Tag Archives: Kurt Allison



     “Suntans and white tank tops….Summertime and no flip flops…..A little country, a little rock, yeah, yeah.” Sounds like summer in Parmele, North Carolina, where four guys grew up and nurtured their musical roots. Matt and Scott Thomas are brothers who grew up in Parmele along with their cousin, Barry Knox, and friend, Josh McSwain. Barely a dot on the map with a PARMALEE INTERVIEW PARMELEpopulation of just 278, the closest concert venue was 88 miles away in Raleigh. The Walnut Creek Amphitheatre opened in 1991 and has played host to over 20 years of live music, including many concerts these guys attended. Watching some of their favorite bands perform on the big stage fueled their dreams of becoming a band worthy of playing here some day. Ten years after the opening of this venue, in 2001, these brothers formed a band that was as much a product of their musical influences as it was their talent and home town. Once Parmele born and bred, now bound together as Parmalee.

I’ll Bring the Music” – Feels Like Carolina

     For those old enough to remember the tape deck and the audio cassettes it played, it was a tedious process to fast forward to the exact spot you were PAISLEY, BRAD COUNTRY NATION WORLD TOUR WITH PARMALEE AND THE SWON BROTHERSlooking for in the music. Oftentimes you had to rewind when you overshot it and fast forward again to hit it just right. This is much like the process a band goes through in their formative years. I met with Parmalee on their tour bus outside the WVU Coliseum, where they were set to open for Brad Paisley on the winter leg of his Country Nation World Tour. They were comfortably confident on this day that they were prepared for the task. Their set list for the evening opened with “I’ll Bring the Music,” but to find out where that music came from, we’ll have to rewind to the music they were listening to “Back in the Day.”   

Back in the Day” – Feels Like Carolina

     Watching the bands play live at Walnut Creek is how Parmalee learned to play like one. Pearl Jam, The Allman Brothers Band, and Foo Fighters were among their favorites, but it wasn’t just the music that influenced them. Bands such as these have longevity on their side and it shows in their live WALNUT CREEK AMPHITHEATRE RDUperformances. Studying them is how these four guys honed their stage presence as a band. In the studio, there are a lot of things to play with that can affect the recorded sound. Live, it’s all about what you can make happen as a group in the moment, which means skill and interaction must balance to put on a high quality, entertaining show.

     Fast forward to the stage they’ll be playing on with Brad Paisley. When selecting the songs for the set list, knowing your audience is key. Parmalee PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY MATTmakes it their job to figure out what kind of crowd they’re playing to and uses the opportunities they have to play something they would like. Whether the fans prefer Bob Seger or Snoop Dog, they “Think You Oughta Know That.” Many of today’s headlining acts play to pre-recorded tracks. Parmalee doesn’t. Everything you hear, they’re actually playing. Their philosophy is if you’ve come to see a live show, you want it to sound live. Part of the fun for a band is keeping it fresh on stage and creating unique moments within each performance. Doing that means knowing your bandmates well enough to anticipate each other’s moves and react PARMALEE INTERVIEW JOSH ON GUITARaccordingly. Within their set, there is no down time for these four guys. Creating a live, organic performance means working through every minute on stage as if the band’s success depends on it. Unlike the headliner, whose set is likely in sync with lights, sounds, and videos, Parmalee has some leeway to change things up and still have their lighting engineer on target. Matt knows his limitations when the mood strikes to stray from the preset program and keeps it fresh, yet manageable.

Think You Oughta Know That” – Feels Like Carolina

     For Parmalee, being a band means their approach to the set list is creating an outline for an original performance. It is in no way a simple reproduction of their PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY MATT JOSHrecorded album. Within several of their songs, it works well to add snippets of popular music covers that vary based on the audience. Call it creating a live mixtape on the fly. One of the advantages they have to playing songs not everyone is familiar with is vocal flexibility. Fans become attached to their favorite songs as they were recorded. How it was sung on the one day of its recording is pressed in PARMALEE SCOTT IN COLORour memories. When the singer strays from that version, audiences don’t always react favorably. As the lead vocalist, Matt tries to stay close to the recorded sound while changing it up as he sees fit. As for the music, Scott says he never plays the drums live the way he played on the record. His versatility pushes the rest of the guys to adjust and create in the moment. Today,  Parmalee is an outstanding live band because they understand and embrace this concept and can adjust to suit any size venue or setting.


     With only four guys to create the sound of Parmalee, instrument choice and volume control matter. How much equipment they’re toting depends on the PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY POSEsize of the room that sound has to fill. Looking back, the guys credit playing all those shows in small rooms when they were just starting out for giving them a full spectrum vantage point. Being able to “Move” seamlessly between different sized venues, and not compromise their sound, is something Parmalee has done for years. They may play an acoustic setting where no amps are required one night and switch to two electric guitars and a bass the next in an arena. More equipment is needed to produce the volume an arena demands and how loud the drums are will determine how high that volume needs to go. Making adjustments is what sound check is for.

Move” – Feels Like Carolina

     Parmalee has the middle slot on Brad Paisley’s tour, which means their sound check will come after his band has finished and before the opening act, PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY JOSH ON KEYS MATTThe Swon Brothers, gets their turn. I asked them for their assessment of being in the middle relative to what they were used to. For most of the years they’ve been playing together, they’ve headlined their own shows, playing sets as long as 75+ minutes. They’ve had the opening slot at festivals but not on an organized tour, essentially skipping that step to where they are here. Being in the middle makes them less vulnerable to PARMALEE SCOTT ON DRUMSwhat happens during the day, which can lead to delays and a crunch for time. Opening acts take the fall for what may go awry on show days, sometimes missing a sound check entirely and having to “throw and go” when the lights go down. Parmalee’s set on this tour is 45 minutes long, “a breeze,” they called it, from what they’re used to as a headliner. Comparatively, they said an opening act may have two songs the audience is familiar with in a short set. Parmalee said they have three songs the fans may know and a longer time to entertain with songs they don’t. Their new single, “Already Callin’ You Mine,” was just released to radio, making it one more the fans will soon recognize off their debut album, Feels Like Carolina. There are no cover songs in Parmalee’s set, so the songs on the album get shuffled to make up the set list. It would be the launch of this first album that set the wheels of their tour bus in motion.

Already Callin’ You Mine” – Feels Like Carolina

Download the new single through iTunes: HERE

     The first thing I asked about, when I sat with the guys for this interview, was the bus we were sitting on. They’ve done a lot of traveling in their 14 years as a band, most of which was not on a comfortable tour bus. Van and trailer gigs are the norm for a band starting out, and Parmalee said that getting the bus is PARMALEE INTERVIEW MATT ACOUSTIC COLORprobably the biggest change for a band. When they started playing the big festivals, the bus became a necessity, making their time on the road a whole lot easier. A tour bus is considered a big perk for a band, but Josh said having a crew with them now is an even bigger perk. When I asked what the criteria was for hiring a crew, the guys laughed and said, “Getting paid enough to have one.” Fair enough. Last year, they were able to hire two guys to assist them. Now, they have six crew members and a driver along for the ride, making it a snug fit with PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY TAMBOURINE11 guys on the bus. They’re also hauling a trailer packed from top to bottom with equipment. Prior to having the crew, they would arrive for a show and have to set everything up themselves. They said it’s taken about a year to find the right guys that fit the bill and the budget, mostly going by word of mouth recommendations and choosing from what they called a small community of roadies in Nashville. The other big change for them this year is finding themselves on stage with someone they idolized, Brad Paisley. Brad is one of the most skilled guitar players in Nashville, and that fact is not lost on these guys. Sharing the stage with him has left Parmalee a little awed by where they are and cognizant of where they’ve been. Now that they have the bus, they can toast this with a little “Day Drinkin’” in style.

Day Drinkin’” – Feels Like Carolina

     Between show dates, the guys are back home in Nashville working on their upcoming new album. There is no scheduled release date for it yet, but we PARMALEE INTERVIEW JOSH B & Wdiscussed the process of recording in Nashville, which is unlike any other place in the world. Taking advantage of present day technology and the resources they have available in Nashville makes them appreciate how far we’ve come in the evolution of music. The guys remember listening to things on the tape deck with their dads and said they came of age doing things on analog tape. They’ve gone through the process of making music in a lot of different ways, appreciating the experience for what it’s taught PARMALEE INTERVIEW MATT POSEthem. Only in Nashville can you potentially write a song, record the demo, have top musicians play on it, press it, and have it ready for sale in one day. Not that anyone does this, but Nashville has the resources to make it possible. Recognizing the advantages of digital music and the speed of the process, they still expressed a desire to have at least one of their albums pressed in vinyl. Having a record player, like Barry does, and a collection of vinyl albums is hip again. Perhaps if they get a vinyl copy of the new album, they can listen to it at Barry’s house, and talk about the days when vinyl was king. Just “Another Day Gone.”

Another Day Gone” – Feels Like Carolina

     In some ways, Parmalee has embraced the old school way of recording and settled into the process with their second album. They’ve found things easier this time around because they’ve gotten to know the songwriters better and have been able to write with some of the best in Nashville. They’re writing as th5O88P53Lmuch as they can, and with the luxury of not being pushed to finish the record, if a great song comes their way, they can opt to record it. They’ve recorded four songs so far, but the process is ongoing. It’s not as simple as going into the studio and in one day having a finished product. Parmalee works with New Voice Entertainment on the production process, a group comprised of Rich Redmond, Tully Kennedy, Kurt Allison, and David Fanning. Getting the four of them and the four guys from Parmalee in one room PARMALEE INTERVIEW JOSH ON KEYSat the same time is a balancing act that requires finding small blocks of time over the course of a year to complete the process. They may cut 20 songs for the record and have to whittle it down to 12 or so, but that’s a positive problem. While writing is a big part of the new project, so is playing on the album. On most of the records recorded in Nashville, studio musicians are used instead of the guys who play on tour with the artist. These professionals can knock out a recording in one day. Parmalee, as a band, plays on their own records. They spend most of their time playing as a live band and that’s the sound they want to capture on the recordings. This requires time and patience to get it to sound the way they want it to, but they see it as part of being a band, and they love it. Like the lyrics of  “My Montgomery” state, “trading these Chicago lights for fireflies,” there’s something to be said for finding brilliance in what comes naturally.

My Montgomery” – Feels Like Carolina


     From the studio to the venue, if there’s one thing Parmalee‘s music makes you want to do, it’s “Dance,” and in 2014, those dance floors got bigger. On select dates, Parmalee opened for Jake Owen on the Days of Gold Tour. If you saw one of these shows, you “Musta Had a Good Time.” This took them to PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY WITH JAKEsmall arenas and amphitheatres across the country. In addition to those dates, they played large festivals that sometimes had them performing for 60,000 people. They opened a show in Ohio for Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean and played Faster Horses in Michigan. Aside from the festivals though, the sold out crowd at the WVU Coliseum was the biggest they’d played for. As it so happened, I was witnessing Parmalee PARMALEE INTERVIEW MATT AND JOSHhistory, and this is just the start of a big year for them. They have three months on tour with Brad Paisley, after which they will go back to headlining their own shows again. Their first USO Tour is coming up in a couple of weeks. It’s a ten day trip and a chance to support the troops they’re looking forward to. In late April, they’ll be playing Stagecoach for the first time, and when the summer season arrives, they will once again be performing for multitudes at outdoor festivals.

Dance” – Feels Like Carolina

     When most people talk about their dreams, you picture it as something that exists only when you “Close Your Eyes.” When I asked Parmalee what their dream venues were, their eyes were wide open and looking towards the future. The three places that came out first were Madison Square Garden, The PARMALEE INTERVIEW CAROLINA LYRICS PICHollywood Bowl, and Red Rocks. Then, almost in unison, they declared the Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in Raleigh their ultimate choice. “Carolina” became Parmalee’s first #1 single with lyrics that may have foreshadowed these dream choices. “…she feels like Carolina, looks like California, Shining like those New York lights on Broadway.” They’ve played the side stage at Walnut Creek but haven’t had the chance to play the main stage yet. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. Having met these guys, one thing is certain, Carolina will always have their back as much as this band of brothers will always have each other’s. In their music, on the stage, and in life, these four guys exude a bond that is palpable. The music and the talent they play it with is entirely a product of who they are and where they came from. They take nothing for granted and appreciate the journey they’ve been on and the places it’s taken them so far. No matter what stage they play on, in any city in the world, as long as they can play music together the only way they know how, it Feels Like Carolina.

Carolina” – Feels Like Carolina

From WAY North of Nashville…..Bev Miskus


All of the LIVE photos of Parmalee are courtesy of Bill McClintic at 90 East Photography. Visit his website to see additional photos and for booking information: http://www.90eastphotography.com/home.html


Feels Like Carolina is available through iTunes NOW for just $5.99! HERE

Read my review of Feels Like Carolina: http://waynorthofnashville.com/parmalee-ready-to-make-their-move/


Visit Parmalee’s website: http://parmalee.com/

Follow Parmalee on Twitter @parmalee

 Follow Parmalee on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/parmaleemusic


For information on how you can join the Parmalee Famalee and all the amazing things they do, read my interview with Shari: http://waynorthofnashville.com/stand-by-me-superfans/

Become a member of the Parmalee Famalee on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/parmaleefamalee/

 Follow Parmalee Famalee on Twitter @ParmaleeFamalee

©2015Bev Miskus



     Having watched both the CMA Awards last November and The Grammys this past Sunday, I was left wondering what exactly is the state of the union in Nashville and where does country music fit in our musical kaleidoscope. After years of country music residing on the fringes of our national soundtrack, the genre exploded in 2013. Nashville took New York! Florida Georgia Line and Taylor Swift were heard on XM Hits 1 more often than Justin Bieber and One Direction. Luke Bryan sold out Madison Square Garden faster than the Yankees could sell out a playoff game. On the Fourth of July Tim McGraw sang “Southern Girl” in New York City! Country artists are now hitting the morning talk show circuit in The Big Apple to announce BIG touring plans. What happened to Nashville being the epicenter of big country news? Rolling Stone magazine, based in New York City, decided to open an office in Nashville this year to cover the country music scene firsthand, a little bright lights, big city in  Music City! So Nashville insiders and country music fans should be ecstatic, right? Well…..

     The state of the union in Nashville seems to be a hot topic among country artists, the fans, and the industry’s top brass. Eyeing twitter during the CMAs, the comments ran the gamut from “country music is dead” to high pitched tweets extolling the virtues of Florida Georgia Line! Many fans expressed their  dissatisfaction with what they saw during the live CMA broadcast, saying it didn’t sound like country music at all. During the opening of the show, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood even took a shot at all the turmoil surrounding the sound of country music. Tom Petty and Zac Brown made headlines last year with their comments on the current state of country music and how ‘real’ country music should sound. As you can imagine, there was no shortage of reaction to this as lines were drawn and sides taken. Even those insiders who haven’t openly expressed an opinion on this topic seem to be using their much coveted award show votes to make a statement. I’m conjuring up images of the Hatfields and the McCoys haunting Music City and the award shows switching to a pay-per-view format just in case a really good fight breaks out!

The Grammys, although billed as “music’s biggest night” and always regarded as the official coronation for musical talent, are never without controversy either. Pre-telecast there is always dissension over who was nominated and who was left out along with the teasers about which mega-stars will be performing and what LSD-inspired collaborations they’ve come up with! Post-telecast you can count on plenty of water cooler reactions to the musical shock and awe they presented. Most of these conversations will start with “can you believe?!” or “did you see that?!”  After all of the talk last year about country music finally becoming “mainstream,” I expected the genre to be more prominently represented at this year’s event. In nearly four hours of air time exactly ONE country music award was presented. The others were relegated to the pre-telecast hours. As for country music performances on the show, the ones that got the biggest reactions from the audience were by those who have long been known as “crossover” artists who happen to live in Nashville. The much anticipated performance by Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, and Blake Shelton didn’t seem to resonate much with the audience. I think the history it was meant to celebrate was entirely lost on the majority of that crowd. Overall, not the coming out party I expected to see for country music at the Grammys. It was like watching one of Cinderella’s step-sisters trying to force her foot into the glass slipper.  You may have been invited to the ball but, sorry, you won’t be moving into the palace. As reported prior to the Grammy telecast, it is rare for the CMA voters and the Grammy voters to agree on the same album as country’s best for the year and that stayed true to form. Obviously no one, not even the supposed experts on the subject, can agree on what the best country music sounds like!

So now what? We agree to disagree and just let iTunes decide whether something gets labeled as ‘country’ or not? Does it really matter how you classify someone’s music? It shouldn’t, but the reality is it sure seems to, at least for the purposes of iTunes, store shelves, guest appearances, and award shows. Hunter Hayes debuted a new song he co-wrote called ‘Invisible’ at the Grammys. Although the message in this song is about bullying, I think he may be on to something else. There’s a line in there about mislabeling something because you simply don’t understand what it is – or what it could be. “Dare to be something more.”  In that line, we may be able to pinpoint what defines country music and sets it apart from all other genres.

Allow me to offer this example. Thompson Square. Even their name offers a clue as to what you’ll find with this duo as they are every bit multi-dimensional. To simply say they are a class act sells them short. They are humble despite being enormously talented. They are grateful and gracious in all situations, both here and abroad. They give of their time and talents to causes they hold near and dear, such as ChildFund International. They sponsor a child through this organization and encourage others to do the same. Last year they donated computers to a school in Honduras and made the trip there to do so personally. They met at a talent contest in Nashville in 1996, having both moved there the same week. Overnight success? Hardly. It would be 2011 before they saw their first hit. That’s a lot of smoky bars and pickle jar living. Their success came the old fashioned way, through endurance and hard work. No golden ticket for these two. They’ve released two albums thus far, both produced by New Voice Entertainment (NV). NV is made up of Kurt Allison, David Fanning, Tully Kennedy, and Rich Redmond. Heard these names before? Kurt, Tully, and Rich are all accomplished (read-kick ass!) musicians who back up Jason Aldean both in the studio and on the road. David Fanning is a singer and songwriter who recently released his debut single, Drink You Away. As producers, these guys are on a level all their own. Their brilliance lies in creating a sound that suits the artist, the album, and the song. No overproduction here! Thompson Square’s latest NV-produced album is called Just Feels Good. There are 13 tracks on the album and three bonus tracks if you buy it at Wal-Mart. One doesn’t always link the words ‘Wal-Mart’ and ‘treasure’, but there it was in the bonus tracks. The last song on the album is called “What Am I Gonna Do (Daddy’s Song).” It was written by Keifer and Shawna Thompson, Vicky McGehee, and Kyle Jacobs. Despite the rumor that good country songwriters are a thing of the past, I found four! Shawna Thompson sings this song in memory of her late father. The musical accompaniment is simple and perfect. The magic in this track is the singer and her song. Shawna delivers a vocal performance here that is stunning. It is an emotional, powerful expression of love for her father through song, and it ends with an old recording of Shawna singing with her dad when she was a child. Some things are timeless. Thompson Square and NV have created a unique, new age sound in country music on this album, but this last song would make Patsy Cline proud. And no doubt, Shawna’s father too.

On some record labels this song might never have seen the light of day; a beautiful song never recorded. Kudos to Stoney Creek Records! Most people will probably never hear this song. You certainly won’t hear it on the radio and Shawna may never sing it on the stage. The reason it’s on this album reflects the values and traditions that make country music unique in the music business. Family first extends far beyond immediate family members to the community of artists, musicians, songwriters, and everyone who makes the country music industry turn. Country artists support each other and give back to the community in so many ways. That kind of support just doesn’t exist in other genres of music unless $$ is involved. But at the heart of it all, it’s all about the music.  No lip syncing, no outlandish costumes (or lack thereof), no twerking, no gimmicks. This is what defines country music – the basics; the ability to let the singer and the song tell the story without involving Cirque du Soleil. It’s not often anymore that we see musical performances, on television or live on the concert stage, that aren’t overproduced and theatrical. Shock value gets more headlines than the actual music does. Not so in country music. Great singers, great songs, and great musicians still command the stage. Shawna could sing her song at Tootsie’s or at Madison Square Garden and every person in the room would feel moved by the time she finished. That’s the power of a great singer and a great song. Patsy Cline could do it. Shawna Thompson can do it. And they both have a place in country music.

Aspiring singers and songwriters move to Nashville with big dreams and often little else. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the stories they have to tell. Careers are made in the telling of those stories. Country music was reality based long before television was. Not everyone should sound like Hank, or George, or Patsy. It wouldn’t be authentic and fans wouldn’t buy it. So if Eric Church wants to be a cross between Waylon and Metallica, “Enter Sandman!” If Parmalee wants to channel their inner Motley Crue, just don’t rent them a hotel room or let them drive your Porsche. Artists have different ways of telling their stories and sometimes a little extra volume is needed for emphasis! As Hunter says, “dare to be something more.” Whether you prefer “I Walk the Line” or Florida Georgia Line, rejoice, iTunes says they’re both country!! Country music is a reflection of the reality of the people who sing it. The fabric of country music is being stretched by a new generation of storytellers whose life experiences have been quite different from those of earlier country artists. Influences aren’t regional anymore, they’re global. How they express themselves musically doesn’t negate their authenticity and shouldn’t deny them a place in country music. Some of the best music in the world is coming out of Nashville right now, just ask your new neighbor, Rolling Stone! You may not be Royals according to the Grammy crowd but you did shake up the music industry last year! And who knows? 2014 just might be country music’s year to Get Lucky!!

From WAY North of Nashville…..Bev Miskus


What Am I Gonna Do (Daddy’s Song)–Shawna Thompson–Just Feels Good*


*This song is not available on the iTunes version. It is only available on the CD sold at Wal-Mart as part of the bonus tracks.

©2014Bev Miskus