Kimberly, Reid, and Neil Perry launched their career by focusing on the one thing most musicians lose sight of once they achieve commercial success: reclaiming the roots of their genre. The siblings are storytellers first, and country musicians second, weaving a nostalgic tapestry with each song that romanticizes a classic picture of American life.
“The most definitive aspect of country music is the stories that it tells,” Kimberly said. “They’re real songs about real life and it’s a very honest writing style. It’s the tradition of country and the lyrics of country and the heart of country that we maintain throughout our music.”
The Band Perry has been making groundbreaking waves in country music for two years. Since the release of their platinum-selling, self-titled debut album in 2010, the Tennessee-based band has topped the charts with five singles including “If I Die Young”, “All Your Life” and most recently, “Postcard from Paris.”
The quadruple-platinum hit “If I Die Young”, a wistful ballad about a young woman wrestling with her own mortality, has sold over 4 million copies since its 2010 release. This year, the Band Perry earned a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist and an Academy of Country Music (ACM) nomination for Vocal Group of the Year. Their other accolades include the 2011 ACM and Country Music Awards (CMA) for New Artist of the Year and the 2011 CMA for Single of the Year. Kimberly, the band’s lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist, also won the 2011 CMA for Song of the Year for penning “If I Die Young.”
Yet the siblings remain humble. After performing together for 13 years, they don’t see themselves as an overnight success.
“Before any of our songs ever hit the radio, we were holed up in our basement and playing shows around the Southeast just really trying to find our musical voice,” 28-year-old Kimberly said.
“So in one respect it feels like it took a really long time to hone the craft. But when things actually started rolling about two years ago it felt like it moved really swiftly and that part of it came as a big surprise. We truly believe that that decade’s worth of work on the front end really made this back end move a lot quicker.”
The band’s hard work has continued to pay off. They are currently performing their own headlining dates and getting ready to kick off the second leg of their tour with Brad Paisley. The country music superstar invited them to perform as special guests on his 2012 Virtual Reality Tour, which comes to Jiffy Lube Live on August 25.
To 21-year-old Neil Perry, the band’s youngest member and mandolin player, touring with Paisley is just another reason why he and his siblings love being a part of the country music industry.
“Brad’s just got a really family atmosphere on the road,” he said. “He’ll throw parties for people and just really be welcoming to everybody.”
Kimberly recalls Paisley bringing a petting zoo into the arena at midnight for one of his famous post-show parties. But her hands-down favorite part of the tour is performing “Whiskey Lullaby” onstage with Paisley.
“That song has always been in our top five favorite songs ever, so to go out and perform that with Brad is just a really wonderful moment,” she said.
Paisley is apparently quite the prankster on tour, but the Band Perry is more than prepared. They hide an arsenal of silly string and Nerf guns underneath their drum riser before each show, just in case one of his pranks happens on stage and they need to retaliate quickly.
The siblings have a great appreciation for the family dynamic they’ve found on tour with Paisley and in the industry as a whole.
“I feel that as an outsider, you can have all of these different perceptions of country music,” said 23-year-old bassist Reid. “But when you’re involved in it, country is very much like a big family and we’ve always kind of idealized it as such. So for us, whether we’re getting together at award shows or even on the road, we’ve found country to be one of the warmest genres.”
The Band Perry also feel it’s a great time to be writing and performing country music because of so many artists’ unique approach to the genre.
“You’ve got pop country, you’ve got rock country and you’ve got alt-country,” Kimberly said. “I feel like it’s more than ever the American genre and it’s just really exciting to be a part of that right now.”
Neil agreed, emphasizing his own appreciation for the constant evolution of country music.
“I really feel like it’s great whenever musicians can come together to collaborate and just respect each other’s different styles,” he said. “I think people all over the board are creating all kinds of music right now.”
As they write and record their sophomore album, due out later this year, the young musicians keep an open mind about their own sound and collaborative process. Striking a balance between being band and family members comes naturally to the Band Perry because the two most important aspects of their lives have been intertwined for as long as they can remember.
“It certainly is a family business and always has been,” Kimberly said. “It’s a democracy and we all get a vote. Gratefully, we always end up being on the same page. We never make decisions quickly. They’re always very thought out and debated over and over again until we all get to the same conclusion. That’s our process in The Band Perry and the family Perry.”
Reid jumped in, saying no matter what they write together or individually, they always join forces to put each song to music.
“We just kind of throw in a bunch of ideas and then we call it a soup,” he said. “Then we stir it around until songs come out.”
Drawing from their life experiences is instrumental to the band’s songwriting process. Kimberly said that even on the first album, it was always their goal to transform each song into its own character lyrically, melodically, and in the overall feeling of the song.
“The collection of songs on [our new] album already feel like very, very personal statements that we have felt and believe in,” she said.
Kimberly and her brothers also take pride in their close relationship with their fans. They still sign autographs after almost every show and listen to their fans talk about how they respond to music and what’s happening in their world. Every once in a while, they even hear a story that impacts them so much that they’re inspired to write a song about it.
“We’re just big, big fans of our music and our band being the people’s music and the people’s band and really, really speaking to the honest every day, if you will,” Kimbery said.
The Band Perry is determined to deliver a second album that embodies the spirit of country music through storytelling. And it sounds like they’re well on their way.
“We’re so focused on what’s coming next and the three of us are in love with the songs that we’re collecting for this project,” Kimberly said. “But we also feel a real responsibility to just really dive in and dig in deep and make the best second album that we can. That’s our immediate goal.”
See The Band Perry Saturday, Aug. 25, 7 p.m., at Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; 703-754-6400; www.jiffylubelive.com