Anatomy Of A Hit: Parmalee’s No. 1 ‘Carolina’

Chris Loss vividly remembers watching Parmalee perform on the Grand Ole Opry last summer and having a knot in his stomach. As VP of promotion for Stoney Creek Records, Loss and his team had been working Parmalee’s second single, “Carolina,” hard for six months, and it looked like they were losing ground.

The band’s first single, “Musta Had A Good Time,” hadn’t been a hit, so the stakes were especially high. But Loss says his team was “taking a beating” on “Carolina,” which was climbing the chart so slowly that it spent a solid month at No. 40. The record had also lost its bullet multiple times, endured a few consecutive zero add weeks in the spring and even fell off the chart entirely for a week in July.

“It’s like walking the plank,” says Loss of working such a record, “especially when you have to stay in the 40s to stay in the countdowns.”

It was a record, he says, that “tested the mettle” of his promotion team.

By the time it finally peaked at No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart in its 44th chart week early last month, “Carolina” had gone gold, but had also earned the distinction of having the third-longest journey to the top since the chart was launched nearly 24 years prior, and the longest climb among duos or groups.

Loss had joined Stoney Creek, in part, because he’d heard “Carolina” and fell in love with the record. As it floundered, he remembers thinking, “If we can’t deliver this, and it’s a bona fide hit record, then what’s it all worth?

“This was one [single] that no matter what desk we had to stand on, whoever we had to get in front of, we were very clear that people were not only going to see our passion, they were going to hear it, and it wasn’t just going to be a one time thing,” he says.

“You have to believe until the last gasp of air is out of [a record] and there’s no way to resuscitate it,” he says of his philosophy. “That’s not the Kool-Aid that everybody talks about in Nashville. When you believe in a song and an act like that, that has to be your mind-set, because not everybody is going to.”

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Watching the band (brothers Matt and Scott Thomas, cousin Barry Knox and childhood friend Josh McSwain) play the Opry stage, Loss remembers thinking the fight wasn’t just about a song. “It’s about hopes and dreams that transcend what we do as a label, as a promotion team,” he says. “It comes down to those guys and how much blood and sweat they have in it. It was heartbreaking just watching them leave it all on the stage at the Opry and knowing that we were coming up short for that week. But we didn’t give up.”

Armed with the knowledge that, “where we had airplay [we had] downloads,” he says, “we knew that this was a hit record.” 

Loss, whose speech is liberally peppered with sports analogies, quotes something Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said of his team after winning the Super Bowl last year: “It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t pretty, but it was us and that’s who we are.” Loss had closed an e-mail to his own team with that quote on “Carolina’s” add date last February, and it proved to be a prescient forecast of the record’s chart life.

In the end, Loss doesn’t mind how long it took to get to No. 1, or how imperfect the path might have been, as long as it got there.

As the record’s chart life went on and on, he says, the label’s promotion staff began to sense that “radio wanted this for the guys. And when you have buy-in from radio, and radio has skin in the game of wanting to deliver a No. 1 record, that’s pretty special. Country radio brought this home.”

So did Loss’ team. “We didn’t fail, and that just feels great for the guys,” he says. “We’re incredibly grateful to country radio, but above all it’s about the band and dreams coming true.”

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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