DISCOVERING ERIK PENNY ON A SATURDAY NIGHT IN BERLIN

This time we made a discovery, while walking along Yorkstrasse in Berlin. It was on our way to dinner, when we heard the unique music of ERIK PENNY. It came from a little photo studio. Surprised we stopped to listen. Our curiosity got us a friendly invitation to come in and enjoy. Erik Penny played to a small private audience. He shares his emotions singing short stories and one can feel how much he loves life on stage. So taken by his music we were able to talk with him after the concert. He answered our many questions. We found out that this was sort of a warm up for live concerts of his new album HEART BLEED OUT and that we could expect to hear a lot more of him in the future.
HEART BLEED OUT


Erik, you are from the USA. How long have you been in Berlin and why are you here? Isn’t the US the land of endless opportunities?

I moved to Berlin in 2008, for a variety of reasons: love (my wife is German and we lived together in LA for 10 years before deciding that Berlin was the best "next step" for us), culture (the chance for an American to relocate to Europe, with its extra hundreds of years of culture compared to the USA, is simply too good to pass up), politics and social stability. The USA certainly has unlimited opportunities, but they exist more for people with unlimited finances than for the "Average Joe". I believe that things are a bit more balanced in Germany, with the average person having a bit more realistic chance to achieve their potential. At least, this has been my personal experience.

What have you done so far? You mentioned that you have lived in various places. Did these places influence your work and do you still feel the travel bug, or would you say that you have arrived and that you are right where you want to be?


I've done a lot. I grew up in El Paso, but as a child, I spent summers in northern New York State with my family. I was born there, and most of my extended family lived there. I studied painting at a University in Texas, worked as a waiter and bartender for many years in El Paso and LA. From the age of 16, I've played music in bands. In 2004, I officially went solo as Erik Penny. All the places I've lived in have surely influenced my writing, especially since my musical style is pretty "Americana”. Living in three distinctly different corners of the USA, including on two borders, really gave me a broad sense of what America and its music are all about. Now I've found a very welcoming home in Germany, and I plan to stay...maybe forever.

Is it different to make music in Berlin or Germany in general, compared to the US, also in regards to the audience?

It's quite different to play in Germany than it is in the US. I think overall, clubs and audiences are more welcoming and supportive in Germany. Comparing playing in LA to playing anywhere else isn't really fair, though, because LA is a very tough city to play in - very competitive, even sometimes hostile. So when I came to Berlin, playing here was like a dream, because you always are treated reasonably well, and sometimes you're treated VERY well. It's a bit hard to make money playing in Berlin, but in a lot of the rest of Germany you can do quite well. Everywhere in Germany I have found audiences to be very welcoming and open, as well as polite and attentive while the music is happening, which is certainly not always the case in LA.

You have already played with well-known musicians, such as Milow and Ronan Keating and you also released a few records. In the last few years you have disappeared from the music stage. Did you take a creative break?

No, I didn't take a creative break, rather a "Papa Pause", since my daughter was born two and a half years ago. Also during the last couple of years, there have been some serious family issues that I needed to focus on. During that time I was constantly writing. I wrote over 60 songs, and from those came the 13 that make up my new album - Heart Bleed Out. Lots of the other songs might make it onto future albums.

 
Not a new video, but we love it!

Where does your inspiration come from?

As I get older, my inspiration comes more and more from personal experience. The new album's songs are by far the most personal I've ever written. Musically, I'm quite inspired these days by really good, solid, classic music of any genre. Music that is played well, performed with honesty and intensity.

As an artist, is it especially challenging to balance family, a passion for music and to make a living from your music?


Yeah, it's tough to find the time for everything. The pressure to succeed is also much more when you have a family, for obvious reasons. I’m trying to learn how to bring it all together "under one hat", as you say, and I hope I can do it well and not let any part of it suffer.

You are a young father of a two year old daughter. Would you say that the music you write has changed since then?

I've definitely changed as a person since becoming a father, and my music has changed as well. For one thing, writing songs in the late hours, when the kid's sleeping, just changes the way you write. I began to fingerpick a lot more, which changes the feel of a song completely. I also became more thoughtful about many things, things I hadn't given much thought to previously. Actively trying to be a better person, for example, is pretty difficult.

How do you plan your come back? What are your newest projects and where can we expect to hear you in the near future?

The Sofa Sessions is only one of my latest projects, but they were put on hold for the same reasons I took a break, and I don't have any plans to make them a regular series again anytime soon. This concert that you happened to visit was more of a "warm-up" show, a reason to get my friends, with whom I play together, to play the new album live. The immediate task is finding the proper record label to release the album, and then touring to support it. The album is newly completed, so now I'm crossing my fingers that I can find a good home for it. In the meantime, I'll play some smaller shows in Berlin and a couple outside of Berlin. You will definitely see me at Kaffee Burger on 6th September, with a duo called TAKE BERLIN, and at Schokoladen on 16th October.

Oldie, but goldie!

What is it that makes Berlin special for you?

Man, Berlin just has it all! It has everything a big city has to offer, plus so much nature and parks and history. It has interesting people, great clubs, and restaurants. I could go on and on and on...

Do you have a message to the world, or even just Berlin?

I wouldn't go so far as to say I have a particular message. I suppose, if someone finds some meaning in my music that resonates with them, emotionally and personally, then I will have succeeded in communicating some sort of message, even if its meaning changes with each listener.

(Erik stands up, says "Thank you very much for interviewing me", and goes to the fridge for a beer.)

ERIK PENNY is a very down to earth person and a great artist and that is what makes him very likable. We will definitely keep track of his future success and hope what goes around comes around and he will find a good label for his album and that he will get all the love back that he gives Berlin. He had us at “Hello!”

Listen here to ERIK PENNY - Songs from HEART BLEED OUT and others.


... pushed by BANJO & ELFE.

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