From this tiny own that’s home to a gas station, two blinking yellow lights, and a small tin- roofed barn dubbed Studio B, country rockers Parmalee launched their long journey to Nashville. The near-fatal robbery Parmalee experienced after a show would have destroyed most bands. But brothers Matt and Scott Thomas, cousin Barry Knox and longtime friend Josh McSwain didn't call it quits. Instead it reinforced their intense motivation and dedication to one another and to their determination to succeed.Each obstacle that delayed Parmalee’s arrival to Nashville was an extra mile that allowed the groundbreaking sounds of artists like Jason Aldean and Eric Church to pave the way for the worlds of country radio and Parmalee’s brand of country music to meet at the perfect crossroad.Parmalee’s country rock sound has its roots in the bluegrass, traditional country, southern rock and blues covers the guys grew up hearing their families play.
Matt and Scott Thomas grew up near Greenville, NC watching their father Jerry front a popular local southern rock blues band. The boys watched and learned, picking up their own instruments and jamming along with their dad's band. From this they learned how to integrate their own style into the songs they were playing. Barry Knox, who played drums for the church choir, loved what his cousins were doing and soon joined them. All that practice paid off one night when Matt and Scott, then teenagers, snuck into a club to watch their father perform. "The guitar player got too drunk before the gig and didn't show," Matt explains. "I knew all the songs so my dad called me on stage. I was in the band from that point on." Scott replaced the drummer, and Barry learned bass in order to secure his spot in the band. The line-up became the newly minted The Thomas Brothers Band. The Thomas Brothers Band cut their teeth on the local club circuit and would often share the same marquee with a cover band that starred their friend Josh McSwain on guitar and keys. Josh’s upbringing paralleled Matt, Scott and Barry’s. Josh also traveled and played with his father who was in a bluegrass band called “Get Honked.” A fan of Josh’s musical prowess, Matt invited Josh to play with Barry, Scott and himself. The foursome clicked immediately on stage. Their first gig was held at local watering hole, Corrigans, near East Carolina University where the guys went to school. From this moment in 2001 Parmalee was born. The band set up camp every Tuesday and Thursday evening in the Parmele, NC barn they named Studio B after its original builder Mark Bryant. They added an extra “e” to the band's name to make it easier for those outside the area to pronounce it. “Tuesdays and Thursdays were the only nights we could all get together and rehearse – the rest of the time we were each out working in order to fund Parmalee,” Matt says. “Every person in town could hear us practice in the barn, so we also had to stop at 11 p.m. to be considerate of the neighborhood." The residents of Parmele weren't the only ones within earshot. The band developed a devout regional following based on the intensity of their live shows. But, the guys knew to turn their dreams into reality they would have to leave North Carolina. Their journey took them all over the country including New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta as they tried to find their musical direction. All of the producers, managers, and label representatives said the same thing: "you guys need to be in Nashville." Matt, Barry and Josh parked their RV, which doubled as their studio, in the Comfort Inn parking lot on Nashville’s famed Demonbreun Street near Music Row. For the next month the parking lot was home and office. They began writing new material and networking. Their new connections led to a co-writing session with David Fanning, who is part of the celebrated production team New Voice with Kurt Allison, Tully Kennedy and Rich Redmond. "Going into these appointments, you never know who you're going to meet or how it's going to go," Matt explains. "But when I wrote with David, we hit it off."
During the same weekend as the infamous Nashville flood, Parmalee and Fanning wrote “Musta Had a Good Time” - even recording the demo in the RV’s recording “studio” - oblivious to the devastation that was happening to the city around them. After the “Flood Sessions,” Parmalee went into the studio with New Voice to record some sides, including “Carolina,” and “Musta Had a Good Time.” NV played the songs for BBR Music Group President/CEO Benny Brown who was impressed and asked to see a showcase as soon as the band returned to Nashville.
"We knew we had a lot of friends and fans," Josh says. "But we found out exactly how many we had.” By February 2011, for the first time and the band finally performed their promised label showcase. Parmalee had fought for so much for so long that we decided we hadn’t come this far to stop now." Through sheer willpower, the band nailed the set and landed a deal with Stoney Creek Records, home to ACM Vocal Duo of the Year Thompson Square and chart-topper Randy Houser. If you think of Jason Aldean as the rockin’ side of country then think of Parmalee as the country side of rock,”
Country fans recently voted the band’s debut single, “Musta Had A Good Time,” #1 for 4 consecutive weeks on SiriusXM’s “The Highway,” and the song is a Top 40 hit on mainstream country radio. The fun-loving party anthem has been featured in national sporting event broadcasts from the PGA to MLB. Parmalee has been highlighted in USA Today, AOL’s The Boot, Country Aircheck, Country Weekly and been named a “Bubbling Under Artist” by Billboard magazine. The signs are clear that after a long, tumultuous journey to Nashville, Parmalee is home at last.
John Michael Montgomery has turned an uncanny ability to relate to fans into one of country music's most storied careers. Behind the string of hit records, the roomful of awards and the critical and fan accolades that have defined his phenomenal success lies a connection that goes beyond his undeniable talent and his proven knack for picking hits. Since the days when "Life's A Dance" turned him from an unknown artist into a national star, John Michael’s rich baritone has carried that most important of assets--believability. Few artists in any genre sing with more heart than this handsome Kentucky-born artist.
It is readily apparent in love songs that have helped set the standard for a generation. Songs like “I Swear,” “I Love the Way You Love Me” and “I Can Love You Like That” still resonate across the landscape--pop icon and country newcomer Jessica Simpson cited “I Love The Way You Love Me” as an influence in a recent interview. It is apparent in the 2004 hit “Letters From Home,” one of the most moving tributes to the connection between soldiers and their families ever recorded, and in “The Little Girl,” a tale of redemption that plumbs both the harrowing and the uplifting. It is apparent even in the pure fun that has always found its way into John Michael's repertoire--songs like “Be My Baby Tonight” and “Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident),” where John Michael's vocal earnestness takes musical whimsy to another level.
John Michael's origins lie in deceptively modest beginnings. He was born in Danville, Kentucky, to parents who imparted a lifelong love of music.
"Where most people have chairs and sofas in their living rooms," laughs John Michael, "we had amplifiers and drum kits."
The family band played on weekends throughout the area, and John Michael and his brother Eddie eagerly soaked up everything about it.
"To a certain extent," he says, "my dad always had a natural ability to draw fans and entertain people; I don't care if it was on the front porch, the living room, or on a stage. I think that transitioned to me and my brother being able to do that on stage."
John Michael took over lead singing chores after his parents divorced, and he performed for a while in a band called Early Tymz with Eddie and their friend Troy Gentry. Nashville talent scouts began hearing about and then seeing John Michael perform and by the early '90s he had a record deal.
The hits followed steadily, with songs like "Rope The Moon," "If You've Got Love," "No Man's Land," "Cowboy Love," "As Long As I Live," "Friends" and "How Was I To Know" establishing him as one of the elite acts of the era. He received the CMA Horizon award and was named the ACM's Top New Vocalist, setting off a long series of awards that included the CMA's Single and Song of the Year, Billboard's Top Country Artist, and a Grammy nomination. Heavy touring meant he kept the close touch with fans he had begun in the clubs back home.
"You get to know your fans and what they like more and more through the years," he says, "and you kind of gravitate towards one another."