So here we are at the highest point of our career, just thinking we’re going to get a record deal,” Scott said.
“Then this all happens in a flash, and he’s on the couch bleeding out,” Matt added.
Scott was airlifted to a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the middle of the night and received two blood transfusions in transit. When his bandmates arrived at the hospital, they were told Scott had a five percent chance of survival. The drummer was in a coma for 10 days and spent another 30 days in the hospital recovering.
Five months later, he hobbled on stage to play a showcase with Parmalee for Stoney Creek Records – who signed them immediately. “That is just part of our story – what we’ve been through and sticking it out. Same four guys, too, not nobody else in the band.”
The men attribute their longevity to a decade spent playing together with no measurable success, just the love of playing music for fans. They learned who each other truly was, so they knew who they were standing beside when their dreams became reality in Nashville.
The same is true when they go into the recording studio. The men trust their gut when choosing songs and are confident what will connect with their fan base. Parmalee thought “Girl In Mine” was the fitting follow-up to “Take My Name” because the hooky, groove-filled love song is a perfect exclamation point on the affirmation every woman wants from her partner.
“Boyfriend” is a catchy contemporary promise to treat his love interest better than her current partner.
Lyrics include: “I don’t know his name or what the hell he’s waiting on, but if I was your boyfriend, I wouldn’t be your boyfriend long.”
Undoubtedly, a swoon-worthy proposal is on the way. The song continues Parmalee’s knack for recording melodic, engaging songs that stay true to their unmistakable harmonies.
“Gonna Love You” continues the story down the aisle, promising undying commitment reminiscent of some of country music’s most celebrated love songs. The production coils and swells, adding drama and emotion to this undeniable serenade that is destined to be a staple wedding song for years to come.
Parmalee tested the new songs on stage before adding them to “For You 2.” Because now, just as it was when they started performing together over 20 years ago, playing music is what makes them the happiest.
With determination as strong as it was when they first started playing together and 18 songs ready to release to the world, Parmalee is poised to take the next steps in their sky-rocketing career. They have no regrets.
“We just love to play,” Josh said. “We love to tour. We love the live connection. Our dream was just to play music for a living. Anything more than that is a bonus.”