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Q&A with NewSong Contest Finalist Count This Penny

October 14th, 2013

Count-this-penny1We are excited to have Count This Penny – a Madison, WI based singer-songwriter duo – as a 2013 NewSong Contest Finalist.  We caught up with them recently with a brief Q&A and get to know a little more about them.  Catch the full interview below and don’t miss their performance, along with the other 2013 Finalists, at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on October 19th.  

1. The relocation of Count This Penny to Madison, WI early in your musical career seems to have been an important moment. Was that decision completely music related? What is like to live and perform in a town with such a great local music scene?

We love living in Madison! We had the chance to try living somewhere different than our native state of Tennessee for a while, and we decided to go for it. And it became home to us terrifically quickly. We had no way of knowing what an awesome music community was here before we arrived. And it’s only gotten stronger in the time we’ve lived here.

There are great venues and promoters who embrace local music as well as bringing strong national and regional acts through town consistently. There are dozens of awesome local bands who collaborate constantly. You can find a good show every single night–and sometimes three or four in one night. Two weekends ago Shovels and Rope, Volcano Choir/Field Report, and The Vaccines were all playing in Madison the same night. It’s an embarrassment of riches for a city this size, thanks to some hardworking folks.

2. How would you describe your experience as a NewSong Contest Regional Finalist? What similarities and connections, if any, did you find between your music and the music of other artists in your region? To other finalists who will join you at the finals in New York in October?

Well…we’re all songwriters. Ha ha, just kidding. But not really — it’s easy to feel an immediate connection with anyone who cares about the craft of songwriting and who dedicates any amount of his or her time to building (or carving or whittling or engineering or reverse-engineering) a song. We’re thrilled by the opportunity to meet all these great writers and hear their perspectives on songwriting. We really hope we have time to have some conversations like that in New York, because we still have a lot to learn.

3. Smart Studios, where you recorded your first EP, has an incredibly rich history comprised of recordings by Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Fall Out Boy, Jimmy Eat World, etc. What are some of your favorite parts of this history? What does it mean to Count This Penny to have recorded there before the studio closed for good?

Honestly, if we had thought much about the storied past of Smart, we probably wouldn’t have wound up there–we’d have been too intimidated, or felt like we weren’t rock-n-roll enough. But the moment we walked in, and especially when we talked to our engineer, Mike Zirkel, we felt at home. He’s just the warmest, most supportive guy, and we loved him right away. Having said that, we also felt really cool sitting around the A-range while it was still there. Pretty badass. But you could be tons of places with an amazing history and still feel cold or out of place. We had great musicians join us on our record and a great engineer, and we were kind of pinching ourselves when we stopped to think about the music that was recorded and produced there long before we ever started playing.

4. Lincoln Center is widely renowned as one of the world’s greatest venues for the performing arts. With the NewSong Contest live performance finals taking place on Oct 19th, what does the opportunity to perform at Lincoln Center mean to you?

Oh man, you’re just trying to make us nervous now!


To learn more about Count This Penny, please visit their website: