FRANKLIN, Tennessee — At their very core, Paramore are Franklin, Tennessee , the tiny satellite of Nashville they call home. And when they welcomed MTV News to the town earlier this week, they made that point abundantly clear.
But during the course of our conversations, it became clear that their roots can actually be traced to nearby Leipers Fork, an (even tinier) town just a few miles to the west. Because out there — west on State Route 96, south on Highway 46 — is where lead singer Hayley Williams first met bassist Jeremy Davis (at the insistence of her mom). And the rest, as they say, is history.
“I went to middle school out there. It’s this really tiny town in the middle of nowhere, but they have one of the best music programs in the country,” Davis said. “So that’s where I learned to play guitar and where I started playing in this band — and that’s where I met Hayley.”
“They had this cover band going, of like funk songs and party music, and they needed a singer, and they had fliers all over my middle school and at my mom’s school, because she was a teacher. And I had no friends, so my mom was like, ‘You love singing, and you like this kind of music, so let’s do this, let’s try to make you some friends!’ ” Williams recalled. “So I went to the audition at this dude’s house, the drummer of their old band, and they had this microphone and everyone was set up, and I was so nervous. And they had me sing with them, and I made it. And I started singing in their band, and we’d play out there in Leipers Fork, in this place called Green’s Grocery.”
And near Green’s was a place called Puckett’s, a sort of — as Davis put it — “combination gas station and a restaurant and a grocery store.” It’s the kind of place that’s fairly common in the Tennessee countryside, little more than a few tables sharing space with shelves of household goods and a gas pump or two, but over the years, Puckett’s has become sort of an institution — and not just for tourists, but for country megastars (and the occasional platinum-plus punk act too).
“I don’t know how, but every Saturday night, they’ll have people come and sing at Puckett’s, like these famous people, like Faith Hill or Michael McDonald,” Davis laughed. “They’ll cook up a big meal, and a few people will sit inside and listen to Faith Hill sing.”
“Over the years, we’ve gone out there a bunch too,” Williams added. “It’s in the middle of nowhere, so we don’t go too often. And they haven’t asked us to sing yet, either.”
And, as is the case with most things involving Paramore, it all comes back to Franklin. A few years back, the people behind Puckett’s decided to open a second location in the city’s downtown district. And since then, it’s become the unofficial Paramore HQ — the place where the band unwound during the (very contentious ) recording of their Brand New Eyes album, where they let the pressures of following up a platinum-selling album disappear.
So, naturally, it was the first place they took us on their tour of Franklin.
“I come to Puckett’s a lot, because I’m always in downtown Franklin. We always come here, like, whether it’s after church or before a band practice,” Williams explained. “When we were recording our record, we recorded it right down the street, and a lot of days we would come here for lunch and just talk. And that was at a time when we weren’t really talking a lot, either, so those moments where we would actually hang out were special and awesome and kind of few and far between for a little bit.
“It’s Southern as you can be,” she added. “Everyone’s so sweet. Anyone can come here and just be themselves.”