From the historic success of Feels Like Carolina — a debut record stacked with three consecutive Top 10 singles — to their boundary-breaking, multi-national No. 1./ multi-Platinum-certified collaboration with Blanco Brown on the hit song “Just the Way,” Parmalee have charted one of the most unique paths in modern-day Country music. It’s a path that’s taken the tight-knit family band from the roadhouses and beach bars of North Carolina to some of the biggest stages across the world, leaving a trail of songs that mix southern storytelling with country-rock charisma along the way.
Everything began in Parmele, NC. It was the definition of a small town — filled with little more than two traffic lights, a gas station, and 278 people — but for brothers Matt and Scott Thomas, it was home. Their father was a professional musician who filled the family household with the sounds of southern rock, country, blues, and Motown. Before long, the Thomas brothers were playing with him at local shows…and when the old man decided to retire, the boys kept going, recruiting cousin Barry Knox and family friend Josh McSwain to form the band Parmalee.
From the start, Parmalee’s music was as diverse as the songs the bandmates grew up with. They were country musicians with a rock & roll edge, blurring the lines between genres to find an original sound. They were road warriors, too, spending nearly a decade on tour, steadily building their audience show-by-show and song-by-song. By the time the group signed with Broken Bow Records and released their debut, Feels Like Carolina, they’d developed into a band whose feel-good songs were backed by heartland hooks, thick vocal harmonies, guitar muscle, and the solid craft of songwriter Matt Thomas. No wonder the album became a hit. “Carolina” — the band’s platinum-selling, chart-topping tribute to their home state — was the first of three songs to crack the Top 10, making Feels Like Carolina one of only four debut albums during the 21st century to produce so many back-to-back country hits.
The hits kept coming with 27861, the band’s second major-label record. Released in 2017 and named after the zip code of their North Carolina hometown, 27861 once again highlighted the songwriting talents of frontman Matt Thomas, who’d previously penned hits like “Carolina,” “Already Callin’ You Mine,” and the party anthem “Must’ve Been a Good Time.” The album also found all four members of Parmalee taking a major role in 27861‘s production, showcasing a band that didn’t just play their own instruments and write their own hits, but co-produced their own records, too.
Throughout a career whose highlights have included 385 million Pandora streams, 255 million on-demand streams, and an ACM nomination for “New Vocal Duo/Group of the Year,” the boys in Parmalee have always dared to be different. That’s why they reached out to Blanco Brown, asking the genre-bending country star — whose song “The Git Up” had been one of the year’s biggest hits, earning double-platinum sales with its unique “trailer trap” sound — to partner with them on another one of Matt Thomas’ originals. The result was “Just the Way,” a moving tribute to self-love and individuality. Now the band’s biggest success, (No. 1 on Country radio in the US and Canada, Certified-Platinum in the US and Canada, nominated at the 2021 CMT Music Awards, earning more than 160 million streams in the US alone and a place on Hot AC radio) the international smash, recently inspired a pop mix with Bryce Vine, adding another dimension to Parmalee’s ever-evolving sound.
It’s been two decades since Matt, Scott, Barry, and Josh held their first band rehearsals in a tin-roofed barn in rural North Carolina. Much has changed since those early days. The guys have played shows from Jacksonville to Japan, from the Grand Ole Opry to the TODAY show, from the opening slot of Brad Paisley’s Country Nation World Tour to their own headlining performances. Their sound — which Matt proudly dubs “new country” — has evolved along the way, spawning Number One hits and plenty of crowd favorites. Even so, Parmalee haven’t forgotten about the small town that built them, or the countless artists whose diverse songs inspired them to make their own music. They’re part of a larger legacy now, joining an elite pack of hitmakers who have refused to rest on their past successes, always remembering where they came from but always chasing down brighter horizons, too. For Parmalee, the journey is just beginning.