The Bare Necessities:
An old soul in a 21st century body, Penn Johnson is a Barefoot Vandit spreading seeds of mindfulness through storytelling and song. Originally a Massachusetts native, he's been 150,000 miles since 2015. Penn has performed on festivals and shows with Nahko, Satsang, Iya Terra, Bumpin Uglies, Treehouse!, Wookiefoot, Sessions Americana, and Christina Holmes at festivals and events such as Project Earth, Frendly Gathering, The Women's March for Freedom, The March For Our Lives, South Florida Folk Festival, Soulshine, and Surrounded By The Sound. His sound is best described as danceable spoken word with poetic vocals and percussive strumming. His newest material sheds light into the dark forests of consciousness and illuminates a more harmonious life.
Penn in His Own Words:
Heyo, Penn here. I was born Spencer in a small town conservative suburb bubble northwest of Cape Cod oblivious to the struggles of the world, in the days of Babylon...
When I was young, I played in tree forts and ran around the neighborhood until it got dark. As I got older, I traded outdoor games for screen time and junk food, ignorant to how my impact was damaging the earth and my body. My senior year of high school, my direction began to shift. I fell in love with the Catcher in the Rye and started my first novel. In college, I joined a fraternity (and got kicked out), became a vegan, studied abroad in Australia (but that's a whole other story), encouraged my board of trustees to divest (they declined), and graduated with many stories, but no direction. I started playing guitar and writing songs, but a lot of the time they missed the mark.
Post-graduation, I was living in Massachusetts with my parents looking for a job. Before too long, a fellow activist called and said she was working in Pennsylvania with a small nonprofit. They had a budget for food and a place to stay. So I hopped in my car and took off for the shalefields of Montrose, Pennsylvania. In Montrose, I was thrown into disillusionment and the stories of former industry workers, farmers, landowners, and activists on polar opposites of the political spectrum inspired me to write music which later culminated in my first record For The Trees.
Sometime later, the name ’Penn’ was given me by a fellow songwriter I fell in love with who introduced me to Todd Snider's music. When I saw Todd play live, I knew I wanted to be a folksinger. Since then, I’ve had my life threatened, slept in beach thickets, and sang my heart out on street corners hoping for leftover food from strangers. I’ve been through it. Over 150,000 miles of it. With all the characters for a new-age Kerouac tale narrated by Hunter S. Thompson, edited by Kurt Vonnegut, with an introduction by The Dalai Llama.
After releasing my grip on an egoic version of who I thought I was and drinking myself into a pit, I found harmony through mindfulness, conscious community, and living a vegan minimalist vanlife. All of these seeds shifted my direction once more. Since I embraced meditative practices, I’ve unleashed a flowing channel of never-ending transmissions. Tens of thousands of pages, hundreds of songs, endless reflections (most of them unheard). I’m not big into flashing my talent. I’m a Scorpio with Scorpio Ascending and love my uninterrupted moonlit nights of reflection. I’ve been experimenting with tarot and astrology and consider myself a novice-in-training. But from what I keep learning, masters are just novices with more experience and the same level of frustration (they just hide it better).
It’s taken me a long time to get here, but every sign points forward. I’ve had groovy gigs and shit gigs and everything in between. I've had bands come together and fall apart. I've lost everything only to gain it all back. Every bit of it has helped me grow. My hope is to inspire others to let the wind take them wherever they're called. People seem to dig it. I sure do. I’m here to tell these stories and then take my leave. Whatcha do when I’m gone don’t much matter to me. See you around the fire.