Q&A with The Band Perry's Kim
The Band Perry's Kimberley Perry on hanging out with Fall Out Boy, taking a wrecking ball to country rock stereotypes and the struggles behind their chart topping new album.
Hello Kimberly. On your first visit to Ireland you played the 'intimate' -- ie not very vast -- Workman's Club. Now look at you, headlining Vicar Street!
Yeah it's cool to see our headline dates grow. This is the second last show of our tour. Hopefully we've saved the best until last. It's going to be exciting not living out of a suit-case for a while. I'm looking forward to getting home.
You recently collaborated with Fall Out Boy. What was an upstanding country act doing hanging out with a bunch of sulky emo rockers ?
It was for a TV show in the States called Crossroads, where they mix two genres. It was amazing. We cut our teeth on rock and roll so it was great to embrace our roots.
Did Fall Out Boy live up to their moody reputation? The one time we met [bassist and celebrity] Pete Wentz, he hid in his hoodie and communicated in monosyllables. Man, it was a looong 20 minutes.
We felt like kindred souls. Nobody had discussed how we would all dress. Then the curtain goes up and everyone is turned out in black leather. The crowd seemed to know both bands' songs. It was amazing to see how much we have in common.
You've said that, while recording your second album Pioneer, you fretted that nobody would like it and that you risked going down as one hit novelties. Were you really that worried?
"The sophomore slump" was a byword of ours. We worked day and night to overcome it. We were determined not to be a one hit wonder. We knew we had a lot more to say. Coming off [early smash] If I Die Young, we knew the story was only beginning. We adopted a policy of "extreme craftsmanship". Now, I wouldn't overstate the struggle -- I think every band goes through what we did.
Was there a point where you felt like giving up?
The struggle is what made the record what it is. There are moments of lightness. However, there are also moments of feeling like the underdog. There's quite a bit of darkness. The entire spectrum of emotions is in there. It felt like being back in high school. Everyone has experiences of not fitting in. You try to figure out what you need to do to make it to the other side. We went through that. It is very easy to write a pretty lyric. Coming up with an honest one is harder. That occupied a lot of our thoughts.
You've described yourself as purveyors of 'American music'. Why recoil from 'country'? You're all upstanding Tennessee natives.
Country is such a wide genre. You have to be careful how you use it. I love the country music of old. That isn't necessarily what it is today. Sometimes we'll write a song and it won't feel country at all. But the lyrics will have a story-telling quality that is very country.
Country artists have been historically reluctant to sing about certain topics, notably sex. Are there red lines you have to negotiate?
I don't think anything is off limits. As I said, occasionally we'll write something and we don't know quite what the style is. You've got everything from rock country to pop country to country country. We've had a couple of singles that have crossed between the divides. In Europe, especially, people seem less rigid about genres.
Be honest -- would you have a career were it not for Taylor Swift? Her success has put glossy country on the map. Several acts have come to prominence on her coat-tails.
I think it goes all the way back to Garth Brookes and Shania Twain. People love music but they also love strong characters. I don't think there's anything new about that.
Do you ever get any negative vibes from old school country fans. One gathers they're not crazy about country artists achieving pop hits. There seems to be a lot of back and forth on the subject.
Some people may like traditional country. Maybe they have not been exposed to modern country. It could be that they haven't had an opportunity to hear it on the radio. For us that is where the internet comes in. Social networking sites allow people all over the world to tune into what we are doing. YouTube is the great equaliser.
- The album Pioneer is out now. The Band Perry play the Country To Country festival at the O2 Dublin Saturday March 15.