Tag Archives: The Swon Brothers



     “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


Country Roads Take Brad Paisley’s Winter Tour Home To West Virginia


Download Brad’s #1 single, “Perfect Storm,” through iTunes: HERE

       Brad Paisley came home this past weekend to kick off the winter season of his Country Nation World Tour in Morgantown, West Virginia. He performed two shows at the WVU Coliseum with a lot of students in attendance, none of which were likely expecting to be schooled by Brad in the art of concert Brad-Paisley-Country-Nation-World-Tourperformance 101. The cost of this class was the price of admission and on Saturday night, this was a sold out class. As one of the lucky students in this coliseum turned classroom, I watched a master class in live performance by a headliner who appreciates the art form that live music can be and the professional musicians it takes to create such art. Every aspect of this show was staged only to the point of being a platform for audience interaction, opening act participation, video enhancement, and inspired musical excellence. Not one detail was missed in the preparation for this show when taking into account all of the elements that would be present. When Brad’s drummer, Ben Sesar, broke into a drum solo late into the evening, I already knew where this was leading and I was ready to shout these lyrics: “Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad…….I’m HOT FOR TEACHER!!”

     Brad Paisley is an entertainer who values family and music and his live show is an extension of those values. His opening acts on this tour are two family based groups, The Swon Brothers and Parmalee, both of which share Brad’s approach to creating music and delivering an organic, in the moment performance. The Swon Brothers, Zach and Colton, engage with the audience THE SWON BROTHERS LATER ONas if they know every person in the room. Their opening slot only allows for the playing of a few songs, giving them little time to make a lasting impression. Most people aren’t familiar with their original music just yet, so it’s not as much about what they’re singing as it is about their delivery. Covering a Boston classic was a comfortable fit and leaving the audience with their radio single, “Later On,” provided the first link to a future musical identity. It was a solid performance that was well received.

     Parmalee is a band made up of two brothers, Matt and Scott Thomas, a cousin, Barry Knox, and their best friend, Josh McSwain. They’ve played together for a very long time and their live show is a product of that relationship and longevity. Parmalee’s music is arena ready and could easily be reproduced on the stage with nothing more than a turn it up mentality. Fortunately, these Parmalee_CountryMusicRocks_net-copyguys are a band in every sense of the word and understand the opportunity they have to create something new with each performance. They opened with “I’ll Bring the Music” and it was a statement they delivered on. Matt was brilliant in introducing each song with a scenario that played on relatability. In the absence of having instantly recognizable intros, giving the listeners a connection to the music keeps them attentive and engaged. It also allows for improvisation within the songs because the audience isn’t attached to a singular recorded version. While Matt was talking to the crowd before each song, the band provided a unique segue that gave them flexibility to keep it fresh. They used particular creative license in “Musta Had a Good Time” and “Dance” by adding snippets of other songs the audience knew well. Parmalee’s set was an invitation to dance and have a good time while leaving this West Virginia audience with a sampling of music that Feels Like Carolina. I’d say the crowd’s reaction made these boys from Carolina feel like home’s not so far away.

Download Parmalee’s new single, “Already Callin’ You Mine” thru iTunes: HERE

     At this point in the show, the opening acts typically disappear and the headliner takes the stage. Not here. Never before have I seen such a creative and thoughtful opening to a headliner’s set. In the spirit of family and the tradition of Appalachian folk music from West Virginia to Tennessee, the stage PAISLEY, BRAD COUNTRY NATION WORLD TOUR WITH PARMALEE AND THE SWON BROTHERSset up was like what you’d find on a front porch in the mountains. As if family had just dropped in and started playing together, Brad’s band members assembled at the front of the stage with The Swon Brothers and Parmalee. With an improvised lyric, they sang an Appalachian standard, “Good Old Mountain Dew.” Towards the end of the song, Brad simply walked onto the stage from the right side and took his place amongst the other front porch players as casually as if he were no one in particular. They finished the song and went immediately into “The World” followed by “Camouflage.” This mini-set ended with the intro to “Moonshine In The Trunk,” which was the perfect way to come full circle with the theme of this opening. “Good Old Mountain Dew,” an ode to moonshine, was written in 1928 in ballad form about a man accused of making illegal alcohol during prohibition. The title track from Brad’s latest album is “Moonshine In The Trunk.” In the song, he describes a joy ride with a girl that feels like an illegal liquor run…..and this would be the feel of the rest of the evening.


     The band took their regular places on stage and the roar of that car engine launched us into full throttle “Moonshine In The Trunk.” It was the perfect kick start to what would be an incredible night of music and entertainment. Brad’s set included 27 songs, and he and his incredible band didn’t give an ounce less WVU COLISEUMthan their best to every one of them. The setting of the WVU Coliseum, on the campus of the state’s flagship university, was home field advantage for Brad and he played to it brilliantly. His banter with the crowd, knowledge of what riled them up, video footage of the campus, lyrical changes to suit the location, and love for his home state made for an A+ performance and a showcase of musical ability. His many years of success in the music business have taken him far outside his Southern Comfort Zone and the borders of his home state, but on this night, he was full of Mountaineer pride and it resonated through the strings of his many guitars.



     If Brad were to provide a syllabus for this master class in concert performance, it would be broken out into five key components – creating the music, use of video, audience interaction, staging, and set list. These essential elements aren’t something he puts together at the start of the tour season and sets to auto pilot at each show. He creates the framework and allows space Little+Jimmy+Dickens+Country+Comes+Home+Opry+96U-gIIrDKRlwithin that to tailor each show to its audience. His videos are highly imaginative and entertaining without detracting from the music. During his singing of “When I Get Where I’m Going,” there was a video tribute to his late friend, Little Jimmy Dickens. It was a very moving moment in the show, at the end of which, Brad tipped his hat towards the screen. During the song, “Crushin’ It,” the video included pictures of the WVU campus as well as live footage from WVU football games. His commentary during the song mentioned the school’s team getting no respect on ESPN and its being the number one party school in the world. Both of these facts were met with cheers from the audience.



     Creating moments with the audience is something Brad does naturally and his use of the stage often helps to encapsulate such moments. He invited a young couple to join him on stage for his singing of “Then.” A few of his band members joined him at the front of the stage, creating an opening within their circle for the couple to dance in. If you’ve seen a Brad Paisley concert before, you know where this is going…..guy drops to one knee, asks girl to marry him, she says yes, and they finish the dance. Magic moment, courtesy of Brad Paisley. His awareness of his surroundings, and in this case, knowledge of his audience, helps to create unique moments in the show where he can ad lib between songs or within the song and entertain in the moment. When fans attend a concert, it’s nice to leave knowing that you had an experience no one else will. This is what a live performance is all about.



     At the heart of every concert experience is the music, and no one understands that better than Brad Paisley. His dedication to excellence in music drives his performance at each show and gives the fans an opportunity to see organic live music as it happens. Brad doesn’t just play through the music, he breathes life PAISLEY, BRAD WV GUITARinto it through his exceptional guitar playing and the talented musicians he shares the stage with. Unlike many of today’s live acts, Brad and his band do not use pre-recorded tracks. Everything you hear is being played live in the moment. Brad is a rare exception to the norm in that he uses his tour band to play on his records. They’ve been together for 15 years and that longevity contributes to the quality of their live shows. Watch their interaction during a song and you will see the individual contributions create the whole. The six gifted musicians who share the stage with Brad are Gary Hooker (guitar), Kendal Marcy (keys), Kenny Lewis (bass), Randle Currie (steel guitar), Justin Williamson (fiddle), and Ben Sesar (drums). Throughout the show, each one of them may get a chance to spotlight their ability in a particular song. How that plays out depends on the set list.



     Brad Paisley has an extensive music catalog to draw from and the set list for this show was a greatest hits manifesto. Out of this extensive 27 song playlist, only two of the songs were covers, John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.” The other 25 songs were an ebb and flow of fun songs with a sprinkling of his tender ballads. “Southern Comfort Zone” and “Waitin’ On a Woman” used the video backdrop to support the stories. “I’m Still a Guy” was a hit with the men in the audience and we were invited to disregard the current cold season in favor of warmer temps with “Beat This Summer.” “Mud On The Tires” showcased the dynamic fiddle playing of Justin Williamson and we got to ad lib a famous TV line WILLIAMSON, JUSTIN BRAD PAISLEY FIDDLE PLAYERin “American Saturday Night” – LIVE from Morgantown, it’s Saturday night!! “I’m Gonna Miss Her” and “She’s Everything” were back to back examples of the diversity in Brad’s songwriting, humorous and heartfelt. Four songs off the new album were part of this set with “River Bank” anchoring the end of regulation time and “Perfect Storm” leading off the encore. Just weeks ago, “Perfect Storm” became Brad’s 23rd number one hit and the performance of this song was worthy of the accomplishment. With the help of the video showing stormy seas and the sound of thunder and lightning crashing, the song erupts from the stage. Hearing this on the radio or on an ipod is like trying to contain the ocean with a few sandbags. The power of the song was made for an arena setting where the video can provide that imax feel and the band can demonstrate its full bodied potential behind the intense playing of Brad on guitar. This was truly an encore moment.



     The evening ended just as this set began, with an ode to “Alcohol” and both of the opening acts back on stage for the singing of it. Brad’s live bobble head counterpart makes an appearance here to serve the troublesome beverage to those on stage. The playing of this encourages a sing-along and sends everyone home in a celebratory mood. Brad’s extended guitar play at the end of the song put an exclamation point on an outstanding night of live music. Brad’s home town of Glen Dale, West Virginia is just 85 miles from Morgantown. Since moving away to Nashville, he’s played some of the most prestigious venues in the world and traveled in style on the superhighways music has led him to. Yet it’s these simple country roads in West Virginia that supported his journey and welcome him back home on occasions like this. I’m not originally from West Virginia, but I’ve lived here for the past 12 years. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is a special song to the people of this state and I’ve heard it many times since moving here. Watching Brad sing this in Morgantown, surrounded by family, friends, and fans from his home state, was as moving a moment as you’ll find on a concert stage. The power of music, as grand as it can be, can often be felt most deeply in the simplest of arrangements. A simple lesson from a master class in musical performance by West Virginia‘s own, Brad Paisley. I think all in attendance would agree that on this night BP, you nailed it, as they say!


From WAY North of Nashville….in West Virginia…..Bev Miskus

The drum solo at the end of this is performed by Ben Sesar!


Download Moonshine In The Trunk through iTunes: HERE

Visit Brad Paisley’s website: https://www.bradpaisley.com/home

Download Feels Like Carolina through iTunes: HERE

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

Download The Swon Brothers through iTunes: HERE

Visit The Swon Brothers’ website: http://www.swonbrothers.com/

©2015Bev Miskus