When sibling trio The Band Perry entered the Ram Country studios to perform some of their new tunes, the atmosphere was considerably jubilant. The sibling trio had just come off a very successful release week for their new album, Pioneer, which entered the country albums chart at No. 1 and the all-genre Billboard 200 at No. 2.
This would be fantastic news at any time, but it’s especially sweet for the young band, who were in the enviable-but-stressful position of following up their massively successful debut—resulting in a bit of wracked nerves preceding the album’s actual street date.
“The one terrorizing phrase in all of the whole world for us has been sophomore slump,” admits eldest sibling and lead vocalist Kimberly Perry. “So I think we really felt the weight of responsibility coming off the heels of the first album.”
“Not only that, there’s kind of this cliché in Nashville that you have your whole life to write your first album…and a few months to write your second album,” adds youngest brother Neil Perry. “We felt that, but [with] added pressure.”
Middle child Reid Perry agrees: “When we released Pioneer we were biting our fingernails and staying close to the emails to see what all the numbers were,” he recalls. “Just because, you’ve worked for the past 18 months on something you put your whole heart and soul into, and you don’t want anyone to tell you that it’s not beautiful or it’s not pretty.”
Despite the pressure placed upon the trio, they still took a a year and a half to complete the album—a painstaking journey that included a switch in producers midstream. The legendary Rick Rubin was originally tapped for the project; after working with him in Malibu, California on songwriting and creative development, the band decided to go back to Nashville with country powerhouse Dan Huff at the helm in order to craft a more “macro” sound that they felt fit their career progression more accurately.
That’s not to say that Rubin didn’t have a significant impact or role on Pioneer. “Rick was really pivotal in the song collection and the songwriting phase,” notes Kimberly. “Neil now lovingly refers to Rick as ‘the song doctor,’ because we learned so much from him–even about rhyming.”
Neil nods in agreement: “And not only that, he was kind of honestly like a therapist for us too,” he relates. “We would confide in him about how nervous we were going into this process. You know we have these jitters just like any other artist…he told [us] that ‘it’s not the second thing you’ve done, just the next step.’ And that really calmed our nerves.”
The trip out to visit Rubin’s California studio was integral to the making of the album, too, as the journey across the country proved picturesque fodder for what would become many of the songs on Pioneer. “When we took our road trip out west, we stopped at several different locations–just kind of where we ended up,” says Reid. “One of the stops was in Santa Fe, New Mexico–more the outskirts of it, up in the hills. And we pulled over..we were actually traveling in our bus, and got out and climbed up this hill and here for the day. ‘Pioneer,’ which is the title track from the album, was written on top of the Santa Fe hills overlooking the desert.”
Despite feeling urgency to release their second album, the siblings noted that they were almost obsessive about making sure everything was perfect. “Having the extra time to make Pioneer–it did help because we were able to rewrite and rewrite, and we recorded a lot of the songs just to make sure they were the way they were supposed to be,” says Reid. “But to be honest with you, we had all these deadlines and I think we probably went past at least two days on every single one. So it helped and it also we kinda fudged it a little.”
“I think the one thing that can allow us to rest confidently right now is because we did so many revisions,” is Kimberly’s opinion. “There’s one song, ‘Back To Me Without You,’ that we re-cut about five times!”
“We work best at the 11th hour,” notes Neil. “The three of us, we work well under pressure. Our second single, ‘Done,’ was actually one of the last singles we’d written for Pioneer. And so it’s interesting–even on the first album we noticed that some of those last-minute songs were some of the real special ones. So that’s one of the things we like about pushing the envelope just a little bit.”
One song that remains exceptionally special and likely would be that way regardless of any extenuating circumstances is “Mother Like Mine,” an affecting ballad that introduces fans in the tenderest of manners to the siblings’ greatest role model–their mom.
“Our mom actually travels with us on the road,” explains Kimberly. “She’s everything from stylist–she styles the three of us–to coach. We review game tapes every night after our show. Our mother’s been taking notes…she’s been a huge part of our band.”
“When it came time to write Pioneer, one of us had a song title…we were looking through them, and came across this one title called ‘If the World had A Mother Like Mine,'” adds Neil. “It just kind of resonated with the three of us.”
“It’s a special song,” states Kimberly. “It’s also ultimately about unconditional love–and it’s amazing [what] unconditional love could really make happen in the world around us.”