NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As of late last week, the Band Perry had performed something like 15 times over the previous 10 days, finishing an 18-month saga that combined the making of their second album with a grueling appearance schedule.
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 shout out along the way from Justin Timberlake and landed Pioneer at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The album sold 129,000 copies last week, exceeding estimates by 20 percent or more.
Beginning Friday, they're back on the road with a concert at Billy Bob's set for May 3, and then they hook up with Rascal Flatts for a tour that goes until the fall.
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 journey of Kimberly, 29, Reid, 24, and Neil, 22, was arduous, requiring a tremendous amount of determination. It has quite the back story.
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.
Huff is one of Nashville's go-to producers. He had been approached to help the band finish its first album, but he couldn't fit it in his schedule.
"I remember seeing them on an awards show and thinking, 'Ah, ... 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.'"
Experimenting with rock
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 the influence of 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."
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.
"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."