On Thursday, May 14, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill will be welcoming one of country music’s hottest new groups, Parmalee, to their Syracuse location. Just off of the stage at 2015’s Stagecoach Festival, Parmalee will return to upstate New York to bring the rocking country music party to Central New York.
Touring now with their debut album with Stoney Creek Records, Feels Like Carolina, and just finishing up a sound check at the Stagecoach Festival, Matt Thomas took a moment to say hi to NYSMusic.com readers and talk with me about the journey, and what it means to the group to be so loved by fans.
Kathy Stockbridge (KS): Hi Matt, so nice to speak with you. You guys have a huge following up here in Central NY and we are so excited to welcome you to Toby Keith’s in Syracuse.
Matt Thomas (MT): We can’t wait! It’s always fun up there seeing the crowds and all.
KS: Every band has a story on how they’ve made their way in the music business. Yours has been rather exciting along the way. Starting from the beginning, you hail from a small two-light-town in North Carolina where I read that when you guys practiced, the town was so small everyone knew it and you would have to end practices by 11pm.
MT: Yeah, everybody like us had to get up and go to work so we’d make sure we’d stop by 11pm.
KS: Now growing up in a musical family did your father and mother encourage your musical education?
MT: Oh yeah. I played with my dad in his band growing up. He was the kind of guy you always looked up to, and my mom played piano at church. They were always encouraging to us to play.
KS: And when you were younger, what kinda places did you play? What was it like to finally get that moment up on stage?
MT: We would play anywhere anyone would have ya. That was the deal. We played back porches, trailers, private parties until we could get to where we could play the clubs. People would hire ya but pretty much starting out on the back porches though.
KS: Then your cousin, Barry, and friend, Josh, joined in. Were they with you both during those garage band days and joining your father on stage?
MT: Yeah, we were going out there doing what we could to get our name out there. You kinda just play for people that’ll have ya, then you start getting paid for it..and you move on up from there…take gigs and start writing music and I think most people start off like that in little hole in the wall places.
KS: Have you always been country, blues, and rock or did the sound you have today kinda evolve into your distinctive sound as you guys played together more?
MT: That’s what we were all brought up on, and we were influenced by everything. But that was the first stuff we heard; the country, soul, blues, sound while we were growing up. There’s a lot of stuff I love though, we listened to everything. Being a guitar player I was influenced by the great guitar players Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, and all those guys. Classic guitar players; I listened to a lot of those guys to learn how to play.
KS: Yeah, Stevie Ray Vaughn, that’s one musician I would have loved to see play. What an amazing musician.
MT: Yeah, me too.
KS: You’ve had a tumultuous time getting your music out there. Many artists take on a long and winding road trip, but your road was way bumpier than most. Take us on a road trip leaving Parmale, NC and tell us where it took ya
MT: Being based out of Parmale, we played regionally as much as we could. We played a lot up and down the east coast over the years tying to catch on and developing a fan base. Did a lot of shows up in New York. We never had an opportunity to play out west at all until we got signed and put out our first single to country radio. We never really had the chance till then to tour the country. Thankful for that hit that allowed us to go everywhere. We just took all the opportunities that we could at that time trying to make something happen. But mostly the southeast region where we would just burn it up. It was our top market. A lot of times we would play the weekends because we were working all week too. So we would only play three nights a week for a long time.
KS: While out on the road playing gigs, a horrible event occurred when two men decided to rob you one night after a gig at gunpoint. Briefly tell our readers that may no know the story, what happened that evening.
MT: We played a show and as we were leaving two guys tried to rob us by basically pulling us into our RV and wanting cash money. They fired on us, and Scott who has a license to carry, returned fire and we had a gun fight in the RV. Scott was shot three times and spent 40 days in the hospital . It was a bad deal. But we came out of it, and four months later we did our showcase for Broken Bow Records which got us our record deal.
KS: I read how your fans and the music community rallied around you and were very supportive. What did that mean to you guys?
MT: Oh it was great. We realized that we had connected with people on another level and that we meant something to them so much that they would get together and help us out. It was awesome. They helped pay for all our medical expenses, daily expenses, and really helped get us back on our feet. It was pretty awesome.
KS: Now that you have those dark times behind you share some highlights with our readers.
MT: We’ve been able to travel the country, number one single, and we’ve had four top 40 singles now, two are top five. It’s been great being able to achieve our life long dreams out here. Then there’s those cool things like traveling the country and going to the awards shows, just being a part of the whole experience.
KS: Well I’m so happy for you guys, and yes, talk to me a little about the ACM’s you attended.
MT: Oh my it was amazing, it was the biggest show. It was unbelievable how many people who were inside that arena, it was crazy. It was a spectacle to see, was great seeing all the other artists play and hang out…was such fun walking the red carpet. We had some good times.
KS: You excited about Stagecoach this weekend? Is this your first time performing there?
MT: Oh yeah, that’s gonna be off the hook. We actually just got done with our sound check. We’ve been wanting to get out here the last few years, and it just worked out that. But it’s going to be great.
KS: I will be front row watching you guys this weekend on AXS.TV. Where else will we see you guys at this year?
MT: Oh we’re playing all over the place this year…fans can just check out our schedule online. It’s hard to keep the schedule in our heads.
KS: It must be so hard on your guys trying to keep your bearings at where you ‘re at all the time as your touring everywhere. You guys are really fan oriented. I notice you are constantly retweeting and scheduling YouTube chats with fans. I think that’s amazing how you do that. How do you fit it all in?
MT: We make sure we put it on our schedule. We have a media team that helps too.
KS: It’s so good to have people. Well at each interview I try to give the fans an insight into the personalities of their favorite musicians with a social speed round…mind playing along?
MT: Yeah sure.
KS: You’re on the road…you’re super hungry…you see this and you make the bus pull off every times!!!
KS: You all get a day off and decide to go to the movies. The town you’re in is so small that I only has a Dairy Queen and movie theater that plays previously released movies. After discussion ensues..you all decide on a) National Lampoons European Vacation b)Godfather c)Die Hard or d)The Notebook
MT: National Lampoons European Vacation
KS: What’s on your playlist right now?
MT: I like to listen to Pandora so my playlists have the Frank Sinatra Radio on, Today’s Top Hits, Country, just about everything.
KS: ____________reminds me of home
MT: Smell of pine trees
KS: As a writer I need to describe each of you in one word only…What one word/adjective describes…
As we completed our conversation I couldn’t help but be in awe of their determination and drive to achieve what they loved, music. I could totally relate to the working the 9 to 5 job to support their passion of music. By traveling countless hours, playing anywhere they could get an audience, these four men only had one goal in mind, reaching the country music fans worldwide and living their dreams. So happy to see that although a bumpy road, they’ve finally found the path that brings them to all country fans.
Hope to see everyone May 14, at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill, at Destiny in Syracuse.