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Parmalee singer Matt Thomas: interview

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Matt Thomas of Parmalee  AP 2014

Matt Thomas of Parmalee performs during the Tortuga Music Festival at South Point Park on April 13, 2014 in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. Parmalee performs in Sarasota on Friday. (Photo by Jeff Daly/Invision/AP)

When Parmalee performs Friday at the White Buffalo Saloon the Sarasota venue will be filled with folks who have spent the past year or so singing along to the band’s uplifting hit “Carolina.” Culled from the group’s breakthrough album “Feels Like Carolina,” it’s a highly melodic, mid-tempo love song that also doubles as an ode to the band’s home state of North Carolina. In fact, Parmalee takes its name from the tiny Tar Heel State town of Parmele, where the band rehearsed in a small, tin-roofed barn dubbed “studio b.” An extra “e” was added at the end to make Parmalee easier to pronounce. Thanks to “Carolina,” a No. 1 hit, Parmalee has become a household name among country music fans.

“We wrote that a few years ago,” says lead singer and guitarist Matt Thomas, who co-wrote “Carolina” with his band mates. “I had been in L.A. for a little bit and got back to Carolina and it’s just all about how people you love make you feel like your home.”

Did the singer know right away he had a hit on his hands?

“I’ll be honest, when I first heard it I knew,” he says by phone. “I got the track on in my room and and told the guys, ‘You listen to this!’”

Parmalee is a family band comprised of Matt and his brother Scott Thomas (drums), cousin Barry Knox (bass) and lifelong best friend Josh McSwain (guitar). In 2010, on the night before Parmalee was scheduled to be in Nashville for a showcase with current record label Stoney Creek, Scott Thomas was shot three times during an attempted robbery of the band’s RV, which was parked outside the club Paramlee had just played. Scott was airlifted to a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. Doctors gave him a slim chance of survival but he made a full recovery after spending 35 days in the hospital including 10 in a coma.

“That kind of put us in high gear,” Matt says of his brother’s speedy comeback. “We had this vision and when that happened we always wanted to look forward. At that point in time, we had production deal and a label that wanted to hear what we were going to do next. We had Nashville waiting on us and that put the drive in us.”

The guys of Parmalee proceeded to make a big impression on Music City two years ago with their self-penned debut single “Musta Had a Good Time.” Informed by the musicians’ love of Southern rock, it’s a driving number with a story set the morning after a wild house party. The Top 40 country hit humorously details the aftermath, which includes everything from a “shower rod turned into a strip pole” to a “car out in the pool.”

“Oh man, we all lived together in college and all those stories, the song is definitely based on true events,” Matt says with a laugh. “Most of that happened there at one time or another.”

Parmalee with The John King Band
9 p.m. Friday, The White Buffalo Saloon, 5377 McIntosh Road, Sarasota; $15 (advance), $20 (day of show); 927-6655; thewbsaloon.com



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WADE TATANGELOis the editor of TICKET + and a contributor at TicketSarasota.com. He has been an entertainment editor, reporter, columnist and reviewer for more than a decade at publications nationwide. He is a Hershey, Pa., native who grew up in Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune in 2013 and writes the weekly Bar Tab column. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: May 14, 2014
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