Interview With The Band Perry
Sibling and family acts are part of the fabric of country music, going way back to The Carter Family and stretching all the way forward to current new acts such as Sons of Sylvia and The Harters.
For siblings Kimberly, Reid and Neil Perry–all member of The Band Perry–the evolution into a family country band wasn’t a conscious decision. It was just natural. They were all active and gifted musicians at very early ages and only graduation from high school for their youngest member kept them from hitting the scene earlier.
The Band Perry’s first single, “Hip To My Heart,” is racing up the charts, knocking on the Top 20, and their five-song EP became available this month. The trio took a few minutes to talk with The 9513 about their music background, working together as a family and how they approach songwriting.
KEN MORTON, JR.: For someone who hasn’t heard your background before, talk about cutting your teeth musically in Alabama.
KIMBERLY PERRY: It’s kind of funny. I got started when I was fifteen. Reid was ten. Neil was eight and we were down in Mobile. But we really feel like music got started way before that as individuals. Not necessarily that we were playing in bands before that time, but you can go back and watch home videos of all three of us and we’re all entertainers in our own rights as kids. And then about ten years ago, each of us formed our own individual bands.
I was the first to form a band and I was the lead singer of a group of high school buddies–all guys. Reid and Neil’s first job was tuning guitar strings and polishing drum cymbals for me and my guys. They were my little roadies. (Laughing) They looked great in their matching bowl cuts. They did a great job for us, however. The guys in my band were pseudo big-brothers for Reid and Neil. Just by nature of following the older kids’ footsteps, they put together their own little bands at eight and ten. Neil was the drummer at the time. They found a lead singer and an electric guitar player for their little band and opened dates for the band that I had.
We all travelled as a family and secretly, their band was more talented than mine. I don’t admit that too much, but they really were. I was their musical director and I think we all knew that we would do a three-piece musical family band at some point. But we just had to wait for the right moment, for the boys to get a little taller. We started as The Band Perry in the Carolinas five years ago. We were hired by Coke and by Wal-Mart to do the New Faces Of Country Music Tour. It was acoustic sets that we would do in Wal-Marts. And it was the first foray into the music business for the boys and I. It was a great experience for the boys and I to open all those dates and meet country radio and introduce us to country radio for the first time. And that’s where we found out country music is where our hearts are and really where we belong. And that in a nutshell, is our story over the last decade.
KMJ: You might not have a comparison, but how is the dynamic of working as siblings versus working with people who aren’t siblings?
NEIL PERRY: We’ve been talking about that recently. We don’t know how other bands can do it without the support systems of their families. When one of us is having a bad day, one of us will nudge them and ask them, “What’s wrong?”
KIMBERLY: We always call them discussions and not necessarily disagreements. (Laughing)
REID PERRY: We’re family and we’re stuck with one-another, so it’s not like we’re going to go anywhere.
KIMBERLY: We’re really supportive of one another. I’m really thankful. We’ve just not done it any other way. We’ve always travelled together as family. We know each other on such a deep level. We’ve obviously been around each other our whole lives. There’s certain ways that we have to encourage each other and challenge each other like only family can do. I just don’t know how folks out there do it without family support. Because it’s a crazy pace. It’s a whirlwind business with lots of ups and downs. It’s important to have that family and that middle ground so you’re not on those high highs and low lows. We’re just happy to have each other. Except after about fourteen days on the road when we always revert back to our ten and twelve year old petty arguments.
KMJ: Is it a democracy? Kimberly, do you ever feel like it’s two against one with boys versus girl?
KIMBERLY: It is a democracy. And the standard rule is that majority rules. Even if there’s something creative that’s up for discussion or a business decision that one person feels a specific way, we always have it up for discussion and we always end up getting on the same page. I don’t thing anybody ever feels railroaded. Everyone has an equal voice on everything. Being the big sister and all, I have to be honest with you; I am the bossiest one in the family.
REID: This is where I’ll have to agree, she is bossy. (Laughing)
KIMBERLY: It just depends on which day of the week. Reid is definitely the peacemaker, he’s the middle one. He definitely keeps me on a level emotionally.
REID: Kimberly and I are just alike.
NEIL: They’re the drama in the group. (Laughing)
REID: But Neil is the character of the group. He keeps us laughing out on the road.
KIMBERLY: As the baby. And you know, we all fill specific roles I think in positive ways. We kind of fill in the gaps of stuff that some of the others might be lacking and such. It’s a cool thing this whole package of a family.
KMJ: “Hip To My Heart” leans on the pop country side of things. On your new EP and on your upcoming album, describe your sound. What will we hear on it?
KIMBERLY: We have two adjectives to describe our sound and they work hand in hand. We’re definitely a modern throwback. It’s interesting that “Hip To My Heart” is the lightest and most poppy–and in our opinion, the only poppy thing–on the album. But we thought it had just so much energy. We’re 19, 21 and 26 years old and it had a lot of youth about it. It’s a great way to introduce us to the country music family. I am excited as we move forward for listeners to dig into some of the deeper cuts. We’ve actually decided on our second single, a song called, “If I Die Young.” We’re not close to hitting on it yet because we still have a lot more room on “Hip To My Heart.”
It’s getting warmer so it’s time to crank down those windows and crank up that song. But we’re really excited for listeners to dig into the rest of that album. We have some interesting layers and some interesting contemplations on this album. It’s such a romantic soundtrack. We touch on everything from talking about death, have a little small-town romance and bring out some sassy numbers like a song called “The Way You Lie.” It’s just a really cool project with flavors for everybody. The boys and I are steeped in old country. We absolutely love the history of this format. Neil, being the mandolin player, loves the bluegrass side of things. I’m just so excited for people to see our roots and see what we’ve cut our teeth on musically. So a modern throwback would be the best description.
KMJ: You guys have written or co-written nearly the entire album. I noticed one of the writers was American Idol judge Kara Dioguardi. Tell me about writing with her and your song “Postcards From Paris.”
REID: Kara was in town in Nashville writing with several country songwriters and artists. Our A&R lady at our label is good friends with Kara. She called us one day and said that Kara had a free afternoon and if we would care to write. That’s the funny thing about writing relationships is you don’t really know how it’s going to turn out. You could write a song or you could just end up going to get a coffee together. Luckily, it worked and we wrote a “Postcard From Paris.” Kara has been so great; she’s almost taken on a big sister role for us. She’s really given us a lot of advice and helped us out and all.
KIMBERLY: She’s just been so supportive and actually on the local Fox station here in Nashville, she actually sang a bit of our next single, “If I Die Young.” She’s just really loved that from day one. It’s just really cool to see her get into songs that we’re putting out. She really has become sort of The Band Perry’s big sister giving us advice. She’s even helped us so much in the songwriting room. Her songwriting prowess is just so amazing with the breadth of work that she’s done over the years. She definitely came into the songwriting room with a needle and thread and sewed the idea of the song together.
KMJ: Neil, on your website, you mention that each one of you bring a different songwriting skill and strength to each songwriting session. What are those?
NEIL: Reid is definitely the rock and roller of the group, being a bass player and all. He’s very particular about what he likes and what he doesn’t like in music. Reid will usually bring in a really cool melody of a bass or even a guitar–he plays great guitar as well. Kimberly works on melody as well–she’s actually a melody genius. She’ll bring in something romantic or something really sassy into the room. My role in the writing room is bringing in the lyrics and the string that strings all of our different ideas together. We work really well in the writing room together.
KIMBERLY: A lot of times a writing session will evolve out of a rehearsal because when the boys and I rehearse as three-piece, we just play the songs we’re going to play in the next set. Then that evolves into playing some old country songs and then turns into stuff for a writing session. So I really believe that the way we bring songs together is just an extension of us jamming. That seems to be the process that works the best for us. It becomes sort of effortless when we do it that way. Songs kind of come out of our fingertips.
KMJ: Things have kind of exploded on country radio for you all so far this year. Has there been any performance highlights for you over the last year?
KIMBERLY: Yes! We have two, actually. We had our first sold-out shows this year. The first was up in Portland, Oregon, back on February 13th. And then we had another sold-out show in Albany. That was just huge for us. It was really unexpected and we have just so much support from those two stations. The crowds were just wonderful. And the other cool thing that we’re starting to see is people singing out the lyrics to “Hip To My Heart.” When we’re doing some of these radio events, the people in the crowd are singing the lyrics of “Hip To My Heart” back to us. And that’s something that we’ve just never experienced before. You’re just not expecting it the first time and it was just a really cool moment for the three of us.
KMJ: What is country music to The Band Perry?
KIMBERLY: I’m so proud to be part of this era of country music. The three of us talk about this all the time. We feel like it’s the American format. If Tom Petty came out today, where would he fall? He would fall into country music. He would just fall into the rockier and edgier side of things. I think there’s room for everybody in the format. We’ve got things on the rockier side, things on the poppier side and just straight down the middle country music. It really is just a big country format. And what I love about it is each artist and each band are each unique characters. They each fill a specific niche and a specific mini-genre- they’re each unique characters. Miranda Lambert is a very different character than Lady Antebellum. But she fills her niche. Taylor Swift fills the poppier side of things. That’s what we love about it is everybody brings in their own spin and brings in fresh ideas. The Band Perry hopes to bring to country music a niche to be that modern throwback. We want to maintain the roots and traditions of the format–the songs we love. We want to update that in the 2010 era that we’re living in. We’re just so excited to be part of the big country music family.
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