Interview with Josh McSwain of Parmalee: Motorcycle Rider

Motorcycles and country music go together as well as America and apple pie. Josh McSwain, guitarist, keyboardist, and songwriter for Parmalee, a country music band that has made found stardom after over a decade of slugging it out on the independent Deep South label.

Feels Like Carolina, released in 2013 by highly regarded Stoney Creek Records, hit #5 in the US Indie charts and #10 in the US County charts. The single culled from the album, Carolina, hit #1 in US Country Airplay charts, achieving Platinum status—McSwain co-wrote the song. The follow-up album, 27861, and the resulting singles established Parmalee as a chart-making band. To date, Parmalee’s music has over a half-billion streams.

Josh McSwain of Parmalee - guitar
Photo by Marisa Evans

Most importantly for us, of course, is that McSwain is a life-long motorcycle rider. We did a Q&A session with McSwain about our favorite common subject.

UM: Birthplace?
Josh McSwain: Born and raised in Shelby, North Carolina.

Current residence?
Nashville, Tennessee.

What’s your current ride?
2018 Harley-Davidson Road Glide.

Josh McSwain of Parmalee - Harley-Davidson Road Glide

What’s your dream ride?
Fortunately for me, I am currently riding it.

Who got you involved in riding?
My dad was always into motorcycles. He got me started on a three-wheeler as a little kid, back when those were a thing, and helped me get my first street bike, a Honda Nighthawk, as a teenager. So, I have been riding for quite a while now.

What type of riding do you do most often?
I’m basically just a day-trip cruiser, but would like to get into some long-distance rides and some camping.

How about racing? Are you involved in any, or follow any?
I don’t follow a lot of racing, but if I run across some Supercross on TV, it usually sucks me in. Those guys are nuts!

What is your most memorable motorcycle story?
The most memorable story was a few years back at the Sturgis Rally. We had just finished playing our set to a huge crowd, and a fan came up and gave me the keys to his bike and said I had to ride down Main Street at least once. So, I took the keys, jumped on the bike, and rode down Main Street. And let me tell you, he was right. Now that’s some trust! I had never met this guy before!

Who is your most admired motorcyclist, besides Steve McQueen?(laughing)
Evel Knievel.

What is your favorite motorcycle movie?
I love Easy Rider, but truthfully I’ve seen Biker Boyz way more, ha-ha.

Josh McSwain of Parmalee - Harley-Davidson

How has riding influenced your music and overall career?
Riding just relaxes me, which I think translates to all parts of your life. Don’t stress too hard about anything, you’ll get there.

What other past times do you enjoy besides motorcycling?
My wife and I really love cooking, hiking, camping, and playing with our dogs—all the important things.

Did you ever participate in huge motorcycle events such as the Sturgis Rally, the One Motorcycle Show, or Daytona Bike Week? 
We’ve played a ton of bike events. We actually just got back from Daytona a couple days ago. We’ve been to Sturgis, Myrtle Beach, Angel City, etc. One of the strangest was in Algona, Iowa. You had to sign a waiver to even get into that one.

Josh McSwain of Parmalee - Motorcycle Rally

Is there one motorcycling-related trip or event you’d like to participate in?
I’d like to ride across the country from my house in Tennessee to California and back. My dad did it once and took video of the trip the whole way. The footage of him riding down the Pacific Coast Highway is amazing.

In as few words as possible, how has motorcycling truly changed your life?

There’s something about riding that just relaxes you. You can’t check email or text messages. You just kind of get away from everything. It also welcomes you into this whole community of like-minded people. You can’t pass another bike on the road without waving or checking out other bikes and starting up conversations at a gas station. It’s a cool thing to be a part of.