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Vaughan Penn inspires listeners with uplifting lyrics

by Lee Adams

Vaughan Penn has the coolest website I’ve ever seen. The opening page is a purple rectangle filled with red, blue, white and violet dots that burst open like flowers when I run my mouse across them. I should be working, but it’s so easy to kill time here with the headphones on, bouncing in my chair to her new CD and going over and over the dots with my mouse.

It’s actually an uplifting experience for me for some reason. It’s wholesome and serves as a creative outlet and inspires me to want to be creative ‘— to play the drums, to get out and take pictures, to do something.

Penn’s new CD, Angels Fly, is heavy with the message of hope. It encourages listeners to seize the day, to take hold of life and run with it. The CD’s opening song ‘“Bring on the Day’” is a perfect example.

‘“Bring on the day/ Go ahead cause you can’t sleep anyway/ Bring on the day/ Don’t have to wait for tomorrow/ Bring on the day/ Go ahead, bring it on/ Til the sun comes shining through.’”

Some of the songs also have a theme of sadness and heartache, but in a healing sort of way. ‘“Cross That Line’” is one of those.

‘“I was hoping since I’m older/ You would learn from my mistakes/ And this battle would be over/ And my love could melt your hate.’”

It’s like a parent talking to a child who’s gone astray.

Penn’s writing has a definite Christian overtone, one that mentions God’s love, healing and redemption. Just to make sure I’m right about these tones I ask her on the phone and she does indeed profess to be a Christian.

Penn has long held to her faith, growing up here in the Bible belt in nearby Madison, NC. She thinks of her songs as messages from God, whether they be messages to herself or subtle messages that listeners gain through hearing her music.

It was a near death experience, though, from an intense medical emergency two years ago that prompted her to write this current album. After surviving the trauma Penn and a friend traveled Route 66, visiting every natural wonder she could. All of the songs came from that experience, including ‘“Cross That Line’” which she says is about the fragile human condition, and the lyrics can almost be seen as a loving God talking to a broken child. We are all connected as people, she says, and have the ability to hurt one another. And sometimes we get an epiphany to not want to hurt others anymore.

Penn now lives in Raleigh and tours small clubs and venues across the state. Living near home and family has been a refreshing experience for her, she says.

It started after she was asked to headline the Governor’s Ball here in North Carolina. Soon she was getting bookings all over the state.

Being back home in Carolina is a break from the fast pace Penn is used to. Penn is no small potatoes. She lived in LA for several years after getting a record contract with a label owned by Stevie Nicks. Before long Penn found herself busy working on movie sets and television shows both acting and writing music. She and her sister, Georgianna, both played background doctors on ‘“ER,’” a job that she says wasn’t as glamorous as you may expect but did yield a friendship with George Clooney who offered to help distribute a CD she was working on at the time.

Penn later moved to Nashville where she was courted by a writing and publishing company. There she had a studio in her home and found herself with more free time than she imagined she’d have, finding herself being able to be more creative and work on her music as she liked.

Over the past eight years Penn has had over 35 songs used in major network television shows, DVDs, internet soundtracks and feature films. Some film and television include Kicking and Screaming with Will Ferrell and Robert Duvall, ‘“Grey’s Anatomy,’” ‘“Laguna Beach’” and ‘“Dawson’s Creek.’” She is still constantly working on music for television and jingles for commercials.

So what’s she doing touring clubs now? Penn says she likes playing whether it’s for a group of 12 or a crowd of hundreds. There is no opportunity too small or too big, she says, and making new friends near home is also something that’s close to her heart right now.

‘“Angels Fly’” is an extremely well produced CD and was done by Penn and friend David Rhyne, who lives in Dallas, NC. The two are old friends who have played together off and on throughout life, and being closer to home also allows her more creative opportunity with Rhyne. In fact, the two are the only musicians on her new album. Penn sings and plays acoustic guitar, percussion, harmonica and piano and Rhyne plays acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums, percussion, mandolin, piano, strings, Wurlitzer and Hammond B3. These two are definitely talented.

Her powerful lyrics, refreshing voice and extreme musicianship give Penn a contemporary, rocking sound that some compare to Jewel, Michele Branch and Sheryl Crow. Don’t miss this hometown girl on Friday (Nov. 18) when she will be playing in Greensboro at the Next Door Tavern with a full band.

To comment on this article, email Lee Adams at lee@yesweekly.com.

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