Emerging singer/songwriter Penny Lane chats with Bob Gordon about her debut single, Lavender Dice, and the inspiration and memory of her late father, Richard Lane.
Young Fremantle musician/actor, Penny Lane, has just released her debut single, Lavender Dice. At 14 years of age that’s a remarkable achievement and is testament to the young singer/songwriter’s creativity, confidence and the belief of all those around her.
It’s also much more than that. It’s proof that out of tragedy, love and legacy can live on. Penny’s father, renowned Australian musician Richard Lane of The Stems, The Rosebuds and more, took his own life during the worst of Perth’s Covid-19 isolation in May 2020 when she was just 11 years old. It was a shock to the music community who regarded him as a beloved icon and friend.
For Penny and her mother Cathy Gavranich, the lights had dimmed, and their hearts were broken.
Fortunately, music and sharing and caring had been hallmarks in Penny’s life ‘til then and they continue to be so. When she was eight months old Richard and Cathy established Penny Lane’s Music Workshop in Fremantle and created a community around teaching music, especially to kids. It wasn’t merely about chords, charts and scales, however, but the joy of music for all.
A multi-instrumentalist, Penny has grown up in the heart of this, learning all she can and living her best creative life.
“Growing up inside our music school and being home-schooled has meant that I have been able to spend a lot of my time learning music,” she says. “I ended up having lessons in every instrument that we’ve ever taught at Penny Lane’s. I play piano, drums, guitar, bass, ukulele, violin, cello, flute, saxophone and clarinet. I don’t have one favourite, but the instruments I most enjoy playing are piano, guitar, drums and flute.”
Penny can’t quite recall when she first became a songwriter per se, because writing and creating in all sorts of forms has been a cornerstone of her life for as long as she can remember.
“I was raised making up songs and verses with my parents every day,” she notes, so it’s hard to say when I went from making up simple verses with them to writing a full song myself, but I do remember writing a full song on piano at six-years-old.
“I mostly write with my friends that I have a band with and we really work together well. Once we get started we just bounce off each other and write about all sorts of things so it’s hard to pin it down. I also hope to release a song with my band soon.”
Penny’s debut single, Lavender Dice, is a slow-burning, keyboard-led song reminiscent of the likes of London Grammar, Sarah Blasko or Fiona Apple, with an accordion-like counter melody that renders it also somewhat Parisian.
‘Awkward mirror memories shine
As we dance around this painful clock of time’
“Lavender Dice was written very differently from the rest of my songs because I decided that I wanted to write the lyrics before the music this time,” Penny explains. “I wasn’t sure where to start so I had this idea to ask people around the music school to give me random words to work with. I put these words together in a way that was meaningful to me and I hope that they can create personal meaning for everyone who listens to the song.
“I turned the words into images and feelings that I can relate to or have felt at different times in my life.”
Lavender Dice was recorded with the assistance of father and son team, Shaun and Adrian Hoffmann. Shaun was one of Richard Lane’s oldest friends, and his band No Flowers No Wedding Dress released music via Lane’s Idaho Records label in the ‘90s. Adrian is Richard’s Godson and Penny’s Godfather.
“So there was a lot of love in the room,” explains Cathy. “It’s been a sensitive process as Penny stepped into the spaces that her Daddy occupied and created in with the people he recorded his music with, using the gear he used. She even wore some of his clothes, which she often does as a comfort thing to feel close to him.
“Penny took to the recording process like a pro, and it was beautiful to watch her gently unfold all the gifts her Daddy gave her. There was healing in this process, and we felt Richard all around us.”
Recording with Shaun Hoffmann
For Penny it clearly means the world to be recording her own music now with the tools – both creative and technical – that Richard gifted her. The emotional connection to the Hoffmanns only amplified this.
“I feel like it’s helping me to stay connected to my Dad,” Penny explains. “Recording this song using the same gear that he used to record his music has been really emotional for me, in a good way. It feels right to be doing this and like my Dad is watching over me.
“It was great to work with Shaun and Adrian. They are the people that my Dad recorded with for so many years. Because it was my first time recording it was great to be with people I have known my whole life and am so comfortable with.”
For Adrian Hoffmann, who has emerged as a respected singer/songwriter over the last decade, the experience of working on Penny’s debut song release was profound.
“I’ve had the privilege of knowing Penny since the day she was born,” he says. “It has been an honour to witness her artistic journey and see her become the exceptional and multi-talented artist she is today.
“Penny grew up in a music-filled environment thanks to her parents. Surrounded by music lessons, she absorbed melodies, rhythms, and lyrics like a sponge. That rich musical upbringing shines through in Lavender Dice… her raw, indie charm and clever chord progressions come together perfectly.
“Despite the heartbreaking loss of Richard in 2020 when she was just 11 years-old, Penny has shown unwavering courage and determination to pursue her dreams. Knowing Richard as well as I did, I know he would be immensely proud of her, both as an artist and as the wonderful person she has become.”
Penny also studies drama and the single release is the last leg of a GoFundMe campaign created to help her travel to Universal Studios in Los Angeles to participate in an acting course and industry showcase event for young actors and musicians. Once there she will be joining a group of just 100 performers who have been chosen from thousands of applicants to attend. For her part, Penny has been teaching music to kids up to the age of six as well as busking in Fremantle and crocheting earrings to sell in order to raise money.
The preparation for the course has also been demanding.
“It has been a combination of online classes, rehearsals and auditions that I have been doing since October last year,” Penny says. “I’m just finishing off a five-week bootcamp to prepare for the event in LA which is five days of workshops, classes and interviews with agents, managers and casting directors from all over the world.
“I am really excited to be able to take part and to have the chance to step outside of the familiar world I know in Fremantle to learn more about how the international film industry works. I hope to get signed by an agent or manager and to start auditioning for some roles and to be able to go as far as I can in the industry, and that this trip to America can help me learn how to be the best actor I can be.
“I’m especially looking forward to the classes and to meeting the friends I have made from all over the world over the past nine months. I have a scene partner from Hawaii that I have been writing and rehearsing with and I am so excited to perform together in person. I have been writing all my own monologues and scenes and I really enjoy that part of it. I plan to keep up with all that I have been doing and learning and to continue working with the friends I have made through this experience.”
Penny also plans to record and release the songs she has written with her band, noting that the release of Lavender Dice has helped her grow in confidence across the board.
Richard, Cathy and Penny in 2019
Throughout all of this and forever as well, Penny thinks of Richard and feels his guiding hand and warmth. He helped so many reach their creative potential during his life, it is destiny that he would do so for his beloved daughter in hers.
“I think about the way he would always make me smile, no matter what was happening around me,” Penny reflects, “about how we would play music together every single day and how much fun we had together.
“I miss him so much. It’s hard to find words to describe the mix of memories and feelings, but mostly I feel his love all the time.”
Lavender Dice is available to purchase at richardlanerosebud.bandcamp.com/track/lavender-dice
Penny’s GoFundMe page is at gofund.me/ea603d91