I recently had the pleasure of talking to Matt Thomas of Parmalee followed by seeing them at The Grizzly Rose this is a combination of the 2 experiences.
Parmalee is comprised of brothers Matt Thomas (lead vocals/guitar) and Scott Thomas (drummer). Barry Knox (bassist) is their first cousin as for Josh McSwain (guitar and keyboards) “we met Josh in college and have been together ever since.” With no hesitation Matt went on to say “he is family now we’re family with his mom, we’re just all a big family.” That sentiment is also relayed on stage when
he referred to the band as a family band. As I talked to Matt and saw them in concert, my mind kept going back to the fact that not long ago he, they had a gun pulled on them during a robbery. His brother Scott was seriously injured when it ended in gunfire. Without Scott having his concealed weapons permit and the fact that he was carrying and was able to shoot the intruders it’s one of those situations that make you wonder “what if.” What if Scott didn’t have his own gun? Pretty powerful thought when you consider the most obvious answer – I surely wouldn’t be sitting here talking to Matt about the great music they make. Powerful ~ Thought Provoking. We started our conversation talking about that night. When asked how it affected the band emotionally, in his answer you can hear the deep rooted emotion and yes even feel it through the phone lines as he talked about the aftermath of that September night. “Well I mean it brought everybody tighter obviously. Because we had to go through all that together with Scott ~ he spent 35 days in the hospital ~you know we were being a nurse ~ the good thing that came out of it once that happened we got so much support mainly from our fans, but our family, and friends and everybody that was around us. You realize even though we’ve been kind of beatin up and down the roads for years doing our thing you touch a lot of people. They respect that and reached out to help us out. The biggest thing that came out of it minus the whole new look on life, was the fact there were people out there who cared about what we were doing and wanted see us continue to make music and they kept us a float for 4 months. Paying our bills, donating money doing benefits all kinds of just crazy fundraisers ~ all kinds of help they gave us.” You could hear the sincerity in his voice as he continued “That was the great thing if something like that had never happened we would never have known that kind of kindness. But we got the chance to see it.” He sounded humbled by the whole experience and obviously it touched them all deeply. Matt did write a song called “September” the night Scott got out of the hospital you can tell it’s still pretty “private” as he explained it’s a “personal song that you do for your fans that know you and know what went on its not an album cut.” Hmm maybe if you catch a show near Parmale you’d get to hear the song or hopefully perhaps one day we’ll all get to hear it on an album. Since emotion makes a song real and it seems as the deeper rooted that emotion is the better the song, the better the performance I for one would love to hear it. He did tell me about a song “Another Day Gone” that is on the album “it is based around the mentality of the fact you’re never guaranteed the next day and you need to take advantage of what you have in front of you. Kind of a reflection on the whole aspect of life is fragile better take advantage of it.”
Speaking of the CD they are in the studio now – in fact he jumped on our call just out of the studio where he had been “writing with Blair Daly laying down tracks.” That was rousing news to hear for me. The CD is still a work in progress; they have 12 songs worked out and they are writing and recording more. He was expecting it out by summers end. As far as songs on it he said “we have co- written with lots of wonderful people in Nashville we have written with in the band and we’re taking outside songs.” Hearing things like “our mentality is the best song wins” makes the anticipation for the album grow more intense. “Fortunately most songs are songs we’ve written.” He attributes that to “we know who we are. After we come out with a record you’ll have Nashville writers writing songs right down our alley. But as of right now most of the stuff we have on the record will be ours.” Talk about collaboration. As a band they write together. They write solo. They write individually with other people, the band works with other people and then they bring it all together. That’s just the beginning. Throw in their producers, Rich Redmond, Kurt Allison, Tully Kennedy (Jason Aldean’s band) and David Fanning which make up Indie New Voice Entertainment, one of Nashville’s hottest productions companies. Another key player is Benny Brown from Broken Bow records. He helps determine songs as part of the process. A big part of the final song selection is what Matt feels he can perform with honesty and what they feel is real for them. Matt said fan reaction goes a long way in helping to determine as well, “especially people who have never heard you, everything is new to them you get a good feel for what is sticking and which ones aren’t” One of Matt’s favorites to do live is one of their new songs “Day Drinkin” I can see why and it was a crowd favorite at The Grizzly Rose when I saw them. Fun song great beat and great musically! Matt did go on to say “’Carolina’ takes the cake it is kind of the Golden Child” It is their current single released on iTunes January 22, 2013 and officially released to radio February 4, on February 5th it was the #2 most added song at stations for the week. “It’s been a good blessing – it is the
song that got us out here” The song has kind of come full circle in a sense. They wrote the song, released it in 2008 on an independent thing in 2010 it was picked it up to be released as a single by Benton Blount. “That’s how we got the whole deal” after the it garnered so much interest they decided “we’re going to roll out to Nashville because we’re song writers. We’re going to try take up every opportunity we get as the writers of the song. We co-wrote with New Voice and that led to the deal with Stoney
Creek. I’ll always stand behind its release to country radio without us behind the song” he chuckled as he finished “you know not being the performers just being the writers.”
Now let’s go to a show … they came out with a bang! Super infused music which lead into “Musta Had A Good Time” They are some hard rocking guys up on stage. Matt is full of personality, very cute. The talent oozes off the stage from all of them! Very impressive! They intermingle with one another and the crowd. One of Matt’s favorite covers he does is “Night Moves” by Bob Seger, and I can
tell you they do an amazing job on the song! They did an amazing montage of covers (“Midnight Rider” Allman Bros – “Can’t You See” Marshall Tucker – “Let’s Get It On” Marvin Gaye & “Seven Bridges Road” Eagles) that was simply stunning! They ran through some great originals that I sure hope made the “cut”. One of my favorites was “Calling You Mine” I fell in love first time with that song. Another favorite is “Can’t Tell My Heart What to Do” all about that tug of war relationship I think we all experience at some point. I didn’t hear one song that if it came on the radio I would change the station. No question about it they were all right at home on stage – it was a pretty full house that night and they had the crowd well entertained. They ended much the same as they started they hit up “MHGT” again and went out with some strong hard hitting finish! After the show they stayed to meet the fans and sign for them.
They again were very comfortable and seemed to really enjoy this part of the night.
Matt lights up as he talks about music you hear his appreciation for MUSIC. He is well versed –I get the impression he is a musical connoisseur and I for one would love to spend an evening listening to tunes talking to him about music, about some of his experiences, I’d bet the farm it would be fascinating. The band’s music evolved from the exposure they had growing up, it led them to where they are now as a band. They all 4 had exposure to some degree from their families being involved with music. Matt and Scott’s dad (Jerry Thomas) was in a cover band, “My dad was a soul southern soul singer with country roots. He sounded like Travis Tritt and Bob Seger kind of mixed together. We (Matt, Scott and Barry) grew up in that world. When we were kids he was playing in a cover band doing things like Travis Tritt, Kentucky Headhunters, Bob Seger, Allman Brothers all that southern stuff he also did soul greats like Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye that kind of stuff. We were exposed to all that music” Matt calls it “southern country soul music. For me Scott and Barry it was a big part of growing up.” They didn’t just listen to his dad’s band they got to play in it. Josh’s dad was in a blue grass band and he grew up going to blue grass festivals all the time.
“What you’re exposed to real early on kind of holds a little place in your heart and that’s kind of where we’re back to now.” They’ve dabbled in it all pop, rock, hip-hop country soul “It’s like taking parts of it all and putting it together in what we do.” He talked about so much music, such a variety and when you see them, hear them it all makes sense. It is an accumulation of their broad exposure to music growing up as well as them experimenting with many different genres that have brought them to where they are now. I got to see a video from 2008 of Matt, Scott and Barry playing “Feelin Alright” with Jerry.
It is a 6 minute musical extravaganza. You see how deep rooted the talent on the “music” side really is. Hearing all this and getting a good sense of his appreciation for music, it’s no surprise Matt has a wide variety on his iPod – one of his most listened to is The Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East. It reminds him of his dad. I imagine one day there will be people listening to Parmalee because it takes them back home to their family – to their parental units.
They’ve always known that they would be doing something in music. There was no “backup plan,” Matt and Scott were loggers, Barry was a furniture reposseser and Josh was a pizza maker. Making music was always in their sights, they always had their focus on it. It is all starting to pay off as the “wish list” is starting to get some pretty significant check marks on it. They’ve signed with a
great label, in the middle of putting together their first CD with some top notch producers; “Musta Had a Good Time” broke the top 40 on the charts. Matt is hopeful that “Carolina” will help a couple more of those dreams come true, like playing at the Opry, or maybe breaking into the to 20. One of their aspirations I am in full agreement with is they want to play at Red Rocks “that’d be on that list for sure.” You could hear his excitement as he talked about wanting to tour with people like Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert, Eric Church and yes Kenny Chesney would be the ultimate to tour with if they could swing it.
For now they are taking it piece by piece just soaking it in and appreciating it all along the way. They are enjoying seeing the country, meeting the people behind radio and meeting and making fans all along the way. If they come to a venue near you I would recommend checking them out! Don’t forget to visit iTunes to download “Musta Had a Good Time” and “Carolina” – rate and review them. Be sure to request their music wherever you listen to it.
Be sure to follow @parmaleefans and like their fb page as well.They are the official fan site for Parmalee. They will keep you well informed as to what the guys are up to and what you can do as a fan to help them keep on keeping on this journey of theirs.