Kimberly Perry’s ‘Bloom’ EP Traverses the ‘Human Experience’ [Interview]
On her Bloom EP, which arrives Friday (June 9), Kimberly Perry has learned to be comfortable with all sides and seasons of the human experience.
Sometimes, being human is self-contradictory. In one Bloom track, "Smoke 'Em Too," Perry sings about simultaneous, mutually exclusive dreams and desires. She wants "a home by the ocean," but she also wants "a house in a field with the marigolds growing"; she wants to get married and have a family, but she also wants to stay young forever. In the chorus, she finds the nexus between all these different dreams and directions: In this case, that's a true partner who accepts all the complex contradictory aspects of who she is.
"Sometimes gettin' what you want means there's something you gotta lose / But right here in your arms there's nothin' I can't do / I can quit cigarettes and smoke 'em, too," Perry sings.
Perry tells Taste of Country that the titular metaphor came from a dream.
"For whatever reason, I was dreaming about birthday cake and cigarettes," she says, cracking up. "I was thinking about the phrase, 'Have your cake and eat it, too.'"
She didn't want to write a song about birthday cake, but with help from her co-writers — Parker Welling and Casey Brown — Perry began to apply the cigarette metaphor to the way she felt about the various changes and stages of her own life.
"I wrote it last summer, a year at that point into being married to my husband, and we had just moved to Nashville a few months before. I was feeling like I had gotten to embrace and literally manifest into my life all these different things I had been wanting to see come into it. But I'm also all the things I've always been," she explains.
Perry has been a lot of things since she first formed The Band Perry with her younger brothers in the mid-2000s. She's been a band mate and a teen country star, and she's also been a massive country radio success, kicking off with the Band Perry's 2010 hit, "If I Die Young." In her personal life, she's been a sister, a daughter, a divorcee, a wife and now — as she and her husband Johnny Costello prepare to welcome their first child this August — a mom-to-be.
The singer is also adding a new hyphenate to her identity as a solo artist, with the Band Perry on hiatus and her focus firmly on writing and recording solo material. But Perry says that as she strikes out on her own, her past selves are all informing her journey, and boosting her sense of self-identity.
"I think time is one thing that helps us all discover that for ourselves," she reflects. "Like, I've gone through having a song on country radio. I've gone through a broken first marriage. God really sent me on a journey after that. It took me years to be like, 'Wait, who are you again, and what are your preferences, and where are you heading from here?' All these big, existential life questions, that heartbreak will sometimes send you out on a mission to get to know yourself and maybe even define that for the first time."
Perry co-wrote all five songs on Bloom, but she says it wasn't intimating to write for a solo project. In fact, she found the process of writing solely for herself — without having to consider whether each song would work both for her and for her band mates and brothers — liberating.
"The really beautiful thing, and honestly super validating, was just thinking about my individual voice and perspective and getting to write about the exact thing that's going on in real time in my life," she points out. "I would say that was probably the biggest difference. It was a really highly feminine creative experience for me."
For Perry, listening in to her individual voice means reflecting and building on her past selves, as she forays into her next iteration. Previous selves are layered in with her current identity, especially in "If I Die Young Pt. 2," a song that reconsiders and updates the Band Perry's signature hit, 13 years later. The original track imagined a hypothetical in which Perry dies before her time; "Pt. 2" speaks to all the life she's lived since she wrote it and concludes with an important lesson that only comes with age: "Now I know there's no such thing as enough time."
For most artists with lasting signature hits, those songs become a snapshot of a moment in an artist's career, and they stay that way — they don't necessarily get to grow and evolve along with the singer. Not so with "If I Die Young," with an updated version that shows the juxtaposition between Perry's younger self and who she's become today.
"The [big] question right now is, do you play both versions in one set list?!" the singer says with a laugh. "I'm figuring that out now, and I think it'll be an interesting answer to that question.
"To be on this side of it, over a decade later...'Pt. 2' was really embracing the idea of, like, 'I'm so glad God didn't listen to that young prayer or think I wanted to die young, because look at all these things that have come into my life to teach me, but also just make it more full,'" she continues. "I still love singing both sides of that. I think in these two songs is the human experience of the journey of time. But ... where to put them in the set right now, is the biggest question mark."