Penn Ultimate

You’ve heard Vaughan Penn,
whether you knew it or not

Perhaps it was preordained or simply a genetic predisposition, but when George and Dixie Penn had their firstborn, she was destined to be involved in music. The couple had formed a jazz orchestra about the time they were married, and before long, baby girl Vaughan came along. By age 3 she was already singing in church and at family get-togethers. Her parents bought her a guitar at 14 and in no time she was not only playing it but writing songs with it, as well.

“They’ve probably been inspiring me even before I was born,” says Penn with a hearty laugh. “My mom taught me how to sing and my dad taught me all about harmony. They’ve always encouraged me, so I really don’t know what else I would’ve done.”

But they also stressed education (you know, in case that “music thing” didn’t work out), so Penn earned a degree from Appalachian State, before leaving her hometown of Madison for the bright lights and big city of Los Angeles.

It seemed at first that the homegrown musician was on the fast track to fame and fortune as she landed an indie deal with Stevie Nicks’s solo label, Modern Records. But before the album was finished, the label lost its distribution deal with Atlantic, and the project was shelved.

“The silver lining was that I was able to make all these connections not only in the music business but in the movie and TV industry, and that opened a lot of doors,” Penn recalls. “I began to realize that writing songs for movies and television was a possibility, but they all said, ‘Come back when you have a CD.’”

So she formed her own record label, Meepers Music, recorded a CD, and began shopping it around. She soon had her first placement, for the NBC series Providence, which set in motion an unabated string of more than 150 TV placements (most recently one for Oprah’s Hero Effect series) and over a dozen cuts for movies.

All the while Penn’s been recording and touring. She moved back to N.C. and co-owns Traffic Sound Studio in Charlotte where she is currently working on her eighth release, titled Acoustic Detour. She tours both nationally and locally, including a stop at Lucky 32 October 24 and the O.Henry Ballroom (with the Penn Family Band sitting in) November 4.

“I’ve been richly blessed,” she says modestly. “I give it all to God and ask that I be a worthy messenger.”  OH

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— Ogi Overman

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