KAUAI — Kauai-born songwriter, Jess Penner, creates music that appeals to children’s imaginations.
The BMI songwriting contest winner known for her indie pop melodies ventured into the world of family music with Imagination, an EP of eight songs released this month. Her newly released recording reached number two on iTunes’ children’s album charts, and the songs are already being broadcast on radio shows around the nation.
Penner was born on Kauai and spent her early years on a banana farm that bordered Guava Kai plantation in Kilauea.
“I had no idea at the time how special and magical my childhood actually was, but I draw on it deeply when I write,” she said. “I think Kauai makes some of the toughest, most adventurous and down-to-earth girls out there.”
Working with Position Music since 2008, the recording artist has earned hundreds of song placements around the world in film and television. Penner’s three solo albums have gained critical acclaim and millions of streams on Spotify.
“I lived on Kauai until I was 24 when, after years of touring, a need for more access to the music industry lured me away to Los Angeles. My family comes back to Kauai at least once every year and are counting down the days until we move back. Kauai will always be home.”
Penner met her husband Kevin when they were teenagers performing in a nationally touring Christian rock band. During the past decade, they crafted catchy songs and recorded other artists in a converted garage studio behind their Los Angeles home.
As a kid in Kauai, Penner listened to the oldies radio station with her parents, who enjoyed popular folk rock. Today, Penner says she strives to deliver a pure sound and positive messages with her songwriting.
“The music we hear as young children shapes our view of the world in really unexpected ways,” Penner said. “I have a strong suspicion that being exposed to doo-wop at such a young age made me a romantic, somehow.”
Inspiration for the original songs “Imagination” and “Forever in My Heart” came from parenting her two children.
“I don’t really think of writing and recording songs for kids as being all that different from my usual work, except that I want to make sure that the messages I’m sending are wholesome and hopeful,” Penner said.
Making a living as a non-touring independent female songwriter isn’t easy, but Penner proves it can be done through hard work and experimentation. With her Songcents blog, Penner shares her knowledge of the industry with aspiring artists. Her YouTube channel features a homespun “Slice & Song” reality series, where she demonstrates a favorite pie recipe and performs a song in her home studio.
The release of Imagination continues Jess Penner’s journey as an artist, role model and parent.
“I want kids to dream, savor life, and know that they have the power to do anything they put their minds to,” Penner said. “The world can be a tough place. Why don’t we make sure that the messages kids receive … lift them up and empower them?”