There’s something about a simple folk song that has the power to unite people across the world. Ian Penn is well on his way to achieving that, following in the footsteps of a rich folk music legacy left by the likes of his songwriting inspirations including Neil Young, Bob Dylan and John Denver. Inspired by the everyday life he experienced growing up in the shadow of Mount Arayat in the Philippines, Penn’s songs are his reflections and observations, which anyone – whether they live in Manila – or Winnipeg – can relate to. “It’s all poetry in motion, you see,” he says.
Since releasing his first single, Headback Home in October, 2014, Penn assembled this batch of songs for his debut EP, Wild Abandon, with the intention of inspiring listeners to reflect on their own lives and experiences. Penn’s hope is that people will see themselves in his songs, a similar wish, he notes, to that expressed by Joni Mitchell in a rare interview with the CBC: “If you listen to that music and you see yourself, it will probably make you cry and you’ll learn something about yourself and now you’re getting something out of it.”
Wild Abandon is a collection of what the now Manila-based performer likes to call “road songs,” six thoughtful, simple and contemplative tunes that he envisions people taking on long road trips as a soundtrack to landscapes unfolding around them. Raw, spare melodies stripped down to bare-bones basics bring a message of unpretentious simplicity. Sing-along choruses and soothing melodies remind listeners of simpler days and youthful innocence. Created with only guitar, voice and harmonica, with an occasional mandolin, the tracks call to mind wide open spaces and quiet nature. Spellbinding harmonies stand out all the more because of their rarity, sending chills down the spine. Penn channels a young Bob Dylan with playful strumming and touches of harmonica solos.
Lyrics wise beyond Penn’s mere 20 years give practical advice to take it slow and enjoy life while it lasts. Penn – as always – writes what he knows. Home-schooled, he grew up surrounded by music lovers and musicians. His dad taught him to play the guitar, starting with John Denver’s Leavin’ on a Jet Plane. On Sunday mornings, young Ian would wake to the sound of Sam Cooke’s voice blasting on the stereo. He played bass in high school bands, covering The Beatles for fun, but guitar and harmonica were his weapons of choice, with Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly and Sam Cooke his preferred influences. In the past six months, Ian Penn has spread his wings, With Wild Abandon, he is happy to share his brand of folk music with the world.
Join Ian Penn and Lilystars Records for an exclusive live performance to celebrate the official launch of Wild Abandon at 8:00 p.m. on June 29, 2015 at The Boiler Room, Makati (8:00 p.m., free admission). Special guests include Dragonfly Collector, Jen Rogers and Motto Stella.