By Kurt Wolff
After a successful debut album that contained a solid handful of hits songs (two of which went to No. 1), the three siblings in The Band Perry (Kimberly, Neil and Reid Perry) weren’t about to mess around when it came to their sophomore release. They wanted a song that was strong — and different — enough to turn heads and captivate listeners. They found that song in “Better Dig Two.”
“It was our first single for our sophomore release, which some folks say is the most scrutinized piece of music that maybe an artist ever puts out,” Kimberly Perry told Radio.com. “We’ve always operated under the guise of, the boldest step forward is the right step forward.”
“Better Dig Two” was written by Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally and Trevor Rosen. The Band Perry released the song to radio in October of 2012, and it easily reached No. 1 in early 2013. Now the video for the song (which was directed by Declan Whitebloom) has been nominated for an Academy of Country Music Award for Video of the Year.
Related: See all 2014 ACM Award nominations
“There were just a lot of words and phrases in there that really stood out to us and made it different in our eyes,” said Kimberly’s brother Reid, describing to Radio.com what intrigued them about “Better Dig Two.” Reid called out a couple of the lyrics, notably the line that references meth (“it won’t be whiskey, and it won’t be meth”) as part of what initially grabbed their attention. He also mentioned what he called “the backward-written lyric, about ’til death do us part'” that “takes that age-old vow one step further.”
“Backwards in the sense that it’s a love song, but it’s also put over a really aggressive bed of music,” Kimberly added.
The song takes the point of view of a woman so in love that, should anything happen to her “one man,” she will follow him to the grave…literally. “If you go before I do,” Kimberly sings in the chorus of the song, “I’m gonna tell the gravedigger that he better dig two.”
“‘Better Dig Two’ is kind of like the ultimate commitment song,” Kimberly explained. “Anybody who has experienced true, committed and OK somewhat crazy love for someone else — you say, I would die if something ever happened to you! This particular character in our song just will not live life without her significant other.”
“I think the card that our mother got for our dad for Valentine’s Day probably sums it up best,” she continued. “It’s a picture of these two skeletons with giant red hearts, and it said ’til death do us part is for quitters.’ And that’s what ‘Better Dig Two’ is about — absolute lifetime commitment.”
“Better Dig Two” was the lead single from The Band Perry’s 2013 album Pioneer.
“One of the themes that rose out of this record,”Kimberly told Radio.com about Pioneer, “was rising above whatever your circumstances are. But there were also moments where we were just so elated, be it a sense of love, or a sense of accomplishment. We felt all these different emotions over the last two years. So each track is truly a snapshot of a moment in time that we have lived through over the past couple of years.”
If “Better Dig Two” and other songs on Pioneer feel like something out of a Flannery O’Connor novel, that’s not a coincidence. “We were very much influenced and still are by Southern Gothic literature,” Neil Perry said. “William Faulker and Flannery O’Connor are some of our favorites.” He also mentions Bobbie Gentry, “an artist we grew up listening to.” He and his siblings were raised in Alabama, so “that culture down there,” as he describes it, has “a big part in our music.”
Kimberly echoed her brother, backing him up on their love of Southern Gothic culture. “We made friends with Polly Parsons, who’s [country-rock pioneer] Gram Parsons‘ daughter. She was talking about the story of the loss of her dad [Gram died tragically at age 26 of a drug overdose], and at one point she goes, ‘You know, my life is just one giant romantic Southern tragedy.’ There’s something so beautifully romantic in that. In Southern Gothic lit there’s always a moral to the story; there’s a little bit of grotesque, but that’s what makes the beauty a little more beautiful. And for whatever reason we’re really attracted to that lyric sensibility.”
It’s not what Pioneer is about entirely (“we went there in moments,” Kimberly said), but that Southern Gothic influence is certainly part of The Band Perry’s sound and story. And it certainly played a role in “Better Dig Two.”
The 49th ACM Awards will be broadcast live from Las Vegas on Sunday, April 6 at 8pm ET/PT on CBS.