The Band Perry is the biggest group in Country music right now.
Hot off the success of their No. 1 album Pioneer, Kimberly, Reid and Neil are out on the road with fellow musicians Rascal Flatts, bringing their Southern Gothic charm and sharp storytelling to the masses.
I recently had a chance to chat with the trio about their partnership with Outnumber Hunger, a non-profit organization poised to shed light on the growing devastation of hunger in the U.S., as well as their latest record, weirdest fan interaction and what a normal hair-care routine entails, and more.
Nashville Gab: Hey guys! Thank you so much for talking with me. Where are you guys calling from today?
Kimberly: We are in Texas today, Odessa, Texas, where the weather has been out of control. It’s supposed to be like 30 degrees. It was 90 yesterday, and it’s supposed to be 30 today.
NG: Can you tell me a little bit about the Outnumber Hunger campaign and why you got involved?
KP: The three of us appreciate the spotlight, for a couple of reasons. First of all, our very favorite thing to do on planet earth is to tour, night after night, and go out and sing Country songs for our Country music-loving family. The second reason we really appreciate the spotlight is because it affords us the opportunity to, and frankly, gives us the responsibility to shine a little bit of light in dark places. This issue of hunger is one that we had no idea the extent of it before getting involved with Outnumber Hunger.
They gave us the opportunity to visit there in Nashville the local food bank, and we learned that one in six Americans, right here in the land of plenty, struggle with hunger. That number hit home for us because that means it’s the people we’re looking at singing those songs at our shows. It’s all of our next door neighbors. You know, the kids we all went to school with. So, it truly does touch all of us as Americans.
NG: How can people get involved?
Reid: What they can do is either go to the website OutnumberHunger.com to find out more, or they can buy specially marked products, like General Mills. There is a code they can enter online. When they do that, they’ll also enter a zipcode, which allows Outnumber Hunger to donate five meals to local charity. [It] was a big deal for us because I feel a lot of people, when they give out of the generosity of their hearts, they don’t necessarily see the results. With Outnumber Hunger, you are able to help right in your backyard.
NG: Switching gears a little big, congrats on the success of your new album ‘Pioneer.’ What is that feeling like knowing your music has connected to so many people all over the world?
KP: You know, it’s an amazing thing. We write these songs in the humblest of circumstances, whether we are in a songwriting room in Nashville or if we are all piled on top of each other in the space on the bus or even at home in east Tennessee in the mountains. They begin in these teeny tiny environments, and it’s like they grow night after night that we are playing them on stage. Every day they’re on the radio, and some of them have even crossed oceans and gone international. I guess, it would be for us…we’ve never had kids, the three of us…it would be like seeing your kids grow up and make the way in the world. It’s a really rewarding thing. Again, these songs are so personal for the three of us. They’re truly the soundtrack to our lives and things we’re thinking about and living out. For the fans to, in turn, make it the soundtrack to their day, in whatever experiences they’re walking through, and really make it personal, I think that is the ultimate joy of any songwriter. The songs become something bigger than ourselves and can actually be used as instruments for other people.
NG: Your current single is “DONE.,” and so many of your live performances of the song have been really passionate. You have really excelled. Where do you attribute your evolution as live performers?
RP: Whenever we play on stage — it’s more fun [recently] for us — because it’s truly what we’ve done for the past 14 years, even before we were doing interviews or writing songs…we were performing. So, you’re right, whenever we started with the CMA Awards, we wanted to take it up a step, and bring what we do live to an awards show.
KP: Well, following it up with “DONE.” on the ACMs, we continued to raise the bar. But you know, I attribute a lot of that to the freedom to be allowed to be who we are. Before we were doing interviews and writing songs even, we were playing live. That’s the element we feel truly at home in. For the first album process, we were just kind of introducing ourselves to the world. I think we always knew we had certain cards in our pocket that maybe we hadn’t played yet. As we dove into the ‘Pioneer’ era, we got to embrace our rock-n-roll moves. We got to spill out on stage more of what we do every night out on the road. I think, part of it’s freedom, and the other half of it is, we probably played close to a thousand shows since our first record came out. Just woodshedding will also help us, you know, take that to another level and be even more comfortable in our own skin.
NG: What has been the strangest experience you’ve had with a fan while out on tour?
KP: For me, it’s always like ‘what’s the strangest thing we can find today?’
[Adding:] We were in San Francisco at an outdoor festival. We were playing with the Zac Brown Band. So, we did a big signing after our set, and this gentleman — who, you know, had been having a good time, clearly, liquidly affected. He came up and was like ‘could you sign my butt?’ My comment to him was ‘well, it depends on if you can keep those pants on.’ [And I meant it] as ‘please keep those pants on.’ He thought I meant ‘please take them off.’ Yup, so, he dropped those right to his ankles, and needless to say, I gave him the sharpie after [we were done].
NG: Looking at your new album cover art, you three have the best hair. What do you guys do to get your hair looking like that in the morning?
KP: Mine is the greatest labor of love. I have to really go through a coaxing process with my hair everyday to make it behave. Reid, however, just wakes up looking like that, which is totally not fair. Neil takes the longest.
RP: He does, and it’s not necessarily because he has so much to do as he’s just so slow at doing it.
NG: Along with that, your style is rather eclectic. It’s goth meets victorian meets Country. Was that a conscious choice or did it come naturally?
KP: You know, we really view our style as visual extension of our art. So, you kind of have to look like the music feels. Our mother is still our stylist. She knows us like the back of her hand, knows our tastes — knows our collection and how to pull different things together. We’ve been on a real black leather kick lately. [Our performances] on awards shows and such somehow involve black leather.
[Adding]: It just changes with our mood.
NG: If there was a potential fan, what song on the new record would you suggest they listen to first?
KP: I would say, other than singles, go ahead and listen to “Pioneer,” because [it] is definitely, musically and lyrically, our perspective. It’s about a journey. It starts out kind of with [our] roots of everything we did on the first album, and it grows into this big rocket by the end. So, I feel like it’s really representative of our musical journey. Lyrically, it’s probably about as intense as we get on the whole album.
NG: There is one line in that song that really struck a chord: ‘I won't hush, no you can't make me. I won't hush, no we will sing.’ What is that inspired by?
RP: For us, that was the line of, not necessarily defiance against anything that we were standing for, but we are just constantly going to put one foot in front of the other…keep marching on. Ironically, with that line, we were playing over in Europe at a show in Manchester, England, and we played ‘Pioneer’ for the very first time. Then, the very next night we were playing in London at another show, and a group of girls from the Manchester show came out. When we played "Pioneer" again, they held up a sign that said "We won’t hush," which is the line they took away from that song. It was kind of a sign, if you will, to us that maybe we should name the album ‘Pioneer.’
KP: As Reid said, behind that line, perseverance has been our best friend over the past 14 years. I feel like any one time that you are trying to grow and pursue something really good in this life, so many forces seem to try to drag you down, whether it’s critics, whether it is naysayers, whether it is just the strenuous process. You know, "we won’t hush," all those things coming our way, we’re just gonna do the things we are here to do.
[Adding:] It was sort of our defiance and a little passive-aggressive. We’re not shouting. We’re just singers.
Check out a few more tidbits from the interview over on my Country music beat on Examiner.
Photo Credits: The Band Perry