Written by Erin Lobner. Media by Courtney Murphy.
Let me introduce one of GC’s very own singer/songwriters, Mandy Pennington. She’s a sophomore Commercial Music and English-Creative Writing double major from Louisville, Kentucky. Here are a few more random facts about Mandy: She loves “Harry Potter,” “Friends,” and “Gossip Girl” along with her favorite foods: potatoes, soup, Chinese food, and cheese. Keep reading as she shares her thoughts on her musical life, her new album and her future plans.
How long have you been involved in music?
For a very long time. My dad played piano in our living room when I was really little. He would play VeggieTales songs on the guitar and I would sing along. I had my first solo in a Christmas pageant where I sang “Silent Night” in German when I was four… I was in a lot of musical theater in school and then decided I wanted to be a singer/songwriter.
What music-related things have you done at GC?
I’ve done Pursuit, which makes up the worship teams for chapel and Vespers, last year and this year. I’m in the choir, which is a huge time commitment. Sometimes I hate it; other times I love it… And then I’ve done lab bands every year. Last year I was in a band called Highland, and we did an EP at the end of the year, so that was fun. This year I’ve done a different solo band each semester.
Do you write your own songs?
Yes, my album “Kindling” is 12 and a half songs; that’s all original, and I’m working on more original stuff with my band. I’m also in Singer-Songwriter Lab, which is a one-credit class where we just work on songs. Then last year, when I was in Highland, I co-wrote with the other band leader, Trey Brockman.
How does the half song work?
It’s a [short] reprise of the first song. The first song is really upbeat and then the last song is a reflection on the rest of the album. The first song says, “Where is the redemption that has to be?” So it’s kind of like “What is the purpose of all the stuff that’s happening?” Then I go through all the songs, and they’re just explorations of life. Then at the end it says, “Where is the redemption that has to be?” again, so it wraps it up.
How would you describe your musical style?
This is a struggle… Some people are like, “You need to either choose to be country or be fully “1989” Taylor Swift pop.” I’m neither of those right now… But I was just reading this book on Sara Bareilles called “Sounds Like Me,” and she was talking about how, for a really long time, she had no idea what her style was… All these people were like, “You need to change to fit some style,” but she decided to be her own person, which is what I want to do.
Who do you usually work with when you record?
I’ve worked with a lot of people. On this album, Matt Bauman and Gary Erickson, who’s the head of the Commercial department, recorded it. Trey Brockman played keys, acoustic and did some arranging. Bryson Buehrer played bass, Devin Chaney played electric guitar and TJ Steinwart played drums. I’d never played with any of them before, besides Trey and Bryson, but they are awesome musicians.
How long did it take you to make this album?
We started recording in January. We said we were just going to do it in a week, which was crazy because none of the band knew my songs. So we practiced twice and it was not ready at all, and… I was like, “Alright, let’s just go to the studio and do it.” I was so thankful to them because I think the drum session took like eight hours in a row… But the part that took the longest was the mixing. We had to go through all the takes of everything and find the notes that we liked and patch them together… We got it done at the beginning of March.
What would you say was your inspiration for the album?
I had a lot of relationship [trouble] in high school, and I think it kind of came out of reflection from that… I think it’s good to write about things that share your heart but also are relatable to other people. A lot of themes that I’ve written about are pretty universal, especially for people our age… People have been like, “Wow, that song is really relatable to me,” and that makes it all worth it.
Do you have a favorite song from your album?
All of my songs are like my children, but I do have a least favorite song: it’s “Maybe If I Die.” I think my favorite, lyrically, is “Ride,” which is the twelfth song. It’s just piano and vocal and it’s very raw… But I wouldn’t have put any of them on [the album] if I didn’t love them.
In addition to her dream of being a singer/songwriter, Mandy hopes to have a family. She says, “I don’t think music or a career would mean anything to me if I didn’t have someone to share it with.” But in the near future, you can look forward to the ukulele EP she plans on recording. To check out her music or learn more, visit her website, facebook page, Mandy Pennington Music, or search for her on iTunes and Spotify.