The story of Parmalee: From Martin County to Nashville

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – For many people in the East, they’ve been watching the band Parmalee rise to stardom for more than a decade. Now the rest of the country is falling in love with the boys of Parmalee who still call North Carolina and the East home.

parmalee 3On Saturday, the band rocked Minges Coliseum in front of thousands of fans. It was their first show back at home in four years, and their biggest show yet as a headliner.

“You always hoped that you could get here,” said lead singer Matt Thomas. “We didn’t have any idea how or what it would take to actually get here.”

The band is comprised of brothers Matt and Scott Thomas, cousin Barry Knox, and longtime friend Josh McSwain. From birth, the two brothers and cousin were inseparable.

“They made great playmates whenever we would gather at mother’s house for holidays,” said Martha Knox, Barry’s mom.

The three boys grew up in the small town of Robersonville in Martin County. Matt and Scott were particularly influenced by their dad’s music.

From the very first note as a band, Martha Knox said she knew they were going to do great things. However, not everyone was so supportive.

Matt Thomas said he remembers one particular critic’s comment.

“These guys are just living a pipe dream,” Thomas said. “They should just quit now, I don’t know what they’re thinking. I think I would give him credit for us being here right now.”

parmalee 4Thomas had been determined to be a musician from a very young age. Their first practice spot was a humble shed behind a house in the town of Parmele. It would later be named Studio B, after owner Mark Bryant.

“They needed a place they could play and get pretty loud without bothering the neighbors,” Bryant said.

After going through several names, including Slip Joint, the band finally settled on Parmalee, changing the spelling so people would pronounce it correctly.

“Every night we could we’d go out to Parmele in that little barn and just try and write some music,” said bassist Barry Knox. “We didn’t really have plans.”

Eventually, the guys would move into a house on Greenville Blvd. It was here that songs like “Musta Had a Good Time” and parts of “Feels Like Carolina” were written.

However, things came to an abrupt halt back in 2010 when drummer Scott Thomas was shot three times during an attempted armed robbery in their tour bus. Thomas was given just a 5 percent chance of surviving.

“Just being here now, we were all freaking out when we got here, it’s so fun, but it was just a surreal moment,” he said.

During his recovery, thousands of dollars were raised by people across the East and country to support the band. They said that support really pushed them to make it big. Several years later, “Feels like Carolina” became their first platinum single.

Sharon Corey, Matt and Scott’s mom, said she can still remember the first time she heard her boys on the radio.

“I thought I heard the first couple of notes, and there was like 6 of us in a car, and I said be quiet, it’s Parmalee,” Corey said.

Since then, the band has been played on the radio a lot more with hits like “Close Your Eyes” and “Already Callin’ You Mine.”

“This has been the biggest night ever for us,” said Matt Thomas during the show. “We never expected this. We didn’t know what we were thinking.”

parmalee 2As the band played, family and friends couldn’t help but to think about how far the boys they watched growing up had come.

“Everybody around here, you know, is so proud,” Bryant said. “I mean I can get emotional a lot of times just riding down the road hearing them.”

Emotional was also a word their moms used to describe the moment. Martha Knox said it still is hard to believe what the band has accomplished.

“It’s hard to explain how you feel to know that you see someone that you’ve loved all your life doing something that they love for the rest of their life,” Knox said.

parmalee 1Parmalee is currently working on a new album, which they said would be “Parmalee 2.0.” A release date hasn’t been announced, but they said probably towards the end of 2016.

They are already planning on coming back to Greenville to do another show.


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