By John Benson
After working nearly a decade for a shot at country-music stardom, North Carolina band Parmalee thought for a moment in September 2010 it would be three shots that would keep the band from reaching its dream.
Singer-guitarist Matt Thomas described a surreal incident involving an attempted robbery and shootout outside the club at which they had just played. His brother and band drummer Scott was shot three times and given a 5 percent chance to live.
“I wouldn’t want to go through that again,” said Thomas, calling from Alabama.
However, looking back, Thomas now sees it was Parmalee the band that helped his brother get well. It turns out the group was just a day away from a high- profile major-label showcase when the shooting took place.
“I think that kind of got him through it,” Thomas said. “It helped him focus and to push forward. Had we not had this label courting us and waiting on us, it would have been harder to get through that recovery. So our goal was to get back to Nashville. And our first show after Scott was well enough to play was the one that got us the deal on Stoney Creek Records.”
Fast-forward three years, and now Parmalee is finally ready to release its label debut early next year. Already, the group has enjoyed success with its lead single, “Musta Had a Good Time,” which spent four-consecutive weeks at No. 1 on SiriusXM The Highway’s fan-voted “Hot 30 LIVE” countdown.
Add in the fact the outfit’s second single, “Carolina,” is currently a top-25 hit, and Parmalee is on its way. This includes its Youngstown area debut. The band performs tonight at Stambaugh Auditorium.
Comparison-wise, Thomas said the band comes from a different angle than most Music City acts.
“We’ve gotten a country, Matchbox Twenty comparison before, which is kind of interesting,” Thomas said. “What I always try to say is, think of Jason Aldean and Eric Church — country guys that rock. We’ll, we’re like rock guys with a little country in us. I’m not really that twangy of a singer, but we’re all from the country, so it comes out in the songs. And we have country lyrics.”
Things are really taking off for Parmalee, which earlier this year was handpicked by Southwest Airlines as the first act to perform on its Southwest Airlines Travelin’ Taylor Tour series. The outfit literally performed at 35,000 feet for passengers on a direct flight from Nashville to Houston.
So we know all about the milehigh club. But what do you call a band playing music on an airplane flight?
“Oh, easy — that’s alive at 35, as in 35,000 feet,” Thomas said. “We told everybody it was a sold-out crowd and had a captive audience. It was great.”
So, literally and figuratively, Parmalee’s career is on the rise?
“That’s right,” Thomas said, laughing.