When the band Parmalee returns Sunday evening for a free concert at The Boathouse Waterway Bar & Grill, every member can show that Myrtle Beach also “Feels Like Carolina” in every sense.
With an extra E added to their name to ensure an easier pronunciation, the country rock quartet that began in 2001 in the small town of Parmale, N.C. – near Rocky Mount and Greenville – landed its first No. 1 song this past fall with “Carolina,” a journey that peaked in its 44th week on the country charts.
Fresh with their first CD on Broken Bow Records’ Stoney Creek label, “Feels Like Carolina,” Parmalee comprises Matt and Scott Thomas, the brothers who handle lead vocals and drums, respectively, with cousin Barry Knox playing bass, and their friend Josh McSwain on guitar.
When Parmalee last played along the Intracoastal Waterway at The Boathouse, May 26, 2013, the single “Carolina,” first released in 2008 on the “Complicated” EP, was starting its long ascent.
Knox, calling last month from Bowling Green, Ky., when Parmalee warmed up crowds on a part of Jake Owen’s “Days of Gold” tour, said the feeling when coming back to the Grand Strand one year later “makes a big difference.”
“Myrtle Beach and all of South Carolina,” he said, “it’s kind of like home for us. We burned up South Carolina roads for many years before our big success. Going back to Myrtle Beach is just like going home.”
Amid various songs that spent many months to reach their summit on the country charts, such as Joe Nichols’ “Sunny and 75” last year, and in 2012, “Time Is Love” by Hannah native Josh Turner – who will revisit the Alabama Theatre in North Myrtle Beach for a concert on June 7 – Knox spoke of how long it took to truly realize that “Carolina” finally hit the mountain top.
“We never had a song to creep up the charts like that,” he said. “We really didn’t know what to expect. Even after it hit No.1, I don’t think any of us felt it was for real. When we had a No. 1 song party at BMI, and our parents and family were there, that was the realistic moment.”
The group’s follow-up single, “Close Your Eyes,” cracked the Top 40 to start May, and Knox said anticipation for its prospects are “a lot different now” after seeing “Carolina” go all the way.
“It’s like reality for us now,” he said of a new “day-by-day” mind-set. “It could possibly happen again.”
With the whole band having grown up in more bucolic eastern North Carolina, Knox named his favorite place as simply “the farm.”
“One of my best friend’s dad was the owner of a farm,” Knox said, citing standard pastimes in roaming the land. “With four-wheelers and BB guns, we were good to go.”
The debut single, and first selection, from their album, “Musta Had a Good Time,” which kicks off with two strokes of a guitar chord, also has scored in airplay during Major League Baseball and Professional Golfers’ Association of America national broadcasts.
Knox said the band spent about three years composing the music for their CD, all narrowed down from “close to 200 songs” they wrote.
“We picked what we thought would be the best 12,” he said, “and it’s really good we had that long period of time. Because … we got to dial it in, what we wanted to say and what we wanted to write about.”
Some of the numbers that for “Feels Like Carolina” missed the cut, Knox said, “we really wanted to make it onto this record.”
“They still might have a chance,” he said, adding, “a songwriter is on the bus with us, and we’re in the middle of writing one.”
Cruising the roads has been routine for Parmalee, especially for going back and forth between their homes in North Carolina and the studio in Nashville, Tenn.
“It’s 11 hours, one way,” he said. “We’ve driven it a million times.”