The Bare Necessities:
Penn Johnson is raising vibrations by weaving mysterious virtue through lyrical storytelling. With a deep reverence for nature and mind/body meditation, he travels across the US living a minimalist plant-based vanlife performing intimate campfire concerts and playing live music for yoga amidst other gigs and spontaneous destination hunting. Traveling well over 100,000 miles in the last year alone, Penn has shared the stage with Desert Dwellers, Bumpin Uglies, Nathan Feinstein (Iya Terra), Treehouse!, Joey Harkum (Pasadena), Sessions Americana, and One Tribe Movement at events such as The Women's March for Freedom, The March For Our Lives, South Florida Folk Festival, and The March Against Monsanto.
Penn's sound is best described as danceable spoken word with poetic vocals and percussive strumming. His sophomore record Experiencing Turbulence includes songs like 'Another Year,' an anthem about 'opening our minds to forgiveness' and 'Not Here To Argue,' explaining Penn is here to tell stories and 'then take his leave.' Penn's newest unreleased material is a spiritual sage-bomb shedding light into the dark forests of consciousness and illuminating a more harmonious life. His highly-anticipated new single 'Together We Rise' is coming soon.
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. As the first song of my sophomore record Experiencing Turbulence says: ‘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.
Nurture the darkness of your soul
until you become whole.
Can you do this and not fail?
Can you focus your life-breath until you become
supple as a newborn child?
While you cleanse your inner vision
will you be found without fault?
Can you love people and lead them
without forcing your will on them?
When Heaven gives and takes away
can you be content with the outcome?
When you understand all things
can you step back from your own understanding?
Giving birth and nourishing,
making without possessing,
expecting nothing in return.
To grow, yet not to control:
This is the mysterious virtue.
"The Tao gives birth to all of creation.
The virtue of Tao in nature nurtures them,
and their family give them their form.
Their environment then shapes them into completion.
That is why every creature honors the Tao and its virtue.
No one tells them to honor the Tao and its virtue,
it happens all by itself.
So the Tao gives them birth,
and its virtue cultivates them,
cares for them,
gives them a place of refuge and peace,
helps them to grow and shelters them.
It gives them life without wanting to posses them,
and cares for them expecting nothing in return.
It is their master, but it does not seek to dominate them.
This is called the dark and mysterious virtue."
The ancient Masters
who understood the way of the Tao,
did not educate people, but made them forget.
Smart people are difficult to guide,
because they think they are too clever.
To use cleverness to rule a country,
is to lead the country to ruin.
To avoid cleverness in ruling a country,
is to lead the country to prosperity.
Knowing the two alternatives is a pattern.
Remaining aware of the pattern is a virtue.
This dark and mysterious virtue is profound.
It is opposite our natural inclination,
but leads to harmony with the heavens.