For the members of chart-topping country quartet Parmalee, those five digits are more than the postal code of their hometown (Parmele, N.C. – population 278). They’re a badge of honor, tattooed on each of their arms … and on each of their hearts. And now, it’s the title of their second album for Stoney Creek Records.
Comprised of brothers Matt and Scott Thomas (lead vocals and drums), cousin Barry Knox (bass) and their best friend Josh McSwain (lead guitar), Parmalee are the quintessential American country band. Raised on a diet of Southern rock, country, and blues, they formed in 2001 as a bunch of small town boys chasing wild weekend nights, but their talents eventually took them beyond the little cement-block barn they rehearsed in and onto country music’s biggest stages, not to mention the top of Billboard’s country chart.
More than a decade of blue-collar persistence made their 2013 breakout single, “Carolina,” into a Platinum-certified #1 hit, while their debut album landed in the Top 10. Two more singles (“Close Your Eyes” and “Already Callin’ You Mine”) rose to #4 and #10 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, and all the while they kept their noses to the grindstone, touring hundreds of dates a year.
Awards nominations from the Academy of Country Music and Teen Choice Awards came rolling in, and headlining tours were launched. Now with their next batch of music, they’re offering up a tribute to the place where it all began, and embracing the future.
“We have been wanting to call an album 27861 for years now,” Matt explains. “Everybody has their own story, and you never know where people come from or how their lives have panned out. But we grew up around rural, hard-working people.”
“You started working young, and you started learning that hard-work ethic,” Scott says, thinking of the back-breaking days he and Matt spent logging local forests. “That’s still our mentality now.”
Just like the ink embedded in their arms, the hard-working virtues of that upbringing have seeped into Parmalee’s soul. And with 27861, they propel the band into a bold new chapter – one with respect for where they came from, but harnessing the same adventurous sprit they left home with all those years ago.
Produced by the band themselves with a who’s who of Nashville’s most visionary musical minds, its sound mixes new flavors into the Parmalee cocktail.
“It has to go forward, because you never want to go back,” Matt explains.
Their much loved country-rock sound is still in force, defined by blazing guitars and soaring harmonies, live drums and a locked-in musical brotherhood. But fans will notice a change. Many of Parmalee’s new songs push forward to the very edges of modern country, bringing in expertly-programmed beats, irresistible pop melodies, and vocal hooks built to grab attention from fans of any genre.
“There’s a lot of new tools, but that’s all they are,” says Josh. “Tools.”
“It’s all about singing along, smiling and having a good time,” Matt adds with a grin. “That’s what we want.”
Singing along has never been easier, as personal, lived-in stories form the album’s foundation. Matt co-wrote nine of the 12 tracks with Music City masters like busbee, Tom Douglas, Craig Wiseman, and the late Andrew Dorff, and the impact of tiny Parmele is felt even as the guys continue to chase their dreams.
Written by the singer with hit makers Ross Copperman and Josh Osborne, the blood-pumping second single “Sunday Morning” shows off the contrasting truths of the band’s journey – they crave both big-city, fast-lane fun, and simple lives filled with love. The track combines heart and reverence for tradition with an explosive rush of romantic desire, and concert crowds have been eating it up as thousands are inspired to clap and sing along, wrapped up in rafter-shaking abandon.
“We’re always trying to get back,” Matt explains, saying even country stars need to stay in touch with who they truly are. “Back home away from the crazy where everything is laid back. Now Nashville is home for us. We all moved here together with a dream … a dream that started in a little cement block barn in Parmele, N.C.”
As their hard work begins to pay off, Parmalee’s starting point seems to keep getting farther from view. But no matter how far they rise, they know that small hometown will always come with them – from the lessons learned to the sounds they love to the drive that keeps pushing them forward. That’s why they named the band “Parmalee” in the first place, and that’s why their second album is called 27861.
“It’s embedded in our soul,” Barry says.