Not in it for the pennies

Not in it for the pennies
Not in it for the pennies
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Allen1Count This Penny, Allen and Amanda Rigell, take their name from an episode of Sesame Street, which is a bit ironic given the “sad” nature of most of their original songs. Amanda says the sad songs speak to her, are cathartic and come to her when she needs them. “A friend of mine calls it wallowing music,” laughs Amanda, who has a great sense of comedy and humor judging by their performance Friday night at JAMinc’s last show until September.


Allen, a psychologist by day, feels that sad songs get more directly to emotions. “Music is the thing that can take you to emotion quicker than anything else. For some reason, sad songs can do it even quicker.” The duo’s songs definitely get to your emotions, but are presented with stories of humorous commentary. Their on-stage interaction is natural and honest.


Amanda and Allen have been married and playing together together for the last 10 years, forming Count This Penny in 2009, when they disconnected their cable TV and decided to fill their days creating music. Both sing and trade off acoustic guitar and electric bass between songs.



Amanda1Amanda and Allen have also learned that not every chance to play is suited for their music. Allen remembers a particularly painful bridal fair gig, “We learned a difficult lesson at a bridal show…it was one of our first gigs. Our set was probably sadder than what we played tonight. As we played, we realized this is a horrible fit!”  Amanda added, “Every song was a break-up song.”


As a duo they’re not suited, by their own admission, to large venues. Playing In Your Ear’s acoustically perfect Studio A “was a dream” said Amanda, who explains they “saw a new reality back in January.” They played a festival putting 38 groups in small rooms where a song’s craft was paid attention to. “Once we experienced that we thought “Oh, that’s how it can be sometimes.” They say connecting with an audience is a special skill they are still working on.  Judging by the audience’s response Friday night, I’d say they’ve figured it out.


Neither says the idea of “making it” is what motivates them. “I’ve stopped getting wrapped up in that…it’s a tidal wave,” says Allen. Amanda explained it’s become more personal for her, “For me it’s more about finding the discipline to write consistently and have the time to write enough that I can then pair them down to “the good ones”.


They played on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and Keillor gave Amanda a piece advice, “I don’t think you should ever write a song for anyone but yourself.” It made Amanda think, “Is he telling me not to do my songs in public (after just being on his national radio show) or is it just life advice?” Hopefully they’ll just continue doing their self-described “Appalachian pop” well into the future.


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