Parmalee is walking the walk on arena tour

By John Benson

Falling off a stage has never been an issue for Parmalee’s Matt Thomas. However, to be fair, the singer-guitarist hasn’t played many arena dates with extravagant platforms.

That’s all about to change now as the North Carolina-based band ventures out as the main supporting act for Brad Paisley’s Country Nation World Tour, which comes to Youngstown’s Covelli Center on Friday.

“There’s a catwalk out to the front and the side of the stage, which is really cool,” said Thomas, calling from Pensacola, Fla. “There’s also a 50-foot walkout that goes left and right; it’s like a T in the crowd. That’s something new for us that we’re getting use to. That’s probably the newest and fun thing for us, to be able to use those walks.”

When asked if he feared falling off the catwalk and ending up not only on his keister but also invariably on YouTube, Thomas said, “You just never know. You try to pay attention, but you’re trying to play and sing and kick back. Hopefully we won’t fall.

“And if I fall tonight, I’m going to blame you.”

Odds are Thomas and company will be fine. Not only is the group coming off an opening spot for Jake Owen’s recent tour, but the quartet — which features Thomas, his brother Scott (drums), cousin Barry Knox (bass) and Josh McSwain (guitar) — is enjoying quite a year.

The group’s late 2013 debut album, “Feels Like Carolina,” included No. 1 hit “Carolina,” as well as radio tracks “Musta Had a Good Time” and “Close Your Eyes.” Also, MSN Entertainment listed Parmalee as one of “Country Music’s Breakout Stars of 2014.”

Now the group is hoping that success continues into 2015 with new single “Already Callin’ You Mine” starting to make a rise at radio.

Thomas said the selection of the latest single was a calculated decision to expand the Parmalee brand.

“We liked its tempo,” Thomas said. “‘Carolina’ and ‘Close Your Eyes’ are midtempo, so we wanted something upbeat. It felt like it would help us define our sound even more. If people heard those songs, they’d figure that’s the Parmalee sound, but we’re just getting there.

“They may know those songs, but they don’t know the band. So we felt like ‘Already Callin’ You Mine’ was the right move, for sure.”

The new single’s success will determine where Parmalee goes next. If it proves to be a major hit, the outfit could find itself on the road with another single to follow. If it doesn’t do as well, the band may look toward its sophomore album, which Thomas said the band is already writing.

Nevertheless, it’s a great situation for an up-and-coming band to be in, considering less than a year ago the outfit was playing honky tonks. That included memorable shows at the Dusty Armadillo.

“Oh yeah, Dusty is awesome,” Thomas said. “It’s always a sellout. The first time we played there it was a sellout. The fans are awesome. It’s the coolest place.”

Those fans helped get Parmalee to the precipice of fame, which in turn would make the band an arena act. Now that Thomas and company has tasted such success, is the band feeling pressure to remain at that level?

“You have to understand, you get there when you get big songs,” Thomas said. “It takes time for the songs to hit a nerve. It takes a lot of people to fill these places up, and you have to sell tickets. And to sell tickets you have to really connect and have big songs.

“If you understand that, then you can strive for that. I think that’s all around to make you better and make you want it more.”

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