The Band Perry: Playin’ In The Band

Written by May 2nd, 2011 at 8:00 am

It’s the first of a satchel of songs for a follow-up to the album that earned honors from the Academy of Country Music and garnered Grammy, Country Music Association and American Country awards nominations. Awards are great, but performing live “has been crucial to our foundation and our development as artists,” Kimberly adds. “We are a blue-collar working band.”

“We love to sing live,” adds Reid. “I feel that’s where we are pretty dominant. Ever since the beginning, we’ve always played shows.” That beginning was 13 years ago, when the brothers were in a band that toured with and opened for a band Kimberly fronted.

“We knew at some point it would be the three of us,” says big sister. “We had a lot to learn before we could come together as a trio. We tried out The Band Perry in an acoustic show in a Wal-Mart lingerie department in North Carolina.”

Performing among negligee-wearing mannequins seven years ago was a humble launch into the world of touring as a band. “We are playing a variety of different venues,” says Kimberly. “We play a lot of theaters, but we also play sweaty little rock clubs.”

Meanwhile, they’ve also been sampling the arena world with half-hour opening sets for Tim McGraw and other country superstars. Kimberly says playing in theaters frees them to mix some of their new stash with fan favorites like “Hip To My Heart,” “If I Die Young” and “You Lie.”

Kimberly, who is the band’s primary lyricist, says their songbook continues to grow, noting that writing sessions begin with “Neil on his mandolin, Reid on his bass and me on acoustic. We sit in a circle and let the music unfurl. A lot of folks write the lyrics separate from the melody. I cannot write a lyric unless I am playing and singing.”

A lot of the time, Reid will bring in a chord structure, and Neil has a real good feel for melody as well. Combining all of this in the moment is where the song unfolds. Everybody stirs in chunks of lyrics.”

Lyrical ideas come from their writing journals, which often chronicle situations from life. “It will be an actual circumstance and we’ll write a song concept around that,” says Reid. The trio does work out what Kimberly calls “the tone and temperature” of most songs.

But they also have co-writers in Nashville, a trusted cadre that helps the band insert more rock jangle into songs. “We will go into the songwriting room, with our circle of co-writers, and tell them we want the song to feel kind of like a Tom Petty song,” says Neil. Other days they may want to dial up a dose of Mellencamp.

“I feel like heartland music is the crosshairs of country and rock and roll,” says Kimberly. “My favorite Petty album is ‘Wildflowers.’ That’s kind of what we’re consistently drawn to.”

The Band Perry admires the economy of words in the tales spun by the heartland heroes. “We have a motto of wanting to say so much with so little,” Kimberly says. “Like in Mellencamp’s ‘Jack and Diane.’ The chorus goes ‘Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of livin’ is gone.’ He makes such a fine impact using as few words as possible.”

Fast, fine-tuned wordplay abounds on The Band Perry, as illustrated in “If I Die Young,” with lyrics like “A penny for your thoughts/ Oh no I’ll sell them for a dollar/They’re worth so much more when you’re a goner.”

As The Band Perry digs deeper by experimenting with musical styles while staying true to their roots, they also are gaining maturity and confidence. Add to that the natural progression of life experiences from which to draw and the musical chops honed by extensive roadwork, and it’s clear this hit-making group is a work in progress. Just as they’ve evolved since playing the lingerie department, the evolution has continued in the time since this album was recorded.

“This record is a Polaroid picture of where we were in time,” Kimberly says. “Now we are two years older, musically and as humans.”

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