For the siblings of the Mississippi trio the Band Perry, there's always been something special about the fair.
On "Walk Me Down the Middle," a love song from the group's 2010 self-titled album, lead singer Kimberly Perry instructs a boyfriend to "walk me by the Ferris wheel" to announce their relationship to the town. In the Band Perry's world, a fair is a rite of passage to be cherished.
"Fairs have always resonated with the three of us," said youngest brother Neil, 22. "They've got this romantic feel to them. While writing the first album, there was an image of a fair scene in our heads."
After a brief pause, he quickly adds, "Oh, and we love fair food."
That helps illustrate the Band Perry's small-town, relatable charm. Perhaps it's no surprise its was selected to perform at the Maryland State Fair on Saturday. The band says it will be a nice change of pace from the recent, shorter sets they've been playing on the road as a supporting act for Brad Paisley.
"The three of us get to stretch our legs, going from a 35-minute set to a 75-minute set," Kimberly said. "It's a get-to-know-you evening."
With only one full-length album, fans can expect to hear most, if not all, of the songs from the act's platinum-selling debut. While October marks the third year since its release, the group's first album is still producing hits, such as the fifth single "Postcard from Paris," released March.
But it was second single, "If I Die Young," that put the Band Perry in the limelight. Written by Kimberly, the macabre ballad is the rare crossover hit centered on tragedy. In "Die Young's" case, it's about a young child's untimely death, or as she sings it, "the sharp knife of a short life."
Many times, young fans have sung the song to the band at meet-and-greets, Kimberly says — even if the meaning might be over their heads.
"These little groups of girls walk through in unison, singing it," she said. "They can't understand the lyrics. But the melody, it feels like a lullaby."
She hopes those fans won't ever have to experience that type of loss, but Kimberly finds comfort in knowing her song can, and has, aided grieving families.
"We've heard so many stories about 'If I Die Young' really holding people's hands through a time of loss," Kimberly, 29, said. "It's been an honor to have that with people."
The band, currently writing and recording with producer Rick Rubin, hopes its second album will connect with fans in similar ways. The key, Kimberly says, is to continue writing from the perspective of Middle America.
"We've written these songs as honestly as we can," Kimberly said. "We're writing about everyday life for us, and that's everyday life for everyone else."
Landing Rubin — a bearded studio guru most-known for his work with a wide variety of talent, from Jay-Z to Johnny Cash to the Dixie Chicks — raises expectations for the album.
"It's a pinch-me moment to realize you're able to record with Rick Rubin," said middle brother Reid, 23. "It's also a little nerve-racking and exciting at the same time."
The group says there will definitely be a new single out this year, but there is no confirmed release date. The band, which was nominated for Best New Artist at this year's Grammy Awards, seems well aware of the pressure and anticipation surrounding the new album. The family members have faith that their meticulous, slow-paced songwriting will be worth the wait.
"We've always heard about the sophomore slump," Kimberly said. "We've gone out of our way to avoid that. We're trying to write the right songs."
If you go
The Band Perry performs Saturday at the Maryland State Fair, 2200 York Road in Timonium. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $39 and include fair admission. Go to marylandstatefair.com.