Paxton Pennington is a singer-songwriter born and raised in Oklahoma. He recently released his newest single after putting out two other EPs. Pennington studies entrepreneurship and finance at OU, and he’s excited and nervous to see what happens with his musical career after he graduates in May.
Pennington has played guitar since he was eight years old, but it’s only been within the past few years that he’s gotten into songwriting.
“I got to the realization that, if I’m going to continue to play guitar, nobody’s going to want to come listen to me jam for a few hours, so I’ve slowly but surely gotten myself into the songwriting world, but guitar will always be my true passion.”
Pennington recorded his first EP “Try Me On” at Lunar Manor Recordings during his senior year of high school. He continued to play in small venues like the Deli in Norman, and he eventually booked Norman Music Festival.
Below – Pennington performs “Where I’m Going” at the Deli in Norman in April 2018
A few years later, he received an email from Brine Webb at Lunar Manor Recordings saying he wanted to “keep it rollin,” so he recorded another EP last August called “Open Sea” and branched out with a new sound with a full band. In September, he put out his most recent single “Smoke Rings.”
Pennington has worked with several local musicians to make his newest music. With the most recent EP, Kyle Reid played pedal steel and Brine Webb played bass. For the new single, Kendrick McKinney played keys, and Pennington was able to record a horn section due to some help from Jack Morrison, a Junior at OU, who Pennington met through his freshman year roommate.
“We were chatting one day after class, and he was like ‘hey I know this guy who plays saxophone, and he’s absolutely incredible. I’d love for you to meet him,’” he said.
Pennington and Morrison met up, not thinking anything would come of it. Pennington handed him a copy of his EP that he happened to have in his backpack. Morrison was on board, so they worked on some music together in the studio.
Pennington handed him the guitar pieces he had written for himself on “Smoke Rings” and asked Morrison to play it with him. He ended up getting rid of his guitar part because he loved the saxophone so much.
“It just sounded so much better with him doing it that I axed myself from it,” Pennington said. “And I think it just adds an interesting new element to the song, a new texture.”
As much as he loves to perform live, Pennington said he would record all the time if he had the budget.
Pennington’s influences shine through more on his more recent music because there’s more of a full-band sound with acoustic and electronic influences, and there’s still those singer/songwriter roots.
He said what makes his music different than what you hear on the radio is that a lot of his influences are from the ‘60s or ‘70s like Neil Young, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix. But there’s also some modern influence like John Mayer. He also said he tries to stray away from the traditional indie-pop sound by adding different elements.
“The best way I think I can put the music into words, at least with the most recent stuff, is driving down the highway at night, alone in your car with the radio much more loud than it probably should be and just really rockin out and enjoying yourself on the way home after who knows what you’ve been doin’,” Pennington said.
He said this image came to mind because that’s how he felt while listening to the Black Keys “El Camino” when he looked down and realized he was driving 20 miles over the speed limit.
As far as live shows go, Pennington said the performances are a lot more energetic than the recordings, and he often includes covers in the set from someone like Hendrix or The Doors.
“If someone is going to spend their time seeing us perform, they could be doing anything else, I want to make sure they have a really good time,” he said. “By playing with a seven-piece band with guitar solos and a full drum kit, there’s a lot of different elements, and I think it makes it more interesting, louder, and more entertaining for someone to come check out.”
Moving forward, Pennington said he’s been feeling inspired by going to local shows, and he’s excited to see where his life will go next.
“More recently, trying to legitimize myself as a performer, I try to go to a ton of concerts whenever I can,” he said. “It’s inspiring to see a live band giving everything they’ve got whether it’s an empty room or a packed arena. As musician myself, I’ve always been appreciative of that. I’m not in it for the money. It’s just fun. We get together with friends we know and love and just see what happens.”
Pennington will close a chapter in his life soon by graduating college in May, and he isn’t sure what the future holds, but he knows he wants to do more recording soon.
“It’s kind of frightening and exciting to see what’s going to happen next, whether or not I continue to pursue this in Oklahoma or whether I get out of my comfort zone and move on for a while to a new market or a new city,” he said. “Those are all decisions that I have to make in the next few months. No matter where I go, music is always going to be something I pursue. We’ll see what happens with it.”