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Posts tagged ‘jen rogers’

A Universal Language: Ian Penn’s New EP Wild Abandon Shares Folk Songs Around the World

June 29, 2015

Christine Mazur

Ian Penn

Ian Penn | Photo by Gibsam Salak

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.

Buy on iTunes or Bandcamp | Listen on Spotify

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.

Ian Penn "Wild Abandon" EP Launch

PRESS: Indie Indonesians Stars and Rabbit On A Sunday Night

June 11, 2015


Man On The Side | Text and Photos by Paul John Cana
June 10, 2015 – GMA News Online

The parade of foreign artists coming to perform here in Manila continues, with big-name stars topbilling shows almost every week. What we don’t get a lot of, it seems, are artists from elsewhere in Southeast Asia. This was thankfully remedied with a visit from a delightful indie folk act called Stars and Rabbit from Indonesia just this past weekend.

Indonesian indie folk act Stars and Rabbit

Indonesian indie folk act Stars and Rabbit

The band is composed of guitarist and percussionist Adi Widodo and vocalist and main songwriter Elda Suryani. I can’t remember the last time a musical artist from Indonesia came to visit the Philippines, outside, perhaps, of Anggun some years ago. We have local indie stalwart Clem Castro, aka Clementine, aka Dragonfly Collector, to thank for making this happen.

According to Clem, Stars and Rabbit’s management contacted him through his indie label Lilystars Records about possibly distributing the duo’s self-titled debut album here in the country. The negotiations eventually evolved into a live performance as part of the band’s Asian tour, which happened last Sunday night in local alternative music hangout Saguijo.

“We just came from playing in China, in Guangzhou,” Elda told me inside the venue a couple of hours before they went onstage. “I can’t believe we’re here in Manila!” While her partner Adi was laidback and a bit shy, Elda was animated and gregarious as she talked about how the band was formed and their musical influences.

“Adi used to play in a band with my ex-boyfriend,” she said. “Back then I knew [Adi] and I would be working together on our own project.” Elda is a big fan of 90s alt-rock chicks like Alanis Morrisette, Sheryl Crow and Jewel. “Now I like listening to artists like Sia and Imogen Heap.” She points to Adi. “He’s a big fan of Coldplay.”

Jen Rogers

Jen Rogers

Before their set, a few support acts warmed up the Sunday evening Saguijo crowd. I was particularly wowed by a couple of solo acoustic performers. Sagada native Jen Rogers channeled Julie Delpy’s quirky but luminous Celine of the film “Before Sunset” as she strummed her guitar and sang about wanderlust and falling in love during a one-night stand. She was admittedly nervous (and Clem would tell me later she’s actually still a student), but I thought she did great. In a sea of overconfident, self-assured veterans, her honesty and vulnerability was her appeal.

The other act was twentysomething singer-songwriter Ian Penn. It was just him and a guitar (and a harmonica on one song), but his combination of classic Americana-folk (think Bob Dylan and Neil Young) and modern, melancholic indie-pop soul was like a cool refreshing towel on a hot summer’s day. I can’t wait to hear more from this guy. (Good thing an EP is due to be released very soon).

After performances from Bing Austria (yep, Juan Pablo Dream!), and Clem’s alter ego Dragonfly Collector, Stars and Rabbit finally made their way onstage at a few minutes past midnight. Barefoot and wearing a black dress and flower crown, Elda immediately earned the crowd’s support and approval with her wide smile and open, pleasant disposition. She was like ball of positive energy, with little pigtails and tiny star stickers on her cheeks.

Ian Penn

Ian Penn

Elda’s vocals reminded me a bit of Feist and our own Kate Torralba: piercing and hypnotic, but overall, she was like a more approachable, less high-strung Bjork. Their music was thoughtful and effervescent, like something you would hear at a classy coffee shop, or blaring from the headphones of a mysterious acquaintance who sits alone at a corner table in the cafeteria. It wasn’t hard to get into the melodies, and her lilting vocals were made even more endearing by her slightly accented English. It didn’t hurt that she engaged the crowd in between songs with funny anecdotes.

I was a bit concerned at first that the gig ran into the small hours of Monday (work waited just a few hours later), but when the band made their final bow it all felt too sudden. In local parlance, bitin. And isn’t that the mark of all great shows? Needless to say, Stars and Rabbit made staying out late on a Sunday night definitely worth it. — BM, GMA News

Check out more of Stars and Rabbit at and at

Paul John Caña is a magazine writer and live music geek. He is also co-founder of, an online collective of writers and artists. Email him at or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @pauljohncana.