SANTA ANA, Calif. _ The magnitude of their success doesn't seem to have fully sunk in for the Perry siblings.
They're gracious and polite and understandably thrilled with everything that's happened to them during their rise to country music stardom in the past three years under the moniker the Band Perry. Vocalist and guitarist Kimberly, the eldest, even took a moment to humbly thank me for doing this interview _ something that rarely happens, especially right out of the gate.
While amiably undertaking a slew of phone chats in a few hours, the 30-year-old with wavy blond hair _ who was on the line with her brothers, bassist Reid, 24, and drummer and mandolin player Neil, 23 _ actually remembered my first name and where I was calling from. Letting out a sigh that included an "I still can't believe how awesome this all is" laugh, she described what life has been like since the release of the group's sophomore album, "Pioneer," which arrived in April.
"It's been a really great summer," she says sweetly, comparing every weekend to summer camp. The Band Perry served as supporting act on the final leg of Rascal Flatts' Changed Tour earlier this year and has rejoined the group for its Live & Loud outing.
The outing has taken the group to dozens of new places, and when they're not on the bus working on fresh material, Neil says they're out experiencing the local fare.
"We've gotten to go to some really cool towns," he says, "so we'll get dressed up, like incognito and go out to antique stores or music stores. We're also big on trying out the local restaurants as well. We like to be tourists."
Growing up in Mobile, Ala., and later relocating to Greenville, Tenn., the Perrys began making music together while in grade school. With countless hometown gigs under their belts, they branched out and officially formed the Band Perry in 2005.
Three years later, they had a chance meeting with Garth Brooks' manager, who turned them on to Republic Nashville, a just-developing branch of Universal Music Group. The group signed with the label the year it launched, 2009, and released the single "Hip to My Heart" before issuing a self-titled EP in May 2010 and an eponymous full-length effort in October that year.
A handful of singles followed: "You Lie," "Postcard from Paris" and two No. 1 hits, "All Your Life" and the inescapable "If I Die Young," which Kimberly penned on her own. Their second effort has received a similar response, with the haunting and biting leadoff single "Better Dig Two" topping the country chart while the boot-stomping anthem "Done" has quickly become a radio favorite.
Reid says he's happy to beef up the band's set list and see the audience singing along to the latest material: "It's given a whole new energy to the live show."
"One of my favorite moments in the show right now is on a song called 'I'm a Keeper,'" Kimberly adds. "It hasn't been a single yet, but the crowd already sings it back to us like it is. I'm not quite sure where they're finding it _ on YouTube, maybe _ but it's one of the favorites on iTunes and people are drawn to it."
Greater success has given them a larger budget for stage production, so the Perrys have splurged on more elaborate effects, including light-up stairs and fog jets that shoot a thick mist 10-12 feet into the air.
"We like spectacles," Kimberly says with a laugh. "We grew up loving rock 'n' roll shows like AC/DC and the Rolling Stones, all of that sort of stuff. Everything we do, it always comes back to the live show. That's where we were before we were writing a bunch of songs or doing interviews _ we were playing live music since we were little kids, and that's one of the mediums we feel the most creative in."
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The band began the recording process for "Pioneer" with famed producer Rick Rubin, who has helmed albums for artists as wide-ranging as Johnny Cash and Black Sabbath, but ended up finishing the album with Dann Huff, best known for his work with Rascal Flatts and Faith Hill.
"Working with Rick was a very pinnacle moment in the last 15 years of us doing music," Reid says. "He was a really integral part in the first part of 'Pioneer.' We took a road trip out to Malibu and we sat in front of him for a couple of weeks _ literally just wrote the songs for (the album) in front of him, and under his tutelage as well. But when it came time to record the songs, we decided to take it back to Nashville with Dann because he has a very over-the-top production style, whereas Rick is much more a minimalist. It's just where we felt we needed to go."
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Even after a handful of hits, major tours and accolades from peers courtesy of the Academy of Country Music Awards, CMT Music Awards and the Country Music Association Awards, the Band Perry still geeks out when they hear themselves on the radio.
"The first time was three or four years ago," Neil recalls. They had just landed in San Francisco and were being driven around by a label rep. "The radio was on low and suddenly the chorus to our song came on and we just were shocked. Reid screamed. Kimberly yelled. We rolled down the windows and turned it up really loud."
"One of my favorite radio moments just happened a few months ago," Kimberly adds. "We were in our small town of Greenville, headed to our favorite Mexican restaurant, and we had on one country radio station and they were playing 'Done.' We were excited to hear the song, and again we rolled the windows down. The song ended, so we flipped it to the other local country station _ and they were playing 'Better Dig Two.'
"We couldn't believe it: Two of our songs on at the same time in this part of the world on two different stations. That was a special moment."
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