Exclusive: Parmalee on surviving a tragic gunfight, remembering “Carolina” and touring in the air


Parmalee is a testament to survival.

After suffering a crippling incident involving a gunfight in 2010, the band — comprised of Matt Thomas, Scott Thomas, Barry Knox and Josh McSwain — bounced back, stronger and more resilient than ever. Last year, their "Musta Had a Good Time" set their budding career in motion. Their 2013 followup "Carolina" takes their superstar potential to dizzying heights and signals a breakthrough for the practically-family band.

Nashville Gab recently spoke with Parmalee about the aforementioned tragedy that sent Scott into the hospital (with three gunshot wounds), their current single "Carolina" and their Grand Ole Opry debut earlier this year (and much more).


NG: You guys are a family band, essentially. How did that come about, and was that always the goal?

Matt Thomas: It is. We met Josh in college. We actually were playing in college bars. We were playing with my dad’s band, and he was the local guy. He had this one club in this college town that he played. We were playing the bar with him and met Josh.

NG: Did you guys have instant chemistry?

Barry Knox: When we were playing with Matt and Scott’s dad’s band, we were doing a bunch of covers and a few originals. We wanted to step out and do our own thing. When we invited Josh out to perform in this little bar we had to practice in, we instantly gelled with Josh. [There] was no doubt about it. Ever since that day, it’s been the same four members of this band ever since.

MT: That’s a lie. Josh had a PA system. That’s why we asked him to be in the band. [laughs]

NG: You wrote your new single ‘Carolina,’ correct?

MT: Yea, we wrote ‘Carolina’ while we were out in California. The whole band was out their working on songs, doing some recording for about three months. We came back home [to] North Carolina. I was in the studio one day. Sometimes your mind just floats off. It took myself right back to California. I closed my eyes, and I was in the studio in California. When I walked outside, I was like ‘man, sure feels like Carolina. I know I’m home. I know it’s hot out here. It feels like home.’ So, I took that idea and parlayed it into a relationship song, because we’re gone all the time. It just cultivated itself after that. It worked out [well]. We took it to this guy in Atlanta and took him a little snippet of it. We finished it in his studio in Atlanta. It’s a cool process.

NG: How important is it for you guys to write your own songs?

MT: It’s important for us to write a great song with each other. You’re usually more apt to connect personally with something that you write, but that is not the end all be all for us. The best song wins. So, whether we write it or somebody else writes it, we’re firm believers that the best song is gonna win. If somebody else [has] a great song that’s honestly better than a song we wrote, then [we’re] like ‘I’m gonna cut your song. We’ll portray the message.’ For us, I think if the best song wins and it’s your song, that makes you feel a little bit better.

NG: How does that feel to have so many fans connecting to you and your music?

MT: I’ll say this continually. That’s the reason we do it. That’s what you can’t buy; you can’t pay for; you can’t put a formula around it. How people connect to what you’re laying out is the best part of what we do. I think that makes you feel good. That makes you feel like ‘we’re doing something right.’

NG: Now, ‘Carolina’ is your second single of your upcoming debut album?

MT: It’s the second single from the batch we’ve been working on to put music out. We had ‘Musta Had a Good Time’ last year. That will definitely be on the music that we release.

NG: How is the album coming along?

MT: Great. We’re actually working on mixes right now. We have a bunch of songs cut, and we’re picking through and continuing to write songs and have songs that we’ve listened to that we want to cut. It’s an ongoing process but it’s going great. It’s the last leg of it, right now.

NG: You performed on the Southwest Airlines (the Travelin’ Taylor Tour).  What was that experience like?

BK: The coolest thing about that was we only had one microphone. It was the intercom button. Another cool thing about it was it was a sold-out show. Nobody could leave. [laughs] It was really fun. We didn’t really know what to expect when we went on there. Surprisingly, everybody was really into it. After we played a few songs, we walked down the aisle, and people were asking for autographs. Nobody knew we were going to be on the plane. So, I was just expecting everybody to tell us to shut up and quit ruining [their flight].

NG: You also performed at the O Music Awards, correct? What was that experience like?

BK: That was one of our first televised camera-style productions. We got to see behind-the-scenes how it all works. It had an awesome set. It had great crowd lined up. It was just a lot of fun. It was a little hectic. They rush you in and out, because there’s so many different artists doing stuff.

NG: Were you nervous beforehand?

BK: It all happened so fast. I don’t think we had time to get nervous, but if we had thought about it a little more, we probably would have.

NG: You made your Grand Ole Opry debut in March. Can you talk about that?

BK: I think [with] that one, we all were a little nervous. That was a huge deal and a huge honor. Just being able to call your family and tell them ‘you’re not gonna believe this, but we’re playing at the Opry.’ Then, of course, all of our entire families flew out to Nashville to come see the show. It was great. We all had butterflies in our stomach, but we had a great time. We got to meet some really cool folks. We actually just got a phone call today that we’ve been invited back. We’re playing there again next week. So, they must of liked us.

NG: In September 2010, you were involved in an attempted robbery and shootout. Scott you ended up in the hospital and a coma for a while. How did that event change the dynamic of your group?

BK: There was a very unfortunate incident. Two guys tried to come on the RV and rob Matt and Scott with sevens. It went pretty bad. A gunfight broke out. Scott ended up getting shot three times. One of the guys [got] shot twice, and the other guy didn’t make it out. Luckily, we held together and nursed him back to health.

NG: Did that change your group’s dynamic?

MT: It told us real quick that anything can change at a moment’s notice and not take anything for granted. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make us closer. We all went through it together and took care of him. We stuck together.

NG: Have you written a song about that experience?

MT: We haven’t written a song specifically about that experience, but we’ve written a couple that touch on what we learned from it.

BK: Yea, you’re not guaranteed your next day. So, don’t take it for granted. There’s a song we wrote called ‘If You Love Someone,’ and it’s just about telling your family members that you love them. If you want to spend some time with somebody, spend some time with them. You’re never guaranteed that next day.


Keep up-to-date with all Parmalee's adventures here.


Photo Credit: Facebook

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