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Nanaimo musician plays all instruments on DIY debut album

Jamie Penner releasing guitar-centric instrumental record ‘Out of Curiosity’
Nanaimo musician Jamie Penner is releasing his debut album, ‘Out of Curiosity,’ on Oct. 1. (Photo courtesy Mike Bonkowski)

Six months ago, as people were starting to self-isolate and “there was nothing else to do,” Jamie Penner challenged himself to write and record his first album. Next week that album comes out.

On Oct. 1 the Nanaimo-based musician releases Out of Curiosity, a CD featuring seven guitar-focused instrumentals. Penner plays all instruments – guitar, bass, drums and keyboards – and he recorded the compositions in his home.

“If you’d asked me a year ago if I was ever going to do a record, it wasn’t even on the radar,” he said.

Penner doesn’t read or write music and had to teach himself how to do the recording and producing. But what he lacked in experience he made up for with motivation. He said “one of my obsessions is to do things really too big.”

“A couple of years ago we decided to do some Christmas concerts and I put a band together with some guys I knew from town here and it turned into this ridiculously epic show. We did four nights of 12 Christmas carols in a full rock concert with lights and everything. So that’s just typically my thing,” he said. “This is what this turned into.”

Penner also had some guidance from his friend Al Harlow, longtime bassist and guitarist for ’70s Vancouver rock band Prism. He said he hung out in the studio for a day when they were recording their last album and “got a feel for how it happens.”

“I had a bit of mentorship from [Harlow] through the process and even at the end of it, when he offered to have a listen to the songs and give me a critique, I got an unbelievable review of all the songs,” he said.

Penner said the songs got easier to record as he started to figure everything out. But once the music was finished there was still work to do. He still had to design an album cover, acquire the licences for the cover songs and register to get his songs on iTunes.

“It became very consuming,” he said. “When I wasn’t doing my real-life job, this was basically what I was doing constantly.”

Penner describes Out of Curiosity as an “against-all-odds recording,” but once he challenged himself to make the record he knew he wouldn’t settle with “a couple of songs to listen to.”

“Now this thing’s got the full cover, I set up a publishing company … for all the royalty stuff, it’s going to be distributed digitally when it gets released Oct. 1, I got some CDs done up, we’re doing a pre-sale,” he said. “It’s just one of those things where if I’m going to do it, I’m going to make it look as big as possible.”

Out of Curiosity is available here.

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