For the Band Perry, it's all about the live show, and they'll proveit tonight when they open for Rascal Flatts at Cruzan Amphitheatrein West Palm Beach.
"We've always judged our career and made creative decisions basedon how things feel live," Kimberly Perry said by phone from theband's hometown, Greenville, Tenn. "It's our reset. We get to turnoff our cellphones and walk away from the world. Before we werewriting songs and doing interviews, we were playing live. That's usin our element, and it's our very favorite place to be."
Kimberly, 29, and her brothers, Reid, 24, and Neil, 22, burst ontothe country music scene in 2009 with the rocker "Hip to My Heart,"and followed with the super-successful ballad "If I Die Young." Anunusual song about living life to the fullest, even when time isshort, it won the CMA award for single and song of the year, andwas nominated for many others, including a Grammy.
The band toured nonstop, released two more singles, then in April,released their sophomore project, "Pioneer," with a party inGreenville. "It was funny," Kimberly said, "Greenville only hasabout 15,000 people in the whole town and 25,000 showed up for theparty!"
The first single is a dark love song called "Better Dig Two," aboutnot being able to live without your soul mate. It's one of only twosongs on the album the trio didn't have a hand in writing.
"Reid always says that we'll only cut a song if it sounds likesomething we would have written," Kimberly said.
"What we loved about 'Better Dig Two,'~HOA~128~128~" Reid said,"was that it ... had the really big aggressive guitar and a lot ofbig drums, but it also had a sentimental side, because it's reallya love song."
Despite having a real feel for whom they are as artists, the BandPerry is open-minded about their musical path. "The exciting thingis our career is kind of like a scavenger hunt. We have no ideawhat we're going to write or what we're going to sound like next.We try out new songs on the road as we write them because it'sreally important to us to see how the crowd responds and how theyfeel hearing them live."
And they feel a bit like musical pioneers, Reid said. "To a lot ofpeople, the word pioneer means man on the moon, or covered wagons,for us it's about the journey coming off the success of 'If I DieYoung,' and moving toward what's next, but not necessarily knowingthe steps are to get there."
Their parents, Steve, a pediatrician, and Marie, the band's stylistand support system, have been right beside their kids every step ofthe way. "Our mom played piano and our dad played bass, but theyclaim they played the radio the best," Reid says. "Mom lovedeverything from country to Michael Jackson to Motown and Dad lovedrock 'n' roll ... it gave us a great appreciation for all kinds ofmusic."
But the siblings found a home in country music, which they considerthe last rock 'n' roll frontier. Their music is usually describedas edgy, rock-infused country, and that's by design.
For "Pioneer," they teamed up with producer Dann Huff (Faith Hill,Rascal Flatts), and you can hear his influence on the record.
"Dan Huff came out and he watched us live before we ever set atoenail into the studio," Kimberly said, "and to understand us youhave to see us live. He really channeled all that energy of thelive show onto the record. And he threw out the rule book, which issometimes a scary thing. He let us go a million crazy places, andsometimes he would reel us back in and sometimes he would let usgo."
Reid says Huff, a gifted guitarist who has played on Taylor Swift,Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston's records, was like a part ofthe band. "He would sit in the control room and play his guitaralong with us while we were laying it down."
For the Perry family, country music is serious business, with momMarie watching every show, and taking notes on every performance.
"We always have thrived on constructive critique," Kimberly says."I think when you stop asking 'What can we do better?', you stopgrowing. We always record our shows with a board tape off thesoundboard, and the visual side of it, and we always review gametapes after the show. Our mother will say, 'Kimberly, you're movingaround too much on this song,' or 'You need to move around a littlebit more on this song.' She has seen every performance since dayone, and she knows when we're at our best and the things we can dobetter."
"It's funny," Neil said. "If I see my mom looking at me, I startautomatically thinking what am I not doing that I'm supposed to bedoing and I quickly shape up."
Marie is a tough taskmaster, but before you start thinking she's anautocratic super-critic, listen to track eight of Pioneer, called"Mother Like Mine," which says:
Oh the wars would all be over
'Cause she'd raise us all as friends
And no one would ever wonder if somebody wanted them
We'd walk on grass that's greener
And our cares would all be freer
If the world had a mother like mine.
"It's the only song on the album that just the three of us wrotetogether," Neil said. "We were looking through our song ideas andcame across one that said "if the world had a mother like mine,"and it really struck us. So we wrote a song about what the worldwould be look like if our mom raised the world like she raised us."
Kimberly agrees. "I think it had to be just the three of us,because it was such a personal song. Ultimately it's aboutunconditional love."
But unconditional love doesn't mean love is blind.
"Our parents used to tell us when we were growing up, 'you're nevergoing to be in the band just because your last name is Perry. Youhave to earn your spot,'" Kimberly said.
"That mindset and commitment and workmanship is one of thecharacter traits that keeps propelling us forward. We'recompetitive, but mostly with ourselves, and we're just trying to bebetter as a band, and better people as well."
email@example.com Twitter: @janisfontaine
IF YOU GO
Rascal Flatts Live and Loud Tour 2013 with The Band Perry andCassadee Pope
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Cruzan Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansburys Way, West Palm Beach
Tickets: $29.75 lawn to $65.25 reserved, plus fees.
Info: Ticketmaster.com; 800-745-3000
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