Perspective matters when considering Parmalee’s back-to-back No. 1 country radio hits with 2021’s “Just The Way” and 2022’s “Take My Name.”
“It’s the best time of our lives,” says band guitarist Josh McSwain. It’s a statement backed up by a serious smile that looks as tired as it must feel four hours into a day of media touring accompanied by a #1 party in the lobby of Broadcast Music Inc (BMI) .
A decade has passed since the group hit the top of the charts with “Carolina” in 2013. Meanwhile, country music has been inundated with everything from a broader set of pop influences to a global pandemic. . Being a rock quartet with pop and country influences — which was once the country’s most “progressive” route to success — was suddenly very common and not entirely in favor at the top of the charts.
“We came into the mainstream in a whirlwind. Then we got nervous and thought we had to change things up a bit too much. But for [“Just The Way” and “Take My Name”] we started talking directly to [our female fans]which had worked for us before,” says Matt Thomas, lead singer of Parmalee.
“At best, people marry our greatest hits,” McSwain says. Matt Thomas notes that military husbands and wives have become attached to “Carolina,” which sets a familiar tone for lives divided by deployment with its opening lyrics “Home is where my heart still beats” / I don’t don’t know when I’ll see her again / I hate to see her cry when I leave / Now I’m a thousand miles away again.”
For Blanco Brown’s duet “Take My Name,” the band is “over the top” about the ease of the process of creating musical synergy with the “Nobody’s More Country” crooner. The message of the song “unconditional positivity and love” (I love you like God made you / Girl, he makes no mistakes / What you call your imperfections / I call beautiful, baby) has it prompted to make the following prediction in a 2021 conversation:
“Just the Way”, okay, number one. I feel it, when this record comes out, it’s going number one.'”
For their most recent No. 1 hit, “Take My Name,” Parmalee agrees it’s their biggest wedding song to date, due to the song’s literalness about marriage. Writing and performing songs that are part of someone’s eternal life story is “no pressure,” they joke.
After a decade, the group readily accepts that they now have a strong footprint in a creative direction: they are the group that excels in creating authentic songs that directly impact the most personal and powerful emotions of their fans.
Matt Thomas continues that he “feels pretty good” about the heights the band has reached lately. “We are motivated to continue this trajectory,” continued the band’s bassist, Barry Knox. He points out that the band’s studio production and live event presentation directly benefit from the band’s increased fame.
“We tried different things that extended beyond the ‘Carolina’ route,” Knox continued. “It’s been everything from rediscovering the keys where my voice is best placed,” chimes Thomas, pointing out that for the band’s seventh album in two decades (their third for Stoney Creek Records), the band has finally been able to sit after a cyclical and arduous process between the road and the studio, and more molecularly contemplate what they needed to keep, more what needed to evolve.
Thomas continually mentions how the pandemic was an unexpected gift for a road-weary quartet unable to “switch off” after a seemingly perpetual series of touring cycles. “Our story is one where we dug ourselves in and out of holes trying to do that,” he adds.
The band also talks about their formative years in Parmele, North Carolina. Along with playing local gigs listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn records, watching the then-just-released comedy movies “Friday” and “Don’t Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood,” they sometimes seized financially risky opportunities to head west to Nashville in an attempt to achieve resounding success.
Billing credit cards with 36% APRs up to their $5,000 limits and racking up over $50,000 in debt – plus a $15,000 loan (now paid off) from Matt’s mother and Scott Thomas – was what the band calls “the gamble” they took on themselves in pursuit of mainstream success.
Quarantine allowed the band to redouble their studio efforts and pass several progressive development milestones that their frenetic pace had denied them the opportunity to complete.
“Success is a balance that we haven’t yet achieved as a band, of course. Radio gets your ears hooked, but touring keeps people physically coming back to your show,” says Matt Thomas. With respect to the previous point about the ever-increasing number of country music artists competing for the ears of an ever-expanding fan base, he wants to mention how it gets in the way of achieving balance. that the keys acclaim in the genre.
Related to this point, the band digs a little deeper into how the growth of their business and marketing acumen over the years has contributed to their development. For example, understanding how to develop crowd demographics via a mix of live tour commentary and honestly evaluating reflections from focus group testing and constant conversations between booking agents, family members, management and record company executives helped their development.
“All these songs can’t just be cool. Which ones are people really making fun of,” says Thomas. “Compare that to baseball,” McSwain says. “It’s a lot more fun doing circuits than just going to the base.”
“We kept our heads down and worked hard,” says Scott Thomas. “We have a better idea than ever of exactly what works best for Parmalee,” says Matt Thomas. “From the outside looking inside, we’ve made a comeback. But we’re coming when we always wanted – just in time.”