The Band Perry is pioneering a new sound

For the News-DemocratAugust 14, 2013 

Since releasing their debut album in 2010, The Band Perry has ascended to extraordinary heights, including headlining sold-out shows and numerous awards. The band is now in the midst of the Rascal Flatts Live & Loud Tour, which stops at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on Friday night.

Fronted by Kimberly Perry and rounded out by her younger brothers Neil and Reid, the band has notched a string of hit singles, including the quadruple platinum "If I Die Young" (which climbed to No. 1 on Billboard's Country and AC charts), the platinum "You Lie" and the Country No. 1 "All Your Life."

They also have enjoyed a showering of honors, including multiple ACM, CMA, and CMT Music awards, as well as Grammy, Teen Choice, AMA, ACA, and Billboard Music award nominations -- all of which has cemented the sibling trio as one of the hottest acts in recent history.

But despite the validation that comes with such success, Kimberly, Reid and Neil felt as if they were walking into the unknown when it came time to writing and recording their second album, "Pioneer."

"People hear the word 'pioneer' and they think of covered wagons or astronauts on the moon, but to us the idea of a pioneer is very modern," Reid said. "It reflects the idea of putting one foot in front of the other when you're unsure how to get where you're going. It's about marching forward and making noise."

"We had so many questions about our future, both personally and professionally," Kimberly explained. "You can hear it in the lyrics to the song 'Pioneer,' which asks, 'Where are we going?' 'What will become of us?' After writing those lines, the song became our guiding light throughout the process of recording the album, which is why we chose it as the title track. It's truly about the last three years of our lives and trusting that the songs we wrote would lead us where we were supposed to go. We also had to let go of fear and trust the boldness that has always informed our creative decisions."

Pioneer is the first recording the trio feels truly captures the full-throttle intensity of The Band Perry's live show, which they attribute to the input of the album's producer Dann Huff. Huff, a Nashville veteran who was mentored by Mutt Lange and has worked with Faith Hill, Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts, is the first producer who insisted on seeing the band in its live element.

"He was flabbergasted," Kimberly recalled. "His mouth was hanging open. The first thing he said when we got off stage, was, 'Whoa, you guys have a rock 'n' roll edge. This is what you do.' He had never heard it represented in our recorded music and he opened up our minds to that in the studio. That led us to add more electric guitars and background vocals, which created more daring musical moments. Dann threw out the rulebook and let us go anywhere we wanted."

The platinum-selling lead single, "Better Dig Two," kicked off the success of "Pioneer."

"The song expresses what we love about the deep South," Kimberly said. "When you listen to the lullabies and fairy tales told in that part of the country, they feel a lot like the lyrics in this song."

"Better Dig Two," which spent two consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Country chart, is The Band Perry's fastest rising single on radio ever, as well as their first No. 1 song in Canada.

"Pioneer" raised the bar for the band members as songwriters.

"We wrote every song on this album probably four times," Neil explained. "Each time we'd finish, we'd ask ourselves, 'Is this song completely honest about where we are in life? Does it say everything we want it to say?'"

"Our first album was an honest representation of where we were at the time," Kimberly said. "When we sat down to write songs, we had pictures in our head, and back then it was very romantic imagery, like Ferris wheels at the county fair. This time our inspirational images were of armies and marching bands moving forward. It was very militaristic, and I think you can hear that in the melodies and the lyrics."

The album has allowed The Band Perry to accomplish one of its primary goals: to bring the romantic mystique of bands back to music. That's something they've dreamed of doing ever since forming the group in Mobile, Alab., where the Perry kids moved with their parents after a childhood spent in Jackson, Miss.

Kimberly started her first band at age 15, with 10-year-old Reid and 8-year-old Neil observing every rehearsal from the sidelines.

"When the drummer and bassist would take a water break, they would jump on their instruments," Kimberly recalled with a laugh. "They caught the fever immediately."

Reid and Neil started their own band, traveling with their family in a 36-foot motor home, playing modest shows in malls, campgrounds and fairs.

"Sometimes there'd be more people onstage than there were in out in the crowd," Kimberly says. "But our parents, who had no legitimate experience in the music industry, said, 'We're not going to allow you to have a fallback plan. You were born to do music. We'll support you, we'll help you figure it out. This is what you need to do with your life.'

"That was really the moment the three of us joined forces as The Band Perry. All the friends I had been playing with became interested in other things. I needed a band and Reid and Neil needed a lead singer."

Kimberly, Reid and Neil spent the next 10 years traveling, performing and honing their skills before signing with Universal Republic in 2009 and being catapulted into the spotlight with "If I Die Young."

To this day, they are most comfortable onstage.

"Just learning that craft made us feel comfortable when we started to book shows at the big arenas that we're now getting to play," Neil said.

"Our show is very aggressive," Kimberly said. "There are a lot of electric guitars and hard-hitting drums."

"Playing the new songs from 'Pioneer' has given our live show a new burst of energy and the crowd feels it, too," Neil added. "They're as excited to have new music as we are."

Who: The Band Perry, supporting act on Rascal Flatts Live & Loud Tour

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Verizon Wireless Amphitheater

Tickets: $25-$75

How: www.livenation.com, or www.ticketmaster.com

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