When The Band Perry performs at the Manatee County Fair on Jan. 20 expect a major sing along when it comes time for “If I Die Young.” The breakthrough single by siblings Kimberly (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Reid (bass guitar) and Neil Perry (drums, mandolin and accordion) has been one of the most played on country radio this past year. The poignant ballad found on the band’s self-titled debut album takes maudlin subject matter and imbues it with touching positivity. Over a fiddle-laced melody Kimberly reflects on a life well lived in a manner that’s instantly endearing.
“It was the first song written for the album and we were so excited,” said 27-year-old Perry, the sole writer of “If I Die Young” and oldest child of the family from Mobile, Ala. “We looked at each other and realized we had lived pretty complete lives even though we were just in our young 20s. It’s a reminder to make the most of our lives whether we’re on the planet for another two minutes or 200 years.
“I wrote it out of a place of contentment,” she added during a recent phone interview. “Despite the title, the song is more about life than death. And when crowds sing the song back to us it’s so cool.”
The Band Perry’s first single, “Hip to My Heart,” came out in November 2009. It’s a bouncy ditty about being boy crazy and reached a respectable No. 20 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. “If I Die Young” hit the airwaves last June and slowly kept gaining plays until it reached No. 1 shortly after the group’s album became available in October.
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“I kind of feel like what a runner feels after a marathon and finishing first,” Kimberly said. “It was about a six-month chart process with lots of baby steps. We were actually in Toronto right after Thanksgiving when we got the news. It really sank into our minds and hearts during Christmas time when we shut down for 10 days and looked back over the past year and could really cherish that moment -- that country radio and country music lovers gave us that No. 1 hit.”
On Feb. 13, The Band Perry plans to attend the 53rd annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. “If I Die Young” has been nominated for Best Country Song and the trophy goes to the writer. Competition includes songs written for George Strait, Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson and Zac Brown’s self-penned “Free.” Win or lose, the Perrys are just excited about being invited to the music industry’s biggest night -- and maybe crossing paths with their favorite pop star.
“Neil is looking forward to meeting Lady Gaga,” 22-year-old Reid said of his younger brother, who’s 20.
Kimberly quickly added: “I love her. Especially when she strips down to just her and the piano. Everything about her. She’s just really interesting.”
The Academy of Country Music recently announced The Band Perry as nominees for new vocal duo or group. The JaneDear Girls and Steel Magnolia are up for the same honor. Fans can vote for their favorites online starting Jan. 27 and the winner will be announced live at the ACM Awards in Las Vegas on April 3.
“It’s just another one of those things you watch every year and to be a part of it is pretty cool,” Neil said.
Also coming up this spring for The Band Perry is a tour with country superstar Tim McGraw, who can bee seen at local cinemas this weekend co-starring in the new Gwyneth Paltrow movie “Country Strong.” The Perrys have been listening to his songs practically their entire lives. Kimberly remembers one in particular that topped the country chart in 1997.
”You know that duet he sang with Faith Hill ‘It’s Your Love’?” she said. “Growing up in Mobile, a buddy and I would go mudding and play that song.”
One can only wonder how many fond memories are attached to “If I Die Young.” Chances are, the Perrys will be performing the beautiful ballad for many years to come. Its writer welcomes the opportunity.
“We’re proud of that song and how it defines us musically,” Kimberly said. “We’d be pretty pleased to sing it the rest of our life.”
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at (941) 745-7057. Visit his blog, Buzz Worthy, at bradenton.com/blogs.