The men of Parmalee call opening for Willie Nelson a lifetime achievement, but it's just the latest high of a 10-year career speckled with struggle and tragedy.

Matt and Scott Thomas, Josh McSwain and Barry Knox wrote their current single 'Carolina' in 2007, and since then everything has changed -- yet their mission remains the same. We caught up with the full band to talk about their music, next month's Taste of Country Music Festival and how things are different following the 2010 shooting that nearly took drummer Scott Thomas.

Parmalee are a group of realists who subscribe to mottos like "We'll believe it when we see it," but also, "the harder you work the luckier you'll get." The four have known each other since they were kids, with the Thomas brothers being cousins to Knox, and McSwain being a longtime friend of the three. Their country education began early, playing for and with their father in the bars and clubs of rural eastern North Carolina.

The group says they were a rock band with a country soul. The goal was always to move to Nashville, but when Scott Thomas was shot during a robbery at a club called the Money in Rock Hill S.C., they found a new focus and sense of urgency. The song 'Another Day Gone' is about the incident, during which Thomas shot and killed one of the men who attempted the robbery. The other ended up in the hospital, while his brother -- who had a gun put to his head -- escaped unharmed.

"(It's) Just the idea that you're never guaranteed another day and you need to make amends if you wanna make amends with them before you're not here anymore," he says when asked to describe the song. The emergency doctor gave him a five percent chance to live, and he was unable to walk for quite some time.

The response across North Carolina was swift and overwhelming. Fans came from all four corners of the state to participate in benefit shows and fundraisers that eased the burden of over $500,000 worth of medical bills. Thomas had health insurance, but he reached his cap. It's this showing of support that let the guys know they had something special and little time to waste.

"It put a new sense of urgency. Like, 'We've been doing the right thing, let's continue to do this and full steam ahead.'" Today he says he's at 80 percent physically. Fans at the Taste of Country Music Festival won't notice any drop in output. Parmalee and the LoCash Cowboys open for Willie Nelson and the Family Band on June 13. It's the first day of the three-day inaugural event in Hunter, N.Y.

"That's gonna be fun, man," Matt Thomas told ToC. "Chris and Preston (of the LoCash Cowboys) are good friends of ours. We're actually cutting one of their songs … get to play it for them for the first time."

The opportunity to play in front of Nelson speaks for itself. Of course, when the legend is nearby there's always the possibility that of scoring an invite to his tour bus... But how would Parmalee respond?

"You gotta take that invitation man, come on," they say, laughing.

They may have a heavy history, but Parmalee is something of a party band. "We're not a party band," guitarist McSwain says, jokingly adding, "we just like to party."

With songs like 'Day Drinking, 'Staring Down the Barrel of a Shot Glass' and the Top 40 hit 'Musta Had a Good Time,' one can be sure the group will energize the crowd early.