The Band Perry Interview: Trio Explain How ‘Iron Sharpened Iron’ in Making of ‘Pioneer’
The making of ‘Pioneer,’ the new album from the Band Perry, was a bit like dieting. The finished product is a thing to behold, but the process … ugghh. Kimberly, Neil and Reid Perry admit things can get ugly between them, and then get uglier when they invite country newcomers (and frequent TBP writing partners) the Henningsens to join the circle.
This mirrors what we know about the family trio. On stage they present an upbeat, unified front that is truly unequaled in country music. But songs like ‘Done’ and ‘Back to Me Without You’ are pulled from very real, very painful personal experiences. Fans don’t see the tears or the moments when Neil and Reid are giving Kimberly personal advice. They’re fairly adept at protecting their private lives, sharing only what they wish. With ‘Pioneer’ that’s quite a bit, however mum is the word when it comes to whose jerk ex-lover inspired ‘Done,’ as well as rumors of Kimberly Perry’s romance with a Major League Baseball player.
The group agreed to 12 songs for ‘Pioneer,’ but if each member was forced to choose a favorite — one song to keep at all costs — individual opinions would vary. During a phone conversation with Taste of Country, Kimberly, Neil and Reid explained what individual songs are most important to them.
Neil Perry: Mine would be ‘Mother Like Mine,’ a song that the three of us wrote for our mother that talks about what the world would look like if it were raised by her, like she raised us.
Kimberly Perry: Mine would have to be ‘Back to Me Without You,’ which basically is Neil and Reid giving me advice about a relationship. Which I hate it when they do that.
Reid Perry: But it happens all the time.
KP: It does happen way too often. But I think it’s a really special song. It was the first one we had written for the album and was also kind of our labor of love on the project. It took us awhile to hook it in the studio, but it’s my favorite.
(Later, Kimberly explained who the song was about): Sadly, the end of a friendship for me. And sometimes life changes, whether it’s the end of high school, whether you’re changing cities. For us it was the fact that we were on the road all the time. Distance puts a huge strain on certain relationships. Especially those that were not built on a strong foundation in the first place.
I remember the day that we wrote it, we were in our tour bus. And I would have to kind of take breaks in the middle of writing the song to go back to the back of the bus. I was just like “Time!” — cause this was playing out in real time. Also in real time Reid and Neil were kind of like giving advice. “Get back to what you know, get back to what you do, you gotta get back to me without you.” So that song for all three of us was really one of the most honest, real-time written songs that we’ve ever sang.
RP: Mind would have to be ‘Pioneer,’ the title track off the album, which for us was kind of a lifeline through this entire process. It just kind of talks about where we are going and what will become of us. Coming off of ‘If I Die Young’ and this first album, we were asking a lot of those same questions and again. It just gave us the encouragement to put one foot in front of the other and keep on walking.
KP: And then we would have a whole album of ballads [laughs].
Kimberly, you mentioned ‘Back to Me Without You,’ which you wrote with (family trio) the Henningsens. You guys write a lot with them. Does it ever get to be too many cooks in the kitchen?
KP: There’s a heck of a lot of cooks in the kitchen when we write with the Henningsens. I will say, we’re kind of extensions of each other’s family when we do work together. And there are fierce debates. We even said sometime we need to set up a camera and get this stuff on film because I think it would make for great reality TV. But I do feel like iron sharpens iron, which means we sharpen each other, but there are definitely sparks from time to time.
Who is the hothead? Who storms out angry if they don’t get their way?
KP: I’d say everyone. Brian Henningsen, who would kind of be the patriarch of the entire family, he’s always very passionate about this particular lyric that he wants, and I would probably be second in line.
NP: Yeah, I think it kind of goes down through like the age line.
KP: Brian and I, we have to end up arm wrestling over a final verdict from time to time.
Neil, you mentioned ‘Mother Like Mine.’ Are there other songs from the album that are cut clearly from your personal lives over the past few years?
NP: Absolutely. Even our new single ‘Done.’ Absolutely, that one is. All our songs are personal, but that song is about a relationship that, you know, you keep giving and giving and the other person keeps taking and taking without giving anything in return. But in the end, the relationship just has to be cut clean and be done with.
RP: I feel like all the songs off the album, we made a conscious effort to be as honest and true and personal as we can be. Even moreso than on the first album. We made sure that everything that we wrote was exactly how we felt. We would write and re-write and re-write every song on the album just to make sure that every single word was supposed to be there.
KP: We went through a lot of new life over the last couple of years. So ‘Pioneer,’ all 12 tracks, is truly the story of things we’ve been thinking about and certainly the things we’ve been living out.
Who’s jerk ex inspired ‘Done’?
KP: We cannot tell you that information or else we’ll have to …
Who do you trust to tell you a song isn’t as good as you think, or is better than you think?
KP: I think once the three of us get on the same page, it’s the right idea. I will say that sometimes getting on that page together … there’s a lot of “discussion,” is what we call it. I think the three of us bring very different perspectives and personalities to the table. So once we finally all land in the right place, we usually know it’s the right way to go.
You keep bringing up that you guys argue from time to time. One gets the feeling that you guys are coming to blows.
KP: Well you know I think there are few things in life really worth arguing over, however creativity I think is one of those.
RP: Like Kimberly said, “iron sharpens iron.” And we did grow up in the same house so we have a lot of the same ideas and ideals but we are very different personalities. All of us our pretty hardheaded as well, so you will — when there is a disagreement — fight for our own decisions. But we feel like the best decision is the one that we all agree upon. So we will continue to talk and massage the situation until we can all find common ground.