The Band Perry don’t kick off their full tour until November, but the country trio will play a special one-off show in Los Angeles this Thursday, September 19th, to benefit Heifer International and their fight to end global hunger. The gig, at the Montage Beverly Hills Hotel, will also see Susan Sarandon being honored for her work. Sarandon has long been an advocate for Heifer International, supporting the organization for more than 20 years and visiting Cambodia in 2011 to see their work helping farmers first-hand.
For the Band Perry, who became acquainted with Heifer through their parents and served last year as the faces of General Mills’ Outnumber Hunger Campaign, the chance to support a worthy cause and honor a great actress makes for a special night. Before the gig, the two brothers, Neil and Reid, and sister Kimberly, spoke with Rolling Stone about their philanthropic efforts, Sarandon’s inspiration and the upcoming tour for their new album, Pioneer.
Susan Sarandon is one of those people who’s always done a great job of using her fame for good causes. How does that inspire you?
Kimberly: I think it’s always amazing when someone like Susan uses the spotlight to put a spotlight on places that are in darkness. And the one thing that I’ve learned about her, even in relation to Heifer, is her real focus on empowering women. One of her big focuses through this organization is that most of the women are the ones producing most of the food. And being the female of the Band Perry, I feel empowered by that myself, and for her to be a voice of that is one of the big reasons why we are supporting this event alongside her and Heifer.
Reid: They have the old saying, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” And that’s what I love about Heifer: Not only will they relieve hunger, but they give people the skill set to accomplish that themselves and even pass that on to others in their own community, which I just think is a great way of accomplishing that mission of theirs.
Kimberly: Part of the “pass it on” part of it is that whatever the animal that they’re donating, when that animal has its first female offspring, it’s the family’s responsibility to pass that on to another family. So I think that it raises awareness of the responsibility to pass that help on to the next family, the next person. And I think in accomplishing stopping this problem of poverty, that’s really the only way to do it, and it really is bringing in communities in need. That, to me, is one of the most attractive things about how Heifer International is structured.
Will you be involved with Heifer beyond this one night?
Kimberly: This is our very first invite to be a part of this company and community, and we are definitely attracted to it. Our parents have been following it for a long time, and they let us know about the work and shared that with us. Last year, we were the faces of the Outnumber Hunger campaign with General Mills, so fighting hunger is certainly something that is near and dear to our hearts. We had no idea before we started visiting food banks – not only in our local community of Nashville, but all over the country – how [huge] a need there is right here in the States. One in six Americans struggles with hunger, and over the summertime that increases because kids don’t have school lunches. So we certainly are attracted to that and we have a huge heart for kids, for foster families. We have them out at our show and participating in Band Perry events, so these things are really near and dear to our hearts.
Are there artists that are role models for you in how you balance your fame and philanthropy?
Kimberly: Absolutely, as we grow. We had a call earlier this morning about how to grow that arm of what we do – and as we travel around, the more aware we become of this. We have a new album out called Pioneer. One thing that we’ve done around Pioneer is put a spotlight in different communities on local heroes, if you will. We’ve had the opportunity to meet – some of them are kids, some of them are adults – but folks who really get involved in impacting their local community for the better. It can be something as small as cleaning up and landscaping, something as big as setting up food drives and really stocking the counter and shelves of food banks. So that’s one thing that we’ve really gotten to do. Not as much, “Hey, this is the Band Perry helping out.” But more, the Band Perry likes to put the spotlight on everyday people and everyday heroes, really making big things happen in their community.
Neil: We’re in a different city every single day, we’ve been on the road 630 days over the past two years and it can be a bit tiring. But to be able to hear somebody say, “Thank you for helping out me and my family” – that makes doing this so worthwhile, and the three of us love being able to give back.
When you have these kids on stage, it’s got to be so invigorating to see them so excited.
Kimberly: Absolutely, we live to play live. The Pioneer tour actually doesn’t begin until November and will span from November all the way through the end of 2014. We’re developing right now a particular amount per ticket that will go to our philanthropic areas of focus. Part of it, we know where that’s gonna go; the other part of it, we are putting out feelers. While there are so many organizations, it’s way important for the three of us to put a spotlight on things that don’t get as much notice. I appreciate the Red Crosses of the world, the St. Judes of the world, we certainly have supported all of that. But it’s really important for us, while we’re out on the Pioneers tour, to find those causes that do not have a voice, that do not have a spotlight, and put it there. So we are seeking those out as we speak, but the way that will work is a particular percentage of every ticket will go towards the causes that the Band Perry supports.
What places are you looking forward to seeing on the tour?
Reid: We are kicking off the tour in Europe, so there actually are about 20 different places I have on my list. I’ve never been to Germany before and I’m a history buff, so I love being able to go around to the museums and get out and just kind of see, because a lot of times whenever you roll into a town you really don’t leave the venue where you are playing that night. So we try and make time to get out and actually see a bit of the local scenery.
Kimberly: One of my favorite places is Seattle when we’re touring here in the States. I always look forward to going back to the Pacific Northwest. We are moody songwriters, so I love the weather up there and also the evergreens.
Neil: One of my favorite places to visit is Santa Fe, New Mexico. We actually wrote the title track off of Pioneer in Santa Fe, on the outskirts. We were on this big hill and there were cacti everywhere and we just pounded out the lyrics to Pioneer up there, so that’s a really special place for the three of us.