“I’ve known these guys their whole lives,” Kimberly Perry says of her bandmates Reid and Neil – and she means it literally, as they happen to also be her kid brothers, which helps explain how the trio came up with the name The Band Perry. Before their debut album is even out the door they’ve already notched two hit country singles with Hip To My Heart and now If I Die Young. Then again, their music isn’t strictly country, but we’ll get to that in a minute. First we have to square away the fact that I’ve got all three of them on the phone at once, and after seeing that it takes very little prodding to get them to start impersonating each other, I can tell that this is going to be a light hearted conversation. Which also begs the question of how such an upbeat gang can have a hit song about dying young, and we’ll get to that too. But first, about this sibling thing…
When you guys were little, were you singing together back then around the house, or was it later when you started putting your voices together?
Kimberly: We actually started singing harmony later. I can remember the first time that we did that. I’m the oldest, and I was in the eighth grade which would have meant meant Reid was in first grade, Kindergarten or first grade. I remember we took this family vacation out west, and we got this little camper. I’m not talking Prevost, I’m talking a camper. And all five of us, our parents were driving, were in this camper, and to help mom pass the time while she was driving, we would sing all of these songs in three part harmony. We were basically just trying to make the miles more interesting.
Neil: We would sing Amazing Grace in rap style or rock style or different types of three part harmony.
Kimberly: Yeah, except for the rap in three part harmony didn’t work out so well (laughs). But even more so than singing together, all three of us have been performers musically since day one. I can remember Neil once when he was a kid and still in Batman pajamas, couple weeks ago, you know. I remember one night he got up on the kitchen counter after dinner and he struck an Elvis pose. We always called him our little Elvis because he basically came out of the womb with sideburns. And he struck this Elvis pose when he was probably four years old and said “I was born to do this.” And so in various ways we were all three entertaining anyone who was in the room, and we basically started doing that together.
Reid: There were definitely visible signs in our younger years that showed what we would be doing when we got older, I think.
I know you guys grew up listening to country and rock and different genres, and I can definitely hear those elements in there, but if you had to slap one label on your music it would be country. Was that something you always knew was going to be the case or was there any point in the past where any of you had envisioned yourselves being in a rock and roll band?
Kimberly: Yeah, we actually had an independent project, this was pre- record deal, and pre- our management relationship, and just something that we wanted to get out of our system. We ended up laying down like thirteen tracks independently, and it definitely spoke more to our Rolling Stones side than our Loretta Lynn side. And then we had a real honest moment where we looked at each other and said okay, we have this music, what should we do? And I think by nature of the fact that first of all we’re really plugged into the songwriting community in Nashville, and really, that in country music is so unique unto our genre, that songwriting family, if you will. Definitely wanted to be part of that. And also, country for us, because our hearts are rural America, and sort of blue collar working folk. It felt like the stories that we like to tell and the ones that we like to dream up even, fit better in that genre of music, in country, than it did in the rock and roll world. And so we just kind of started actually chasing down both of those rat holes, and it just always led us back to Nashville.
You aren’t just singers, you each play various instruments. Neil, with your list of instruments you play, it looks like you could be a one man band on your own. Are you running from instrument to instrument between songs on stage?
Neil: It feels like I’m running a marathon when I’m on stage, dropping my mandolin and running to grab my accordion and stuff. But it’s a good time. I enjoy all those different instruments.
Kimberly: Neil’s first job in the band was actually as the drummer, and he doesn’t pull that out, although you do whip out tambourine on a couple of songs.
Reid: Back when we were doing our independent project, on If I Die Young, he would actually play drums and mandolin at the same time.
Kimberly: Because we were like a power trio back then. Seriously, I played more electric than acoustic, Reid has always been on the bass, and so Neil would play drums.
Reid: And then drums got too much to take it around. So we told him just to leave the drums behind and he came up front with us, and he’s now the mandolin slash accordion player.
Speaking of bass players, there’s this stereotype about them, and it’s untrue as often as it’s true, but the stereotype is that they’re quiet, stoic, keeping the ship steady. I guess all three of you could comment whether that’s an accurate picture of Reid.
Kimberly: I’ll speak to that (laughs). He is the self titled peacemaker in The Band Perry, meaning nine times out of ten, I’ll hand it to him that he does enforce peace…
Neil: …because Kimberly and I are too much alike.
Kimberly: Yeah, Neil and I both have lead singer syndrome. But Reid, yeah, I think that he definitely is the rock in the band, and he is more quiet, but he also thinks a lot more. He’s silent but deadly.
Neil: Reid’s the thinker of the group, and I think I’m the reactor (laughs).
Reid: I think all musicians have a stereotype, and even us as siblings, we definitely carry our sibling stereotype roles on our sleeves. Again, I’m in the peacekeeping middle child, and Kimberly is the big sister…
Kimberly: …the big sister, a little bit bossy. But I just call myself the “boss” and leave out the “y” and it suits me so much better…
Reid: The boss is Bruce Springsteen.
Kimberly: …of The Band Perry. They let me do that, and it’s my role as big sister. And then the baby over here, he just keeps us all laughing.
If I Die Young is a very peaceful, content song about death. And I don’t know if it’s literally about death, you can tell me, but it’s amazing to me how you guys can take this sad topic and make it sound so enlightened, or almost enticing.
Kimberly: Well you know it’s amazing, death definitely has both sides of that coin. It’s a very mournful time of course of anybody, but it also can be really beautiful, especially with a life well lived. We wrote If I Die Young out of a place of contentment. It was a moment that we were headed into the studio, it was actually the first song that we had penned for the album. And it was a time that we just looked at each other with all the opportunity that we had before us and said, you know, if for whatever reason it all ends at this moment, we’ve even at our young ages lived life so completely. That’s really the place that we wrote it out of, although I’ll be honest with you, it’s amazing, we’re top thirty right now just four weeks in, and we’re getting so much feedback from these listeners and fans of this song. From Facebook to MySpace letters, it’s really giving their grief a voice. We were playing out in Manhattan, Kansas just last week and it was like over a hundred degrees, it was just a brutally hot festival, and we played this song and this lady stood up with these tears in her eyes and had this homemade sign that she made with the name of her daughter and the age that she passed away, and it said “She died young.”
You guys have put out the five song EP so far. Eventually there will be a full album. How far along are you guys in terms of finishing the rest of the album?
Kimberly: We have a release date, I believe it is the second Tuesday in October, so that’s our official release and we’ve got to go back to Nashville and finish it.
Neil: We’ve just been on the road so much. Apparently we can’t release the rest of the album without putting lead vocals on it (laughs).
You’re all named Perry, so The Band Perry is an obvious band name choice. When that name was first kicked around, was it something that all of you were on board with right away?
Neil: We spent probably a week going through all these different names, and eventually came to a name where we wanted to have Perry in it.
Kimberly: And so for awhile we just tried simply “Perry” on for size, but it had a very British rock feel for a country band, cause it’s an English last name anyway. So we knew we wanted “The Band” in there somewhere, because it couldn’t say “The Family” or “The Brothers Perry.” We love “The Brothers Grimm” but I’m a sister so we couldn’t just have “The Brothers Perry” which would have been an awesome name. So we wanted “The Band” in there too because we all play instruments, we’re not just a vocal group.
And with the inception of things like MySpace and the fantastic world wide web, there’s like a dozen Perry bands. So we needed something to separate us from the bunch, and ended up just reversing it to The Band Perry. And also, we have a darn good little logo and a nickname, TBP. I always feel like the music defines the name, as opposed to the other way around.
Nashville native Ke$ha will put on a benefit concert to help her flooded hometown on June 16th, with tickets going on sale this evening. Tickets are $30 and $100 (the latter of which includes a meet and greet with the singer), and all the profits from the event will go to the “families and animals affected by the flood.” The flooding in Tennessee has caused loss of life as well as catastrophic damage to property.
Having released her debut album Animal in January, Kesha has enjoyed success with hit songs Tik Tok and Blah Blah Blah; her latest single Your Love Is My Drug is currently at number two on the iTunes pop singles chart.
Tickets for the Nashville benefit concert can be purchased here.
You grew up in a small town in Mississippi. If you want to be a successful musician, you end up going to a bigger town. Was that always Nashville in your mind?
That’s a good question. We moved out of MIssissippi when I was still in high school, and I had thought about music about as much as I had investment at that point (laughs). I was still in high school, and just sort of enjoying living life as a high school kid. When I got to Knoxville is when the music flame caught a little bit, because I was playing drums in Mississippi but not a lot, and then suddenly I was starting to play with some different people in Knoxville and caught a bug for playing music.
And then as I went to college is when it sort of shifted into doing the artist thing, cause I was really like a side man. I was playing drums and a little bit of bass and sometimes guitar for people in college, and then as I realized those weren’t really that fun, or at least as much fun to me as singing and writing songs, it was like a slow transformation. And so I’ve never, it’s funny, throughout my career I’ve never had one of those moments where I was like, “I’m going to Nashville to do this.” Every step of my career has sort of been like “Oh, how convenient that I’m here and I want to do that, because this does this here.” I don’t have enough wherewithal, I think, to plan that well. God has been gentle in sort of nudging me places, you know?
And yet you had the wherewithal or the foresight to study recording industry management in college.
There was a very definitive “I don’t like these things and I like this.” It’s so funny, retrospectively, cause there was no plan.
What We Want, What We Get is your new album. I know you write a lot of material for yourself, you write a lot of material for other artists. How’s it different when you sit down to write your own material for your record, vs. writing for somebody else?
Everybody averages a record about every two years, and so I think for me, I have to be really sort of careful and I have to pay a lot of attention to what the next two years are going to be about, what do I want to talk about, what do I want to bring back up, what do I not want to talk about. And so writing for myself, this is the art that represents me for the next two years, and so it has to be sturdy, it has to have something to say that you can continue talking about not only for the next season, but possibly for the rest of your life if I prove to be a career artist, which we’re all kind of hoping.
So I think the difference with writing with other people is you’re trying to do the same for them. You’re trying to kind of give them something that hopefully does, if that’s their point. If not, sometimes they’re like “Man, I don’t care, I really want the music to be the big deal, or I want the lyrics to be good and the music’s not as important,” or whatever. And you have the liberty with yourself to say the things that you kind of can’t say for other people. I can be as weird and sort of esoteric as I want to be with my music, where with other people you want to make sure you’re serving the purpose that they want.
This album goes in so many different places, different styles from one song to the next, it touches on different genres. Does that make it tough to pick a lead single that’s supposed to represent the whole album?
That’s one of the things that I’m sort of fascinated by. I really look a lot back to the seventies, I look back to them for a lot of my inspiration, mainly because I think that was the time period to me that the most interesting and the best music was happening. Between the greats, Elton John, Billy Joel, Steely Dan, even the early Michael Jackson stuff, Stevie Wonder, all the people that I really revere. You know, you look at a record, pick any Paul Simon record, and how do you pick one song off of Graceland to represent a record? Graceland does that, but then put it up against Diamonds and Silver Shoes, and they’re similar but they’re so different to like, a Billy Joel record.
That’s what’s so beautiful to that kind of music to me, was people could make records that were kind of as weird as they wanted, but the legs that hold them up are really good songs. I’ve sort of come to believe that, I see this in myself and I think listeners, we’re all kind of the same, it’s like you can put a really bizarre song, kind of a slow acoustic song in front of us, almost like a Michael Jackson PYT, but the thing is, if they’re good songs, you forget what came before, thirty seconds in. You’re dancing and “Oh My God, I love this song.” Then you could put a tear jerker next, because thirty seconds in, if it’s a good song, you’ve forgotten, you know? I think on good records, it really is about good songs. So for me, as I try to compose records and we think about singles, I’m hoping that thirty seconds in, you’ve forgotten what just happened. You’re in the moment, you’re enjoying the song.
When the label came back with Little Lies and God Gave Me You, they were like, “These songs are really fun, but there’s not really other songs like them on there.” But then the other problem was, well, pick a song where there is another song like it on there. And there may be a twin to it, but there’s not siblings, maybe one brother but there’s not four. But I like that. I think I’ll always want to do records like that, because those are the records that I gravitate the most to, and I think this generation of listeners is the most like that. I think what has hurt a lot of bands as much as it’s helped is having a record that sounds like the single, cause three songs in in you’re like “Man, I am not in the mood for the rest of this.”
How did Jonny Lang end up your album?
Tons of money. I mean just buckets of money. We just threw it at him. He wanted us to build a halfpipe in his backyard, and so we did. Neither one of those is true.
It’s such a funny story, because I did a tour with Jonny a few years ago and had a great time, and he and his band are the kindest and most talented human beings in the world. But tours are funny. I’ve found this with a lot of people, I have since come to know a lot more of the people I’ve toured with after touring with them. They become friends not on the road, but after the road, just cause it’s such a weird time because you’re both to busy, and you know how it goes, you’re doing your set, you get off and go sign autographs and kind of pack up and leave, and the only time you have any changeover is like right before the show or during the show, which are terrible times to sit and talk about, “So how long have you been married?” It’s just awkward. And so Jonny and I became friends after the road, because he’s been coming to Nashville a lot to do writing and work on his record, and he came into town a couple of times and we just ended up hanging out and writing, and did some songwriting shows together here in Nashville, and he’s just become a real good buddy, and he’s the sweetest guy in the world.
I wrote that song when I was on tour with him, after hearing his set over and over, and I just thought this is full circle to have him come sing on it. So I told him, and he was so kind because he only had twenty-four hours in Nashville, and I was like “Can I have four of those?” So he came out and sang and just murdered it.
I talked with Jonny last week, and he told me that you are one of the funniest people he’s ever known. So it’s funny that that was the question you started riffing on with the jokes.
That was half of the problem. We tried to write, and we just kept goofing off, cause he’s hysterical too, he’s really funny. That’s half of my problem with songwriting. I’ll get together with people and we’ll start to write, and then stories happen. There’s a guy named Trent Dabbs here in Nashville, he’s a phenomenal singer-songwriter, and the first time we got together to write, we ended up telling stories for four hours and just laughing.
You’ve obviously got the funny side going on, and yet I’ve seen you do very serious interviews where you’re talking about serious topics like people in Africa dying of thirst. So who’s the real Dave Barnes?
It’s the violent one. Highly violent, martially artist skilled, Dave Barnes. That’s the one that in my late thirties to early forties will come to be known and feared, if my plan works the way I want, at least. Obviously that’s not the whole truth.
I think a combination of both. That’s why I love what I get to do, because the music is my more contemplative, I mean it’s fun too, there’s fun songs that show a little bit more of my humor, but I think that’s a little more of the craft, serious pen to the paper working and trying to make it happen, and then I do stand-up shows every now and then and that’s when I really get to sort of, you know, turn into Circus Dave. And I love that I get to do both. And shows for me are a little bit of that. My shows are pretty weird and spontaneous at times, and the live thing is just such a fun chance to sort of do both.
I do want to ask you about your work with the Mocha Club, because this is important stuff.
It’s an amazing thing. One of my best friends in the world started it about five or six years ago, and basically it costs seven dollars a month, which is the price of about two mochas, hence the Mocha Club, and there’s a ton of different things you can get involved with if you go to MochaClub.org and sign up. You can get involved with orphan AIDS relief, building orphanages, anything from that to clean water and building wells. And it’s just been really crazy. The impact that I’ve been able to see from this over the last four or five years of my life has really given a new meaning to why I do what I do. Because I think eventually, me being up on stage trying to bring attention to myself, is pretty meaningless after awhile, cause it’s like, I’m only what I am, and at some point it’s like, this is getting ridiculous. So Mocha Club is really great, because I’m able to take some of the spotlight that I get from standing on stage, and shine it on people who would never be known.
Two years ago Joséphine Ancelle showed up at a podcasting conference with her guitar and blew us all away with her combination of sweet French-tinged vocals and pop sensibility. On the release of her latest EP, I wanted to get the scoop straight from the source…
Your latest EP is entitled “The I Love Yous” – what inspired that title?
“The I Love Yous” is actually a direct translation of the French title of the first track on the EP, Les “Je t’aime”. The five songs on the EP are all about love in a way or another; what I mean is that they are not all about romantic love but they all say somehow how much I love the person that I have written the song for. Love in all its forms is definitely still what inspires me the most. In Les “Je t’aime”, the French lyric of the chorus says: “Me, I prefer, whispers in the ears; Me I prefer sighs, toes brushing up against each other and the “I love yous”…
I feel that way everyday, so I thought this title would be a good representation of what I am trying to share!
Some of the songs are in English, others in French. Have you found that your English-speaking fans have embraced your French-language songs and vice versa?
Yes, I think that people really like it in general. As soon as I started playing more songs in French at my shows in the US, people would always come up to me at the end and say: “I LOVE it when you sing in French!!!”. So I feel more comfortable using both now and I know that it is what makes me different. It is the same thing in France even though I think it is a little bit easier to enter the French market with bilingual songs. The French are more used to listening to music in many different languages than Americans and I have gotten the comment from industry people that French is not really marketable in the pop world in the US… I intend to change their minds though!
Last year you finally performed in your native France for the first time. How did that go?
It went really well! People loved it and I have encountered a lot of support and got a lot of very positive feedback. I got some good press and after the show, Les “Je T’aime” started to get played on a popular radio there and it is still getting a lot of airplay. I was invited to play a second time at the well-known club Le Sentier Des Halles and so I played there again in December. It seems that things could move a lot faster for me over there. So I definitely intend to push that scene more.
When I first met you, you were performing under your first name only. You’re now using your first and last. What prompted the change?
Mostly for technical reasons… Google “Joséphine” and you will find many more before me but if you Google “Joséphine Ancelle”, you will find me right away! I think that is essential; you don’t want to lose people just when they start to get interested.
Also, I think it gives me even more of my French identity and I have now realized it is a good thing. When I had chosen to only use Joséphine it was because I thought that people here would never be able to understand or pronounce my name properly but it is actually not so bad and I have gotten used to saying my name with an American accent…
What are your musical plans for 2010 and what are some accomplishments you are excited about from 2009?
I am actually going back to Nashville in a week to do a few co-writes and record some more songs with my producer Paul Umbach; the 3 songs he produced for the EP was to experiment on our collaboration. We realized we work really well together and want to do more! I intend to extend this EP to a full album before the summer.
I also plan on playing a few festivals and maybe organize a tour in the North East and Quebec and also a tour in France. I want to keep the buzz going that we were able to create over there. So right now it is a lot of planning and the second half of 2010 should be a lot of fun!!
In December, I shot another music video so I was very excited about that and it should come out really soon.
I was very proud to be one of the artists featured on the popular IPhone App called Four Tracks. It is a great tool for musicians.
Finally, hearing my song get played and myself being interviewed on the radio in my homeland was obviously quite a thrill! 2009 was great and 2010 will be even better!
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iProng Magazine talks with Katie Kerkhover about her new album Blister and more…
interview by Bill Palmer
If there is to be a punk rock revolution rising out of the Nashville music scene, it just might be led by Katie Kerkhover, the singer-guitarist who grew up on a farm in an Illinois town of fewer than a hundred people and is currently touring in support of her new album Blister. I spoke with Katie while she was in St. Louis (how’s that for a geography lesson?) for the lowdown on Blister and the surprising story of how she taught herself how to play guitar.
When I listen to your record, right out of the gate it’s “Screw you and your authority,” aggressive confrontational lyrics. I’ve met musicians who have those kind of lyrics who really are that aggressive and confrontational in real life, and others who have lyrics like that who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Where do you fall into that spectrum? From the videos I’ve seen of you talking, you seem much more well-adjusted than your lyrics might suggest.
I am. Deep down I’m a normal person. I think that in my alter ego, I would love to be this aggressive, “I don’t take shit off of anyone” type person, but I’m much more normal like I appear in my video, very laid back. The songs are about my life experiences, especially in Over Me, that song was about an ex boyfriend and another person that I was in a confrontation with, and it’s like a way for me to express what I almost wish I could say in real life to them. But as far as being the type of person that I am, I’m much more laid back than that.
Is it cathartic to be able to get up on stage and get those sort of aggressions out, and then not have to feel that way the other twenty-three hours a day?
Oh yeah, I love it. It’s just so rewarding. It’s like I get to go up there and be somebody else, somebody other than I am, like you said, the other twenty-three hours of the day. So it is, it’s an adrenaline rush and then you get that release, and it’s almost like you get a high off of it. It’s very addicting, being on stage.
I tried to learn something about Rockwood, Illinois so I could ask you something intelligent about it.
Good luck with that (laughs).
I thought I had something. A friend of mine who’s about your age is from Rockwood, Illinois. So I asked him, and he said “I live in Rockville.” So maybe you can tell me something about Rockwood.
I will. And that’s so funny that you tried to research it, because Rockwood is a very, very small town. We’re talking population forty-seven people. It’s that small. So it wouldn’t be surprising that you wouldn’t find anything about it. Back like years and years and years ago, it used to be basically all that was there was a post office, and so that’s why it’s classified its own town. But I went to school in the neighboring town in Chester, and then obviously because we’re only about an hour from St. Louis, hour and a half, that we would come up here , and one of my first jobs as a musician was playing at Six Flags. So growing up in Rockwood is very small, and I just got asked the other day I did another interview and they said, “What is something that we would find odd about you?” And I was like oh my God, I said okay, well growing up in Rockwood I grew up in a farm, and I actually know how to field dress a deer. Not that I do that anymore, but growing up in that small of a town you have to know how to take care of yourself. So survival of the fittest there.
Does the punk rock and stuff make it to you in a place like that?
It does. I grew up listening to all kinds of music. My earliest memories of music were what my sister listened to, which was Metallica and Motley Crue and Guns ‘n Roses, that kind of thing. It was around when I was growing up, but I grew up in the mid to later nineties, so I missed out on a lot of the great music when it was number one on the charts. So I grew up with a lot of that, and as I got into high school it was Blink 182 and Mariah Carey and No Doubt, that genre. So a lot of punk influence doesn’t make it out there, but music like Blink 182 and Sum 41, that style of pop punk makes it out there, definitely.
Did you learn the guitar before you headed to Nashville?
I did, actually. I got a guitar for Christmas when I was about ten, I guess. Living in that small of a town, to go anywhere it was such a drive, and so nobody really offered guitar lessons around there. So it was pretty much up to me, and I remember I went to I think it was Wal-mart one day, and they had their poster section, and I went into the poster section and there was this massive guitar chord chart poster. And so I bought that and I went home, and I started going through the chords trying to figure it out on my own, because I really didn’t know anything about it at the time. In the process of that, I started then writing songs. They both kind of developed together, which is cool.
There’s an irony in that Wal-mart probably wouldn’t sell your CD uncensored.
Oh I know (laughs). It’s cause it’s explicit lyrics. I know. Totally.
The Nashville music scene has expanded a lot, it’s not just about country anymore, you can make a rock record there now. But I guess I would have expected your kind of music to be the last genre to ever come out of Nashville. Were there any roadblocks to making that kind of aggressive record in place like Nashville that might be a little more conservative than Hollywood or New York?
Nashville is good because it’s called Music City, so you have the resources to make that. But stylistically the punk influence, I’ve definitely had a little bit of, not that it’s bad, but a little bit of “We’re not really sure what to do with this” or “We don’t know if we really understand this yet” kind of feel about the record in Nashville. I remember one person that I sent it to, not even the finished record, back a year ago or more, I remember they wrote me back and they said “Wow, this is just a little bit too racy for us.” And I was like wow, racy, okay. I don’t really agree, but thanks for your opinion.
So there has been a little bit of that, but playing out it’s been a great response. I think as the fans there or just people in general that are going to shows are exposed to that, because there are not really any punk bands in Nashville that are doing the local scene or anything. There are really great rock bands, and southern rock bands, and death metal bands, but the punk thing does fall a little short in Nashville. That’s good, but it’s hard to find other bands to play with in Nashville that are of the same style. So I’m doing a lot of shows with really heavy rock bands, and I’m so surprised that the audiences there, they come up after the shows and they’re like “Oh my gosh, we love it, it’s like a breath of fresh air.” So it’s been really exciting in that aspect.