Parmalee’s Next Single Expands on a Winning Formula: ‘A Good Pivot’
These days, the bandmates of Parmalee like to get pretty granular about analyzing what is and isn't working in their radio singles.
"I think we're like, 'Why did these songs work and these other songs didn't?' ... And we analyze, 'Okay, these are the things this song has that this other song didn't have," lead vocalist Matt Thomas explained to Taste of Country earlier in November, on the carpet before the 2023 BMI Country Awards ceremony in Nashville.
"I guess we analyze it."
It's hard to blame them: Their trajectory is one of country music's most surprising and remarkable radio success stories. Even the band themselves can't believe their comeback story.
After a small handful of hits in the mid-aughts, including their chart-topping 2013 hit "Carolina," Parmalee drifted away from the spotlight. Songs like "Hotdamalama," "Sunday Morning" and "Roots" missed the Top 30 altogether, and it seemed like their days as country radio hitmakers might be behind them for good.
But in 2019, everything changed for the group, who've been making music in some capacity or another since 2001. They put out "Just the Way," a R&B-inflected duet with then-rising star Blanco Brown, whose biggest claim to fame was the viral sensation "The Git Up." It was an odd pairing, but it worked: After a six-year gap, Parmalee finally had their second No. 1 country hit.
"Just the Way" wasn't a one-off. Parmalee followed it up with "Take My Name," and that song went No. 1, too. Then they topped charts once more with "Girl in Mine," hitting the No. 1 spot with their third song in a row this October.
"Once it started going, it started going big. It started playing — and it took a while, because they were still playing 'Take My Name' so much," Thomas remembers. "I'll continue to say this: I don't think anybody ever saw that coming."
There's been some common ground between all three of Parmalee's recent No. 1 songs. "Just the Way," "Take My Name" and "Girl in Mine" are all starry-eyed love songs with an experimental R&B flair. Since the group make it a point to analyze which songs work and which songs don't, there's an obvious temptation to keep doing what works — but Thomas also knows the value of keeping things fresh at radio.
"Our new single, 'Gonna Love You' — we pivoted for sure," he relates. Though their next single is a love song too, it's not about the butterflies of a new romance like "Girl in Mine" or about a marriage proposal like "Take My Name." Rather, it's about the long game of love — about staying together throughout the highs and lows that life throws.
"Even if the whole world / Turns itself against us / I'm gonna love you," he promises in the chorus.
"It's got a message of love, of sticking with somebody through thick and thin, no matter what you go through. It's a good pivot, but it's still us if you listen to it," Thomas reflects, adding that the song's musical style is also a shift towards more straight-ahead country. "It's got a little more of a 'Carolina' vibe than it does those three songs ['Just the Way,' 'Take My Name' and 'Girl in Mine']."
That message of being in it for the long haul will carry even more weight once fans see the music video. It documents the night in 2010 when Thomas and his brother and bandmate Scott were victims of an armed robbery, leading to gunfire and near-fatal injuries for Scott (who also fatally shot one of the robbers in self-defense during the altercation).
Longtime fans know that part of Parmalee's history, but their new listeners don't. Beyond making reintroductions, Parmalee's story adds grit and gravity to the message behind "Gonna Love You." Sure, you could take its meaning to be about a romantic partner, but you could also think about it in terms of the band's enduring commitment to each other: Through tours, gunfights, booms and busts at country radio, the band's love for each other has remained steadfast.
The music video for "Gonna Love You" premieres on Nov. 25.