Lauren Penna

Lauren was a super quiet kid. She didn't exactly know who she wanted to be but she had a good voice. She sings now. 

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Take us back to you as a kid.
I was a quiet kid. Like, super quiet. I was bullied for it a lot and it’s the root of most of my problems. Lol. It wasn’t strange to find me on the playground by myself, making up songs and singing them under my breath. It sounds sad, and maybe it looked sad, but it’s how I liked to spend my time. 

Who did you want to be?
I don’t think I knew. I mean, does anyone? I knew I definitely loved music and I felt a strong connection with it, but I probably wanted to be a dancer or some type of performer. I remember the first time I realized I had a pretty good voice. It was in an audition and I hit this note and the sound of my own voice shocked me. I thought, huh, I think I’m actually really good at this. I was cast in that play. I was on stage for a total of five minutes. I once told my third grade teacher I wanted to be a chef, which is crazy because...no. That sounds awful. 

"I remember the first time I realized I had a pretty good voice. It was in an audition and I hit this note and the sound of my own voice shocked me."

What was last Monday like for you?
I don’t even know what last Monday was. I don’t know what today is. My life is so busy right now, I can’t keep track of anything. 

Walk us through the days leading up to you doing your own music?
Blake and I worked on the singles for In The Evening for about two months before we got into the studio. We’re very detailed people who love to organize and we knew we only had a certain amount of hours to accomplish everything so we charted things out and planned down to the minute detail. We tracked demos and wrote every single part so we wouldn’t have to worry about wasting time coming up with tracks. We wanted to walk into the studio with something more than just a frame of the song. I think it paid off. And in that sense, we got to know how we each work and write too. It was a pretty interesting process. 

Describe your music.
So it’s kind of like Daughter with some of the 1975 in there and then some drone post rock textures. They’re songs for people who feel things. 

What keeps you busy?
Work. Constantly pushing forward to the things that give me breath. I try to look for those moments in everyday life. 

How do you stay focused?
I’m fortunate enough to have people around me that are doing a lot of creative things and that keeps me focused on what I want in life. A lot of people are working towards the same things I am, or things very similar. That helps. It’s taken a really long time to find a musician as dedicated to making this music thing work, which in and of itself can be extremely overwhelming. That’s why I’m super grateful for Blake. He’s way more focused than I am and I aspire to that. 

What’s been the biggest challenge?
In life? A lot of things. Mental illness, mainly. Depression is a bitch that spins a spiral of self-deprecation and procrastination and defeat. Musically, finding musicians that will commit to going the distance. Blake and I met every Tuesday evening for several months because we wanted to do it right. We were busy, but we made the time. I don’t think that’s the norm for creative people these days and that’s sad. 

"I’m fortunate enough to have people around me that are doing a lot of creative things and that keeps me focused on what I want in life."

How did you overcome it?
Working at creative projects is difficult, and it requires sacrifice even when other people in your community don’t understand. Saying, ‘no I can’t go out for drinks with you, I have to write music tonight’ isn’t always a response people understand, especially when it’s not for your “job.” 

You get to redo something you’ve done. What would that be and why?
Honestly, nothing. This year has been a dream and everything up to this point has been a learning process. 

Someone is starting their own thing. What would you say to them if they came to you for advice?
Find allies. Find support. In every creative endeavor, you need people to champion you. I wouldn’t be able to do half of the things I’ve been able to do if I didn’t have a tight group of people telling me to go for it. But also, don’t tell everyone everything. Discretion is an artform that I’m constantly refining. We live in the age of the overshare with all of the social media. It’s okay to keep things within your close group of people. Don’t share everything the second you have a brilliant idea. Let it marinate, talk about it a little, then when it’s ready, share it with the world, but only when it’s ready. You’ll know. 

Why Des Moines?
Well, I truthfully didn’t have much of a choice. Horizon Line opened here. But I will say that I have accomplished more of my dreams after moving here than I even got close to in California. The people here are incredible. 

What’s one new thing that has caught your eye?
A new guitar. For real. I would love a new acoustic. That’s probably not what you’re asking, but it’s all I can think about.  

You can grant Des Moines one wish. What’s that wish?
More of this. More support for the arts, more music venues, more things where people champion each other. And to never get pretentious about it. There’s a small town feel here that feels so incredibly organic. I hope Des Moines never knows how cool it is. 

"Don’t share everything the second you have a brilliant idea. Let it marinate, talk about it a little, then when it’s ready, share it with the world, but only when it’s ready. You’ll know."

For someone new to DSM where do you suggest they go?
Horizon Line Coffee, duh. But also Krunkwich and Hello Marjorie (late at night) and Molly’s for vegan cupcakes. Basically, they better be prepared to eat and drink a lot. 

The most underrated thing in DSM is ________. Why?
How freaking cool Des Moines is. I’m blown away by how quickly people get together and actually make things happen. In California, and maybe this is just the people I was surrounded by, we’d have a million ideas and nothing would get done because they stayed ideas. I came in here and thought about all of these things I would like to do and I’m actually doing them now. It’s cool. 

What are you most proud of and why?
A lot of my dreams came true this year. It’s very strange. I’m pretty proud of that and maybe it’s a matter of perspective, but even the smallest things are happening and that feels pretty good. I’m proud of my talents and gifts and the things I’ve been able to do with them, but mostly I hope that I’ve made connections and relationships that are deep and meaningful. I’d say if I’ve done that, that’s what I’m most proud of. 

"I came in here and thought about all of these things I would like to do and I’m actually doing them now. It’s cool."

It’s been six months, what do you hope to have accomplished?
I hope that I’ve been able to create spaces, pieces, moments, etc where people feel seen. I hope that I’ve created an atmosphere in my creative work and otherwise that inspires people to go for the things that make them feel alive. Because really, I want that more than success in music or writing. And that’s a dangerous thing to say because, come on, we all want to be famous and successful in some regard and anyone who says otherwise is lying. But honestly, seeing people doing what they do best is the most beautiful thing on the planet. 

One thing that matters most to you is what?
Understanding, empathy, and connection. I think the world would be 100% different if we tried or cared to care about each other. I could talk about this for hours and hours. It’s hard to wrap up that thought into a sentence or two. 

Photo credit: Andrew Peterson

Derek Jensen