Pioneering: The Band Perry

Behind this great American success story is a great American family where multiple generations work together to support one another.  Get ready to feel the love…

As a Colombian-American girl raised in the south who swore to never have anything to do with country music, I had to “eat crow” when I heard Band Perry’s “Pioneer” album.  I was raised on bluegrass and salsa, maranatha and meringue, not exactly a recipe for country loving music.

The country loving kids in high-school had thick southern accents, chewed tobacco and spit into empty mountain dew bottles in class.  (Ew!)  They scuffed their embroidered cowboy boots and dragged pointed toes through the dirt on the classroom floor, threw spit balls while no one was looking, drove trucks and dated the same girls for years on end.  They parked in the far corner of the parking lot and carried lighters, often surrounded by their very own fog machine.  They wore button downs, straw hats and Levis.  As a Colombian-American, they were like foreigners to me.

Country music was not something you could simply play on the radio as a high-schooler in North Carolina, as liking this music required a new identity, a way of life, an accent, a wardrobe change, a particular social group affiliation, a well worn circle on your back jean pocket (from the chewing tabacco container always carried on your person) and a tolerance of yellow dye #44 in your gastro-intestinal tract.

As a high-school flautist and singer, student of jazz, classical and musical theatre genres, I couldn’t even listen to country music in the state of North Carolina.  It seemed a sort of musical blasphemy.  I remember the only country song I was ever well acquainted with was “That’s the Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” by a redheaded Reba McEntire.  And this only happened because I went tent camping in seventh grade with a friend who sang the song at least 20 times until our entire girly-group had it memorized.  (This was done while another one of our friends put Nair on her legs in the tent and then dipped in the lake for a hair-removal rinse.  Pollution aside, not only do I remember the song, but I remember the smell as well!)

After this weekend, our country loving friends drifted off into another clique of similar-minded country loving kids, and I remained resilient in my resistance to the southern twang.

Then something happened when I moved to the state of Montana as a married woman and new mama.  Driving down long country roads next to big wide open spaces it seemed only natural to allow a little “Dixie Chicks” to play on the radio.  Like a quickly scarfed down candy bar, no one would know about this new guilty pleasure, I thought.  After a handful of years in the state of Montana, I’ve grown more forgiving of myself for listening to country music.   I still do not think highly of Luke Bryan, but that is a subject for another day.  And Darius Rucker?  Well, I was a big Hootie & the Blowfish fan, I’m not going to lie and his voice is rather irresistible.  But let’s get into Band Perry…

My husband has the most eclectic music collection I’ve ever heard, which still surprises me because he fits into the scientist/cardiologist/fisherman category more easily than into the artsy-type category–  but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying music.  So one night we are cooking dinner and my husband has the music cranked up as he often does when he cooks and I have to stop him as he’s on his latest country-binge:

“Who’s that?  Her voice is INCREDIBLE!”

I listen to song after song.  “Wow, theses are really great songs… who’s writing this?”  So I do my “research” and this is what I find… a great American story.

Here’s the family line-up:
Kimberly Perry: lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano; big sister.  Originally signed as a solo Christian artist, joined brothers as a band act in 2005
Reid Perry: bass and vocals; younger brother, loves horses
Neil Perry: mandolin, accordian, drums, vocals; youngest brother, avid reader
Marie Perry: mom and band stylist, helps with merchandise, lover of country music
Steve Perry (Charles Stephen "Steve" Perry, M.D.): dad, pediatrician and lover of rock and roll, ran sound production in the early days as well as lights, lasers and fog machines (http://www.countryweekly.com/magazine/vault/band-perry-trail-blazers)
Paternal Grandparents: Dad: Rev. Bobby Perry, a Baptist minister and Mom: Sue Perry
BettyLou: maternal grandma and hometown show promoter, “gift of gab” media trainer
They consider their four dogs -- two Great Pyrenees named Dakota and Scout, and two Welsh corgis named Addie and Moses -- as full-fledged Perry siblings. (http://hubpages.com/entertainment/the-band-perrys-parents-ages-and-bio)

First of all, as a singer, Kimberly Perry is one of the best vocalists in today’s mainstream music scene.  This isn’t about my preferences in timbre, it’s about me at the piano, attempting to belt like Kimberly herself.  Did you realize her rock-country pop belts rival any vocalist on Broadway?  She’s got range.

Secondly, let’s take a look at these two guys, her band members.  They are her younger brothers Reid and Neil, but it gets better.  Her fourth and fifth band members as she calls them, are mom and dad.  Mom serves as the band stylist, personal assistant on Starbucks runs and has worked selling merchandise for the band.  The kids gauge the success of their new material based on mom’s emotional reactions- Did it make mom cry?  If mama cries, it must be good.  She also constantly gives performance feed back and teaches them how to improve their onstage delivery.

Their father, Steve Perry, of no relation to the band Journey, is a pediatrician, who during their early days ran sound, lights, lasers and fog machines.  Mom introduced them to country music and dad introduced them to rock-and-roll a blend the kids refer to as “American Music”.  But it doesn’t stop there, Grandma BettyLou was also instrumental in bringing in a crowd of 5,000 through her work in show promotion via word-of-mouth and hanging up posters all over town.  Kimberly also credits grandma with sharing with her grandchildren the “gift of gab”, teaching them communication skills that would prepare them for dealing with press and media.

And finally, no great American family would be complete with a pet, our four… “They consider their four dogs — two Great Pyrenees named Dakota and Scout, and two Welsh corgis named Addie and Moses — as full-fledged Perry siblings.”

Behind this great American success story is a great American family, working together and supporting each other in their successes, which from my perspective means they are more likely to stick together thru future decades.

Their songs are well crafted, they tell stories, they are pop-rock-country friendly.  The lyrics and metaphors are tight like a well-scripted movie that closes every literary loop by the end of the three minute song.

The band released their first music in 2010, an EP titled “The Band Perry EP.”  They expanded the collection later to a full-length album titled “The Band Perry.”  Three years later they released “Pioneer” which is the album that really got my attention.  “Pioneer” seems to be both a title and a mission statement.  I had to do a double-take when I saw the album title in big red capital letters.

Didn’t I just have this conversation with my health coach friend Courtney Townley?

Pioneer.  I don’t do drugs.  I don’t drink a lot.  My friends see me with a glass of pellegrino and lime wedge more often than with a glass of red wine.  I hit the gym for some serious strength training several times a  week.  I eat massive amounts of clean protein daily, complimented by fresh fruits, veggies and healthy fats.  My body is my instrument and I take it’s care very seriously.  Sometimes this means I make myself take a nap.

In an industry seemingly plagued by drugs, alcoholism, mental illness and general debauchery, I stand out like a geeky sore thumb and I know it.  But I don’t care.  I like music AND I like being healthy.

“Pioneer.  Be a pioneer” Courtney tells me. She’s been on the forefront and cutting edge of the fitness industry for decades.  Are you into pilates?  That’s her on the front cover of the original Stott Pilates training module.

Ok, so I don’t fit it.  So I will lead.  I will be a pioneer.  I think of Molly Pitcher, I think of my West Virginia roots, my Scotch-Irish immigrant ancestors who forged the forests of the now-state of West Virginia.  I think of the men and women who literally cut and blazed their own trails, built cabins in the woods, hiked 25 miles a day in search of liberty and freedom.

So what does this mean for me and what does it mean for Band Perry?  For me, it means doing what I’m doing, writing you this blog about music that I love so much while my girls are giggling at the other end of the room.  It means being honest, vulnerable, dreamy, me.  Though I do not know The Band Perry personally, I can only assume it means they will forge through new territory, in search of a space to call their own.

“My only plan is to be free.”

– from “I’m a Keeper” Band Perry

And isn’t that what music is about to many?  The quest for freedom.  The ability to express our ideas to feel, to share, to grow our family bonds in unique ways, to challenge, to push, to pioneer.

“We’re still working hard and keeping our noses to the grindstone.”

-Kimberly Perry, (http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sfl-the-band-perrys-sibling-harmon-01262011-story.html)

Kimberly was married to Jonathan Paul Arencibia, who goes by J.P.  He’s a Cuban-American professional baseball player and it is yet to be seen if the two will start a family of their own. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Band_Perry)

Should it come as a surprise that The Band Perry has thrown us all a curve-ball with their latest single “Live Forever”?  The song initially raises the question of whether or not they are still pioneering.  At first listen, it sounds as if the band is following a well-worn pop-path rather than “pioneering”.  Their reinvented look is younger, fresher, dare I say more Katy Perry like than The Band Perry like.  But who am I to judge?  Perhaps changing directions while forging your own trail is another form of pioneering?  Maybe they are test-driving a new audience with this song.  Maybe they just wanted to do something fun- after all, it’s just 1 song.  Audiences quickly forgave and followed Taylor Swift’s genre move from country to pop.  Whatever the motivation behind the track, we can rest assured it won’t be their last:

We are a “blue collar, roll up your sleeves, keep your nose to the grindstone” band.

-Kimberly Perry (http://www.musicconnection.com/qa-with-the-band-perry/)

Pioneer
You orphaned child
Your mother is adventure and your father is the wild

-from “Pioneer” by The Band Perry

As my musical journey unfolds, I find that it’s more and more important for me to not live in a box or dedicated to any one specific genre.  To love music is to be free and fluid in all its forms.  I do not believe in the academic intellectual superior-ism anymore.  Yes, some forms of music may be considered more high-brow than others, but ultimately, music can be a quest for freedom, a way to forge new territory.  I’ve had to “eat crow” with regards to country music for sure…  Singing to me now is about singing from the soul, diction is less important to me, southern twang, perfect or imperfect vowels, being able to understand every syllable a blues player sings, these things are not as important to me as they used to be.

Some genres hold these things as the gold standard.  I find that while it is important to communicate a message, it’s more important to feel the soul and the love in the resonance of a singer’s voice.   I’m turning down my musical critic in search of more enjoyment of all kinds of different music.

Thank you to The Band Perry.  Had it not been for this album, this Southern raised lady might not have a single country song on her playlist.  The Band Perry- you made me give country music a chance.  So far, my playlist is short, but YOU are on it.  I look forward to more great country discoveries.

2 thoughts on “Pioneering: The Band Perry

  1. Dearest Molly,

    This is a beautiful newsletter – I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Thank you so much!!! You have not only a gift for music but also for writing 🙂

    I hope all is going well in Montana [&#X1f60a]

    ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sarah! Your encouragement warms my heart! 🙂 I hope you enjoy future posts as well.
      Montana is wonderful– we recently went to Arizona, which I write about in the next blog post called “Piano Epiphanies.”
      How’s life in California? We miss seeing you!
      Molly

      Like

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