The brother-sister trio glammed it up at the Academy of Country Music Awards and headlined a charity concert in Las Vegas. They hit “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and taped a segment for “Dancing With the Stars” in Los Angeles, got a shoutout along the way from Justin Timberlake and landed “Pioneer” at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The album sold 129,000 copies this week, exceeding estimates by 20 percent or more.
Talk about landing the dismount.
“In this day and age of the music business to get a chance to even allow us to have the opportunity to record again is not something lost on us,” Kimberly Perry said.
“Pioneer” will be one of the most talked about albums on Music Row this year. The tortured journey of Kimberly, 29, Reid, 24, and Neil, 22, was arduous, requiring a tremendous amount of determination. It has quite the backstory.
Second albums are often difficult, especially when the debut kicks up some dust. First albums are often the product of years of honing and prepping in a low-stress environment. Taste a little success with that debut, as The Band Perry did with its platinum-selling self-titled debut album, and both internal and external pressure immediately increase.
“Since we were kids, we were kind of music business nerds. We would read all about this business that we wanted to be a part of. The phrase ‘sophomore slump,’ we probably knew about that when we were 8, 10 and 15 years old,” Kimberly Perry said.
“It’s sort of like the title of a horror movie for us,” joked Reid Perry.
Upping the pressure: The Kimberly Perry-penned song “If I Die Young” was a crossover hit on the pop charts and won song of the year at the Country Music Association Awards, marking the band as both a commercial and critical success.
So everyone was ready for a few hurdles — but it was far more difficult than anyone imagined.
The band began preproduction with Nashville producer Frank Liddell, then decided to part ways with Liddell and work with Rick Rubin, who guided another trio, The Dixie Chicks, to an album-of-the-year Grammy. That ultimately didn’t work out either, and the band decided to try Dann Huff.
“I think The Band Perry would be the first to tell you they would hope that wouldn’t be typical for anybody,” Huff said of their path to album No. 2. “I mean that was a long journey to get where they ended up.”
Huff is one of Nashville’s go-to producers. He’d been approached to help the band finish its first album, but couldn’t fit it in his schedule.
“I remember seeing them on an awards show and thinking, ‘Ah, crap, I missed that train,’” Huff said. “And that never comes back.”
Given a second chance when Big Machine Records head Scott Borchetta called to ask him if he’d like to cut a few tracks, Huff wasted no time: “I said, ‘How fast do you want to do it? Let’s start tonight.’ I still am impressed by how committed they are. That’s what attracts me to those three siblings. They are all in. I never dreamt that I’d get a chance to do the whole record.”
With week-of-release plans and commitments already littering a large calendar in their manager’s office, the band and Huff had a limited amount of time to record the songs again.
Huff was open to anything they wanted to try, and they wanted to try a lot of things. Pay tribute to influence Queen on “Forever Mine Nevermind”? Sure, why not?
As the Perrys laid down their parts with the band in the studio, Huff — a session musician for two decades before turning to production — would play along on his guitar in the control room. He helped them shape a larger, more arena-ready sound.
“He was the first producer to come out and see our live show,” Neil Perry said. “We always tell people that’s where you get the perfect snapshot of The Band Perry. Before we did interviews, before we wrote songs, we were playing live and we wanted to bring that element into the next album. So in the recording process, Dann let us exhaust every idea — whether it was crazy or out there, he let us do that.”
They emerged with that single. “Better Dig Two” reached No. 1 and has already gone platinum. And the rest of the album sounds just like they want it to. And it should.
“We can say today that ‘Pioneer’ is absolutely the second album that was meant to be because we did exhaust every idea we had,” said Kimberly Perry. “We had 18 months to record this, which was really a luxury for a second album. So I think that’s what I’m most proud about.”