Making It All Add Up

Independent artists! Let me introduce myself


30 something mother of two, making a comfortable living from home; creating music in garage whilst dressed exclusively in pajamas.

-Yep. That’s my life in a headline.

Headshot of Jess Penner

This blog for every wandering artist/dreamer trying to navigate the lonely and hostile desert we call “the music business”. Here, you’ll find tips and strategies I’ve used to become a self-supported artist. Ultimately, I want to empower and encourage anyone out there looking to do the same. Being an artist and entrepreneur can be hard and isolating at times, but if it’s IN you, nothing will be as rewarding as cutting your own path and birthing that dream.

Let me introduce myself

Hey! My name is Jess Penner. I am a mother of two, wife, producer, artist, and songwriter who has spent the last 20 years neck deep in the independent music industry. I’ve toured all over the world, released over a dozen records, and managed to land nearly 200 placements in TV shows, ads, movie trailers, and video games in the US and abroad (HUGE shoutout to my awesome licensing company Position Music). I’ve also worked as a “voice actor”, starred in a couple of commercials, and have had the privilege of custom composing and producing music for corporate clients including Disney. Music is my full time job, and I’m incredibly grateful to get to “make it all add up” from home with the help of my awesome hubster/drummer/producer/engineer/co-chicken herder, Kevin Penner.

A little backstory…

I was born on Kauai, HI to two very passionate and creative entrepreneurs. My parents spent my early years farming bananas on our home acreage in Kilauea.  With their love of folk and doo-wop, they instilled the love of music into me at a very young age. I have the warmest memories of mom cutting and packing bananas into brown paper boxes while songs from the oldies station wafted gently from her yellow pickup truck, and dad strumming Eagles tunes on his Guild Jumbo on our patio under the glittering Hawaiian sky. I got my start writing music around aged 7, making my first “records” on the family answering machine.

After a long unscrupulous affair with singing Whitney Houston songs at karaoke bars and losing many radio sponsored talent shows, jaded 11 year old me decided to quit singing and channel energy into learning Metallica solos.

picture of Jessica and Kevin Penner

Ahhhh so young and fresh… Kevin and I at 18

This ultimately proved to be a wise decision. At age 15, the rock band I was in got signed to a record company in Long Beach, CA. When I was 16 (and after some serious band drama), a quietly reserved and pink cheeked 17 year old Canadian metal drummer joined our band. It was love at first sight. Our bandmates not so affectionately re-named us “jessevin” and “kevessica”.

We were the original Bennifer of the 90’s Indie Christian Music scene… except that we were poor, and not at all famous. 

Fast forward 20 years, two kids, two home studios, and hundreds of songs later. We’ve managed to craft a life in music on our own terms from our Los Angeles-based home studio. While I write and work on my own projects, Kevin produces and engineers other artists. However, our main income comes from the music we make together.

Kevin and I have met so many people through all of our years in music. Many have asked the same questions about how we’ve managed to make a living this way. That’s why I wanted to start this blog, to share the little nuggets and strategies we’ve learned along the way. It’s all about empowerment and encouragement. Welcome to the fam.