Jess Penner

30 May

“I always compare writing or performing a really personal song to being naked in front of someone – it’s scary no matter what because you’re letting the walls down – but nothing is more attractive to people than letting them see who you truly are, and owning what you’ve got.

It seems here lately that I cannot get enough of female singer/songwriters. Their infectious sound and incredible talent is enough to pull me in and keep me listening for days straight. One of the inspirational female artists I am talking about is named Jess Penner. No stranger to having her songs featured on TV shows and commercials, Los Angeles’ own has worked hard to stand out from the over-saturated scene of female artists. She recently released her album, Growing in the Cold, which is full of brilliant vocals and melodies that you won’t get enough of. When listening to the album, it makes you feel like life really is rosy. I recently sat down with Jess to discuss her music, advice she’s been given, and plans for the summer.

Q. How did you get your start in music? What were some of the things that inspired you to become an artist?

A. It’s funny, it’s just something I always knew I wanted to do, never really a conscious decision. I remember writing songs for the answering machine when I was 6 or 7 – those were my earliest recordings! My first “solo” performance was singing, “You’re so Vain” at our elementary school talent show… I was in second or third grade. I think I came in second.

Q. You’re currently living in Los Angeles, CA. Do you feel like there are a lot of opportunities available for singer/songwriters?

A. YES! It’s interesting you asked this question, I was just in NYC in February and a lot of my friends in the business out there were talking about how everyone was moving to L.A and how there is so much more happening out here at the moment. I moved from Hawaii about six years ago and at the time was seriously considering NYC… so, I guess I’m feeling vindicated at this point that I made the right choice!

Q. Your songs have been featured on a few TV shows and movies which many other artists dream of achieving someday. What are other goals you hope to achieve in the next coming year?

A. I would really love to play live more. Right now, I probably only do a show or two a month because I’ve been so focused on writing and producing, and that has to change. Also, I would like to write a hit song… no biggie.

Q. What is one of the best compliments someone has ever given you and why did it make such an impact on you?

A. The best compliment I have ever received was from my husband/drummer/engineer Kevin who said I was a “forward thinker”. I think there is always this fear of isolating people when you are pushing the boundaries of your expression. Having someone say “your ideas are cool – you’ve been ahead of your time” when you’re in the baby stages of production helps one bare a little more than what would usually be comfortable. I always compare writing or performing a really personal song to being naked in front of someone – it’s scary no matter what because you’re letting the walls down – but nothing is more attractive to people than letting them see who you truly are, and owning what you’ve got.

Q. Your current album, Growing in the Cold, is full of infectious happy songs. Is there one song in particular that you’re most proud of?

A. My favorite song on the record is probably “Let go.” It’s about not letting fear decide what decisions you’ll make. I think the world would be a better place if people made more decisions based on love and not fear. Also, I love that there is this really funky song-structure that starts with a super long intro and just builds and builds until the very end.

Q. If you could open up for any artist in any city, who would it be and where?

A. Okay, this is a toughie. I am an indie/alt rock lover so this is a weird question because my favorite artists are not part of the genre I occupy at the moment. I am currently obsessed with Peter, Bjorn & John, Carolina Liar, Copeland, MuteMath, Stars, Mew, The Temper Trap… and on and on! When it comes to singer/songwriters, I love Ray LaMontagne, Damien Rice, basically anything dark and beautifully brooding. Can you imagine how inappropriate it would be for me to open up for any of these bands/artists though? As to “where” I would have to say Los Angeles, you can’t beat LA.

Q. With the summer soon approaching, are there any events you have in mind for your fans?

A. I have been thinking of doing more fun/interactive stuff with fans online, like maybe a cover contest where people send me their songs (or songs that their friends have written, if they have friends that are artists). Everyone who submits a song would get a free download of an unreleased track or two, and the winner would have a version of their song done by me! It would be an awesome way to get to know my fans better and provide me an opportunity to give back to them. I am also planning on booking some shows in Cali and possibly NYC, but haven’t started on that yet because…I’m a lazy procrastinator.

Q. What is one of the best pieces of advice ever given to you that helps you get through tough times?

A. Wow, okay. My mom always told my brother and I that we could do/become anything we wanted to be in life. This is powerful stuff. I believe anyone can accomplish any goal with enough grit, passion, and discipline. I don’t let obstacles get in my way. I look for solutions, always.

Q. Many music lovers have that one song that sort of gets them from a dark place to a happy one. What song does that for you?

A. Bob Marley “Legend”, the whole album, always.

Q. If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which one would it be and why?

A. I wouldn’t, I get bored with things quickly and my favorites constantly change!  I need to create. If I lived on a desert island I would write a song in the sand every day, let the waves wash it away, and start fresh every morning.

Here is a song sure to get you movin’, Life Is Rosy.


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