A Conversation with Penny Roox

Forever daydreaming and inspired by Nostalgia, Netherlands-based artist, Penny Roox‘s latest single, “Mean” is an insightful new track that transports its listeners back in time. Through its sultry, vintage sound, Roox’s song serves as a portal to music from the 1960s but also to times when wishing for the better kind of person used to exist.

Moved by the “thrill of rejection,” the artist – who takes her stage name from her grandmother – uses her edgy, alluring voice to give audiences a glimpse of the past. Influenced by the likes of Elvis Presley, Joni Mitchell, and Chet Atkins, Roox’s old-soul jazziness that’s evident on “Mean” gives modern-day music the individuality it needs. Soulful guitars and easy-going melodies juxtapose the song’s message. “Why I keep my heart closed like clenched fists? / Don’t try to scare me away with this flame that can’t exist,” she sings wondering why it should be such a task to find forgiving, everlasting love.

Luckily, however, the song isn’t simply a track of agony. In a conversation that showed exactly what it means for the artist to “find beauty in tragedy,” Penny Roox spoke with The See Through to discuss the meaning behind her song, the inspirations for her writing process, and the secret story behind the single’s compelling cover art below.

What’s the story behind your latest single?
“Mean” was written after a night out with my best friend. In the morning she asked me, sighing, “Why do I always fall for the dickheads and never for the nice guys? Why can’t I fancy just a decent guy?!” The next day, I hit the studio with my band and the conversation popped back into my head, so I decided to write a song about the thrill of rejection. 

Where did you come up with the vintage sound for this song?
I don’t know, but the “past” always comforted me. Growing up, my mom and stepdad had an antique shop and our whole house was decorated with old, dusty stuff for the boutique. These things told a story. They breathe tales and stories. I have a weird thing for old photographs of people I don’t know, so as a teenager my whole bedroom wall was covered with pictures from the 60’s, from wedding pictures from people I didn’t know, or someone else’s grandmother. Now, I still have a large picture of someone’s dog in my house. It gives comfort.

Can you explain what the cover art for “Mean” symbolizes?
The cover art of “Mean” is actually a photograph of people I do know – It’s my grandmother scowling at my grandfather back in the 70’s. She was mad at him for waking her up, but as you look closely you see he’s holding a cup of coffee. So it was a gesture of love, rudely rejected! The picture fit the story of the song perfectly. My grandmother’s maiden name was Roox, which I use as my artist name so things have come full circle.

When did you know that you wanted to be a musician?
As a kid, I was always so deeply moved by music. I remember I got my own CD player when I was six or something, and I would listen to all the CDs from my parents. Jacques Brèl, Prince, Nirvana.. For hours and hours, I made up full shows with compilations of all the CDs. When I was eight years old, I joined the local church choir and I never stopped singing since. I never felt like I should be doing something else and become a nurse, teacher, or something.. It was pretty self-evident I was going to be a singer when I was growing up.

You seem to be a very eloquent and poetic person, whether it’s through your lyrics or through a simple caption on social media. Does poetry inspire your creativity at all and if so, do you have a favorite poem?
Poetry does inspire me, but actually any form of ‘words’ does. A conversation in real life or in a movie, a storyline from a tv show.. One of my songs is inspired by an old Hollywood movie with Marilyn Monroe – Niagara. I wrote a song from the perspective of her character. 

Who are a few artists that influence your sound?
Obviously music from the 60s inspired me to write music for Penny Roox. I am desperately in love with Elvis Presley, French yé yé pop and Chet Atkins. My favorite songwriters right now are Alex Turner, Joni Mitchell, and Molly Burch.  

Why is music important to you?
Right now, we all need something to keep us sane. Music keeps me sane. It’s my escape, my way of communicating, my forever love. There is no better feeling than being moved by a song. The moment music crawls under your skin. 

What can you tell us about your upcoming music?
During lockdown, which has been reality for over a year now, I got the time to write as much as I could, especially with all the time I got on my hands because I didn’t perform. People who like the energy of “Mean” won’t be disappointed with the upcoming music, I think – and there will be a lot of new music. That’s all I can say for now! 

What do you hope your fans or audience takes away after listening to your songs?
I hope me and my lyrics can be their voice to speak out where they couldn’t find the words to before. I hope to bring some comfort, or offer them a little getaway in Penny’s dreamworld.

Mean” is out now and available for streaming on all music platforms.

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Photography by Satellite June