Parmalee's Matt Thomas isn't shy to admit that before "Just the Way" started to catch on at country radio, the group was scuffling. Then, their new manager suggested one change and their fortunes turned.

It wasn't quite that easy, but talking to Taste of Country, Thomas gives a lot of credit to David Fanning for telling him to put down his guitar down.

"Best move we ever made," he shares. "Hindsight is 2020, but I wish I’d done it a long time ago, because it’s so much more fun to get out and connect.”

"Just the Way" with Blanco Brown started to pick up traction in December 2019, but then the pandemic hit, and everyone scattered. Bassist Barry Knox grew his hair long like he wore it when he was 20, and then he had a kid with his wife. Drummer Scott Thomas fell in love and married. Josh McSwain and his wife bought a camper and toured the country.

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It was a very healthy break for a group of rockers that had been together for two decades. It also gave Matt Thomas a chance to dial in the group's new sound. He'll admit that between "Roots" (a Top 40 single) and "Hotdamalama" (didn't chart), and new songs "Just the Way" and "Take My Name" (both No. 1 this), the group rebranded.

“We definitely did a re-brand. Just kind of went back and said, ‘Why do these songs work better than these songs and what does our audience want to hear from us?'" he shares.

Along with Fanning, Parmalee started to dial in every part of being a band toward a focused approach, from what they put on social media to their stage clothes to the songs. They'd grown used to calling management only when something went wrong. That's changed since 2020.

"We’re working constantly every day, on every creative part — social media, songs, everything," the singer says. 

"Just the Way" was the eighth-most-played country song of 2021. In 2022, "Take My Name" was No. 1. Their new song, "Girl in Mine," stays in that same lane. It's more pop-friendly than what fans who watched them play rock clubs in North Carolina or California may recognize. All three start cold with the song's hook, partially because that's what Thomas and his co-writers wrote first.

More than anything, they're Parmalee songs that Thomas feels good about singing. He admits to being particular about phrasing. Artists including Thomas Rhett and Brett Young do the doting husband thing very well. That's too sweet for him, so he'll object whenever a love song goes there.

"I know I'm the last guy anybody thinks / Might ever be talking like this, yeah," he sings to begin the second verse of "Take My Name." That's a cheeky nod to his unwillingness to be too "lovey dovey."

"Best move we ever made," he shares. "Hindsight is 2020, but I wish I’d done it a long time ago, because it’s so much more fun to get out and connect.”

Commercial success is staring to become critical and industry success for Parmalee. A nomination for an American Music Award was "gratifying," especially after feeling a bit snubbed by CMA voters ahead of November's awards. Thomas takes solace in knowing that with industry awards, an artist tends to get recognized a year or two too late and for a year or two too long.

Top 22 Country Songs of 2022, Ranked

There are plenty of feel-good country jams on this list of the top country songs of 2022, but the No. 1 song is one of the best love songs of the decade. These 22 songs are ranked by critical acclaim, radio and sales success, and importance to the genre.

Seven of the 22 artists made our Top Country Songs list from 2021 as well, but there are no repeats. If a song made a previous list or didn't spend most of its time on the charts in 2022, it's not eligible. So, before you ask where your favorite song is (i.e. Cody Johnson, "'Til You Can't), be sure the miss isn't just a technicality.

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