Parmalee Reinterpret Australian Pop Song, ‘Be Alright,’ and Find a Familiar Groove
From the very first time they heard “Be Alright,” the four members of country group Parmalee agree that the song…
Parmalee; Photo by Andy Evinger & KJ Joyner
From the very first time they heard “Be Alright,” the four members of country group Parmalee agree that the song immediately grabbed their attention. “Of course everybody’s been through that, so first and foremost, it hit us all pretty hard,” the band explains to Country Now. “But we were just listening, and we heard the chorus hit, and we were all just like, ‘Wow. That sounds like Parmalee right there. That sounds like a country song.’”
A twist on the classic breakup narrative, “Be Alright” describes a conversation between the heartbroken narrator and his friend, who helps him move through the pain after the demise of a relationship. It wasn’t initially fashioned as a country song: Australian pop artist Dean Lewis co-wrote it with songwriter and producer Jon Hume, and the track first dropped as the lead single off of Lewis’ 2019 debut album, A Place We Knew. Despite the fact that the song originated so far away from Parmalee’s home turf — both musically and literally — the group says that adapting “Be Alright” into the country format felt pretty natural.
Of course, there were some adjustments that needed to be made. “We had to change a few lyrics,” the band goes on to say. “[In the chorus], he said, ‘I know you love her, but it’s over, mate,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, we can’t say mate.’ So we said, ‘I know you love her, man, but it’s too late.’”
To a country listener’s ears, that use of “man” feels totally natural. When Parmalee got in touch with Lewis for permission to record the altered song, though, their alteration revealed an interesting divide between Australian pop and American country culture. “He’s like, ‘I don’t know about that ‘man’ line.’ I told him, ‘Honestly, that’s how our audience talks to each other,’” the group continues. “Because people do say that — like, ‘What’s up, man?’”
Due to the distance between them, negotiations between Parmalee and Lewis wore on for about a month. “I think he finally came back and was like, ‘Can you say, ‘I know you love her but it’s far too late’? That was his suggestion on the ‘man’ line,” the band recalls. “And we were like, ‘Yeah, we can do that, but we don’t really talk like that either.”
They agreed to nix the ‘man’ from the chorus, but at the last second, they got another text from Lewis. “About an hour before I was gonna go re-sing that whole line, he texted, like ‘I think [using the word ‘man’] is great. That’s how you guys would say it. I understand that now, so leave that line,” Parmalee recounts.
The band’s relationship with Lewis came full circle not long after when they met him during his Nashville tour stop and he told them how much he liked how the song turned out. Even more broadly, the experience of retooling and recording their version of “Be Alright” represented a mile marker in Parmalee’s story: To make the track, they worked with longtime producer David Fanning, who’d been there since the group’s early days, and worked on their first hits, like “Carolina.”
“He knows us more than anybody. He’s actually the reason we’re out here in Nashville, and that we got signed,” the group adds. “He kind of found us…so he’s produced almost everything we’ve ever done. All our singles. So yeah, he knows us in and out.”
As such as a close collaborator of the band, Fanning was in a unique position to help them recognize their signature sound. An Australian pop song released by an artist halfway around the world, “Be Alright” may have been a surprising place to find that special “Parmalee” style, but Fanning and the band would recognize that signature element anywhere.
“Absolutely. I think that’s why we work well together,” Parmalee explains, adding that with so much history under their belts, choosing songs can often be intuitive. “I think that’s why the sound turned out the way it did, and why it was so easy to do…That’s why we’re gearing up for more. We’re excited to be back working with [Fanning], and it’s a great direction to be in, with this song.”
That direction, they continue, will be a return to what makes Parmalee uniquely Parmalee. As they continue to tour and spend time on the road, the group says they’re experiencing a renewed excitement about songwriting and finding fresh material. “Be Alright” has been a kind of North Star for the band, steering them along as they move toward their next musical chapter.
“I think [the song] is getting us back in the focus of doing what we call ‘the Parmalee thing.’ I mean, if you go to our Spotify Top 5 songs right now, that’s us,” they explain. “When the label got so excited about that song, it kind of rejuvenated us on, you know, what people like about what we do or why people connect with what we do.”