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The Band Perry
Since releasing their self-titled debut album in 2010, The Band Perry have ascended to dizzying heights. Fronted by Kimberly Perry and rounded out by her younger brothers Neil and Reid, the band has notched a string of hit singles, including the quadruple-platinum “If I Die Young” (which climbed to No. 1 on Billboard’s Country and AC charts), the platinum “You Lie,” and the Country No. 1 “All Your Life.” They’ve also enjoyed sold-out tours and a showering of honors, including multiple ACM, CMA, and CMT Music awards, as well as Grammy, Teen Choice, AMA, ACA, and Billboard Music award nominations — all of which has cemented the sibling trio as one of the hottest acts in recent history.
But despite the validation that comes with such success, Kimberly, Reid, and Neil felt as if they were walking into the unknown when it came time to write and record their second album, which they’ve called Pioneer. “People hear the word ‘pioneer’ and they think of covered wagons or astronauts on the moon, but to us the idea of a pioneer is very modern,” Reid says. “It reflects the idea of putting one foot in front of the other when you’re unsure how to get where you’re going. It’s about marching forward and making noise.”
“We had so many questions about our future, both personally and professionally,” Kimberly explains. “You can hear it in the lyrics to the song ‘Pioneer,’ which asks, ‘Where are we going?’ ‘What will become of us?’ After writing those lines, the song became our guiding light throughout the process of recording the album, which is why we chose it as the title track. It’s truly about the last three years of our lives and trusting that the songs we wrote would lead us where we were supposed to go. We also had to let go of fear and trust the boldness that has always informed our creative decisions.”
The boldness is clearly evident in everything from Pioneer’s album cover — with its bright red, grey, and black color scheme and the band’s confident leaning-forward stance — to the album’s fiery, rock and roll-influenced country sound. It’s the first recording the trio feels truly captures the full-throttle intensity of The Band Perry’s live show, which they attribute to the input of the album’s producer Dann Huff. Huff, a Nashville veteran who was mentored by Mutt Lange and has worked with Faith Hill, Keith Urban, and Rascal Flatts, is the first producer who insisted on seeing them in the band in its live element.
“He was flabbergasted,” Kimberly recalls. “His mouth was hanging open. The first thing he said when we got off stage, was, ‘Whoa, you guys have a rock and roll edge. This is what you do.’ He had never heard it represented in our recorded music and he opened up our minds to that in the studio. That led us to add more electric guitars and background vocals, which created more daring musical moments. Dann threw out the rulebook and let us go anywhere we wanted.”
The result is a collection of country-rock stompers like “DONE.” (An empowerment anthem “about how you feel when you’ve given the best of yourself and it’s still not good enough,” Kimberly explains), the blistering “Night Gone Wasted,” and the Queen-influenced, punk-poppish “Forever Mine Nevermind.” There are also vulnerable, thoughtful tunes like “Pioneer,” “Mother Like Mine,” (an emotional tribute to the siblings’ parents, especially their mother), “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely,” “I Saw A Light,” and “End of Time,” a ballad that recalls the band’s Southern roots.
The trio’s love for Southern Gothic culture, including such authors as Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner, is reflected on the platinum-selling first single “Better Dig Two” — a foreboding tale of a woman who makes a lifelong, somewhat unhinged commitment, while still wearing her heart on her sleeve. “The song expresses what we love about the Deep South,” Kimberly says. “When you listen to the lullabies and fairy tales told in that part of the country, they feel a lot like the lyrics in this song.” (The platinum-selling “Better Dig Two,” which spent two consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Country chart, is The Band Perry’s fastest-rising single at radio ever, as well as their first No. 1 song in Canada.)
Then there’s “I’m A Keeper,” which Kimberly feels is very much her story. “I feel like I’m a free spirit first and foremost,” she says. “And the woman in this song has big plans, with or without a man. Maybe she’ll join the military, or maybe she’ll buy a house out on the prairie. All she knows is she has a big life ahead of her.”
One of the most meaningful songs to the band is “Back To Me Without You,” which was written in real time while Kimberly was dealing with the aftermath of a friendship that had imploded. “It was literally crashing and burning as we were writing the song,” Reid says. “She was heartbroken and had to take breaks from writing it in the front of the bus to go to the back of the bus to cry. Neil and I kept telling her, ‘Get back to what you know’ and ‘Get back to what you do,’ which ended up being lyrics in the song.” The track is just one example of how the band members raised the bar for themselves as songwriters on Pioneer. “We wrote every song on this album probably four times,” Neil explains. “Each time we’d finish, we’d ask ourselves, ‘Is this song completely honest about where we are in life? Does it say everything we want it to say?’"
“Our first album was an honest representation of where we were at the time,” Kimberly says. “When we sat down to write songs, we had pictures in our head, and back then it was very romantic imagery, like Ferris wheels at the county fair. This time our inspirational images were of armies and marching bands moving forward. It was very militaristic, and I think you can hear that in the melodies and the lyrics.” Adds Neil: “We didn’t discuss the images we had in our heads with each other at first. It was just what we all felt and how we processed the meaning behind the music.”
Taken as a whole, Pioneer enables The Band Perry to accomplish one of its primary goals: to bring the romantic mystique of bands back to music — something they’ve dreamed of doing ever since forming the group in Mobile, Alabama, where the Perry kids moved with their parents after a childhood spent in Jackson, Mississippi. Kimberly started her first band at age 15, with ten-year-old Reid and eight-year-old Neil observing every rehearsal from the sidelines. “When the drummer and bassist would take a water break, they would jump on their instruments,” Kimberly recalls with a laugh. “They caught the fever immediately.” Reid and Neil started their own band, traveling with their family in a 36-foot motor home, playing modest shows in malls, campgrounds, and fairs.
“Sometimes there’d be more people onstage than there were in out in the crowd,” Kimberly says. “But our parents, who had no legitimate experience in the music industry, said, ‘We’re not going to allow you to have a fallback plan. You were born to do music. We’ll support you, we’ll help you figure it out. This is what you need to do with your life.’ That was really the moment the three of us joined forces as The Band Perry. All the friends I had been playing with become interested in other things. I needed a band and Reid and Neil needed a lead singer.” Kimberly, Reid, and Neil spent the next ten years traveling, performing, and honing their skills before signing with Universal Republic in 2009 and being catapulted into the spotlight with “If I Die Young.” To this day, they are most comfortable onstage. “Just learning that craft made us feel comfortable when we started to book shows at the big arenas that we’re now getting to play,” Neil says.
The songs on Pioneer are tailor-made for arena shows. “We needed songs that could fill large spaces,” Kimberly says. “Our show is very aggressive; there are a lot of electric guitars and hard-hitting drums, and the music on Pioneer captures that.” “Playing the new songs has given our live show a new burst of energy and the crowd feels it, too,” Neil adds. “They’re as excited to have new music as we are.”
Honesty is a powerful magnet that always draws an eager audience and it has proven to be a potent tool in Eric Paslay’s creative arsenal. Sometimes playful, often poignant and always thoroughly entertaining, the 6’ 4” singer/songwriter with the fiery red hair and easy smile has quickly earned a reputation as an artist that knows how to capture the attention of an audience and hold them in the palm of his hands.
All it takes is seeing Paslay perform once to become hooked, a fact that has become obvious as he’s toured the country, opening for Little Big Town, The Eli Young Band, Jake Owen and others. Prior to the release of his EMI Nashville debut album, fans have been able to purchase a five-song sampler at Paslay’s shows. “The very first night we got to sell them I gave the merch guy two boxes and he sold out,” Paslay says in a tone that exudes a mixture of humility and awe. After Paslay did the math, he realized that one in 12 attendees went home with his CD. “I’m just excited that I made some fans and they got to take me with them. I’m excited that my music is out there.”
When country music fans see Paslay perform, they want to take his music home and make his songs the soundtrack of their lives. Whether he’s performing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry or taking his place this summer on the Country Throwdown Tour sharing his new hit, “If the Fish Don’t Bite,” Paslay always knows how to reel a crowd in.
His music has substance and depth, but his debut album is every bit as entertaining and accessible as it is meaningful, and therein lies Paslay’s charm. “It’s hopeful music,” he says describing his style. “There’s only one sad song on the whole record and that’s ‘Amarillo Rain,’ but there’s still a beauty behind it that makes people feel alive somehow.”
Paslay has the ability to paint vivid portraits in his songs and he does just that with his new single, “If The Fish Don’t Bite,” a sly, sexy romp about a guy who has plans for his girl beyond casting a line in the water. “A lot of guys are annoyed by chicks coming to fish when it can be a lot of fun,” he says with a smile. “If the fish aren’t biting, why not cuddle up a little closer?”
Whether he’s serving up a light-hearted up tempo tune like “If The Fish Don’t Bite” or delivering an emotionally riveting song like “Deep As It Is Wide,” Paslay proves to be a compelling storyteller and versatile performer. It’s a gift he comes by honestly. “My granddad was a musician,” says Paslay, a native Texan, who was born in Abilene and raised in Waco and Temple. “Granddad and his brothers had a band called Arnold Schiller and the Moonlight Serenaders. My grandfather was Arnold, and they played at dance halls. I was two and a half when he died. It’s interesting how it rubbed off even though I didn’t really know him very well. He had red hair and it’s kind of funny because I like all the things he liked.”
Paslay says his family never pushed him to play music, but supported his interest when he began playing guitar at 15. “I love melodies,” he says. “My dad always had oldies on, and listening to that music growing up influenced me. There’s so many cool melodies and it was great ear candy. It still resonates with every teenager, every grown up, every grandmother because it’s human. That type of music really stays with you.”
By the time he began performing around Texas, Paslay had studied some of the great singer/songwriters and learned how to make a song memorable. “I was influenced by Rich Mullins,” Paslay says. “He was one of those guys I really listened to because he was real. He was a Christian artist, but it was cool to hear someone mix their beliefs with real life. He was honest and it was almost scary honest. I’d listen to his songs and think, ‘Did you really mean to say that?’ It was cool. Then there was Rodney Crowell. I love Rodney Crowell. Johnny Cash has influenced me from his storytelling. He was such a cool storyteller and you really believed him.”
He also studied what made an artist command a crowd’s attention while they were on stage. “I watched Austin City Limits and the Grand Ole Opry,” he says. “I was into everything from country artists to rock artists to Southern rock artists to jazz players. In high school I definitely went and saw quite a few Dave Matthews Band shows and that was always an experience.”
Though most aspiring artists playing clubs routinely perform cover tunes, Paslay learned to lead with his strengths and played his original songs. Even though he was building a reputation for his live show, like most artists, he briefly flirted with a more stable career and during his early days in college, he planned on becoming a pediatric endocrinologist. “I had diabetes and I thought I could help kids with diabetes because I could relate to them and talk to them,” he says.
However, music was too strong a passion to be ignored and following a friend’s advice, he moved to Nashville. Paslay attended Middle Tennessee State University. He also volunteered for anything just to get his foot in a door on Nashville’s famed Music Row. He did everything from help out at a charity golf tournament to change light bulbs in the NARAS office, a feat made easier because of his height. “I’d just go help anywhere I could because I thought if you have a job to do and you do it well, then if they let you be creative and make a record, at least they know you’re going to do it well,” Paslay says. “They’ll know you are going to put all your mind, strength and skill into doing whatever job they give you.”
Paslay landed a deal at Cal IV Publishing. His songwriting credits include Jake Owen’s hit “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” as well as the title track for Donny and Marie Osmond’s country set “The Good Life” and cuts by Lady Antebellum, Eli Young Band, Love & Theft and Rascal Flatts. Though appreciative of the songs that others have recorded, Paslay will be the first to admit he didn’t move to Nashville to be a songwriter, but to be an artist.
He has a passion for using his voice to connect with an audience, and there’s a warm, earnest quality that commands attention, particularly on potent anthems such as “Deep As It is Wide.” “It’s about the hope that there is something bigger and better than us,” he says. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel and there’s something out there. When I finished this song I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a disconnect between each verse, so I went down the street to play it for a friend. The way I was sitting, I couldn’t see her while I was playing. When I was finished singing, I turned around and she was crying, so I figured I was done.”
“Less Than Whole” is a thoughtful treatise on grace and forgiveness Paslay co-wrote with Big Kenny that Kenny included on his 2010 solo album. “Sweet By and By” is an infectious number Paslay penned with his friend Sarah Buxton. “That was the first song we ever wrote together,” he says. “I saw her the other night and she didn’t even know it was on the record. She started crying and saying, ‘I’m so happy it made the record!’”
Though Paslay enjoyed recording the album and has an affinity for the studio, his true love is the stage. “I turn it on when I get on stage. I love to entertain,” says Paslay, who has opened for Dierks Bentley, Clint Black, Eric Church, Blake Shelton and Little Big Town, among others. “The songs on this record are the ones that really connect when I played them live. When I write, I’d rather there be a little bit of hope in every song, even in the sad songs. There’s still hope in there. With all the negativity everywhere these days, I’d like the positive to come out. A song can give you a little boost in confidence or make you fall in love deeper or dream higher. I’m not writing and singing this stuff to be cool. I was never the cool kid. I was the kid standing in the back of the room watching.”
Off stage, Paslay has a gentle, everyman quality that endears him to all who meet him. He loves performing, but is just as comfortable remodeling a bathroom or getting in the kitchen with his mom, Donna, and making kolaches, a pastry that is a favorite among Texans. Most of all, Eric Paslay loves forging that special connection with people that can only be made with a song. “I just love making music. I love how much you can say to someone in a song,” he says. “I want to be a part of the soundtrack of people’s lives.”