When country musician Jeff Orrin picks up a pen to write a new song, his free hand is firm on the pulse of America.
Happily married and the father of four, Orrin's songs are about real life experiences, whether it's a soulful lament for his long-lost father, dreaming aloud with his wife over a cup of coffee, or reassuring his small son of his love. Without contriving, his songs speak to the heart and, when he performs, his songs ache with honesty. It's apparent he's standing on the shoulders of giants like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard with influences from neo-traditionalists Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson.
"My influences come primarily from real life happenings, whether they happen in my life or the lives of those around me," Orrin said. "I always said that my life would be a great novel because I experienced so much as a child. A lot of things happened to me at a young age ... such as losing a father at a young age, growing up with a stepfather, to growing up without a father in the home, marriage at a young age and having children. Just real life experiences."
Orrin, who lives in Jersey Shore, Pa., is married to Tonja Pennycoff. They have four children: Zachary, Matthew, J.T., and Anna, as well as an English bulldog and an orange Tiger cat. For Orrin, life in the Appalachian Mountains is sweet. He counts the day he met his wife and the birth of his children as the highlights of his life.
"I'm a father and I'm a husband first," Orrin said. "When I see our kids are doing well and representing themselves and us well, it really makes me proud." He is close to his children and spends most of his free time connecting with them, as well as other children, through sports. "I spend a lot of time as a mentor in our community coaching baseball and volunteering at the Y' coaching basketball," he said. "I'm very involved in junior high football and basketball. I like to give back to the community because, again, going back to growing up without a father, a lot of the adult role models in my life were coaches. There are so many kids out there that really need that and enjoy it."
Born Jeffrey Orrin Pennycoff in May 1967 in Williamsport, Pa., (Home of Little League Baseball), after high school he served four years active duty as a gas turbine mechanic with the Navy in Norfolk, Va. While in the military, Orrin found comfort in his guitar.
"I'm self-taught," he said. "I'm not the greatest guitar player. I'm just good enough I can play some chords. I spent a lot of years performing by myself and in front of my family. I'm a little shy about things. I started really getting serious about it at the age of 14. I played all throughout the Navy, with my buddies around the campfire. When I got out, I pursued it a bit more."
With support and encouragement from his wife, Tonja, Orrin began performing at local and regional venues. In 2001, as an opening act in Lock Haven, Pa., Orrin met country musician and soon-to-be record producer John Sines, Jr. Sines, cruising on the success of his hit single, "The Black #3" -- a tribute to the late Dale Earnhardt -- took notice of Orrin and later invited him to record a demo album in Nashville.
"The reason he picked me is because I had original music, original words and I sing. That's what he was looking for, what he was interested in," Orrin said. "The demo CD was a good experience. It was hard, a lot of work." While in Nashville, Orrin also performed at the famed Bluebird Cafe, an experience treasured by musicians worldwide.
Despite the attention and the success it brings, Orrin's priority is to keep his music heartfelt and honest. "I try to be true with all my songs -- they're from the heart. I don't like to just make up something that I haven't experienced because they become what I call Bubble-Gum Country," he said, adding, "I'd like to take this as far as I can and enjoy every minute of it. It's a very humbling business. I've learned to take rejection well."
More information is available on the Internet at www.JeffOrrin.com.
Jeff Orrin Latest Addition to OMAR Records
Jeff Orrin of Jersey Shore, PA, has signed with OMAR Records, releasing a four-song demo CD "Just You" in the spring 2002. Orrin, who writers and performs his own songs, caught the interest of OMAR Records President John Sines, Jr., who enjoyed modest success in 2001 with the Billboard hit single "The Black #3," a tribute to Dale Earnhardt. Sines met Orrin while headlining a show in Lock Haven, PA. Orrin opend the show.
Sines launched OMAR in response to the overwhelming amount of demo tapes and CDs he received from artists throughout the nation. "It just felt like the right thing to do, helping other people who are trying so hard to go forward in this business," Sines said. "Although it's hard enough for Haggard and Jones to radio play, what OMAR Records is doing, is helping each of our artists get pointed in a direction and focused on that direction."
OMAR, an anagram for Origianl Music and Artist Records, encompasses a variety of music from Country, to Top 40, pop, gospel and jazz. The requirements for the label are original singer/songwriters who perform their own muisic live and in the studio. "We want to focus on the true writer and performer-in-one," Sines said.
Questions and Answers
Full name: Jeffrey Orrin Pennycoff (Jeff Orrin)
City of residence: Jersey Shore, PA
Born where, when: Williamsport, PA, May 1967
Spouse: Tonja Pennycoff
General, high school, and military (Navy) four years active duty as a gas turbine mechanic out of Norfolk, VA
No formal education; I'm self-taught. I'm not the greatest guitar player, I'm just good enough I can play some chords.
Experience (when began performing, with, where):
I spent a lot of years performing by myself and in front of my family. I'm a little shy about things. I started really getting serious about it at the age of 14. I played all throughout the Navy, with my buddies around the campfire. When I got out, I pursued it a bit more.
My influences come primarily from real life happenings, whether they happen in my life or the lives of those around me. I always said that my life would be a great novel because I experienced so much as a child. Growing up, a lot of things happened to me at a young age. Real life experiences such as losing a father at a young age, growing up with a stepfather, to growing up without a father in the home, marriage at a young age and having children. Just real life experiences.
Talk about your album:
This is a demo CD from our first trip to Nashville. John Sines, who is a performer himself I had the privilege of opening for him. I gave him some of my information. About nine months later, he started a label. When he did that, I was the first person he picked. He had a couple thousand tapes in a box and he listened to it. The reason he picked me is because I had original music, original words and I sing. That's what he was looking for, what he was interested in. The demo CD was a good experience. It was hard, a lot of work.
What do you hope to accomplish?
To meet my potential to the fullest, whatever that may be. Always to remember why I did it. I love music, I love performing, and I love inspiring people with my songs and real life experiences.
On your album what is the one song you would consider your best work?
The last song on the demo CD is called "The Wish." It's the first song I wrote. As I said before, I lost my father at a young age -- the age of nine. It was right in the transition period where a young boy is going to leave his mother and spend more time with his father. To lose him at that age was really hard for me and I didn't get over a lot of years. When I was in the Navy I had a lot of spare time at night and I sat around with some other guys who played music and try to write some songs. I'd really have a hard time on Father's Days and his birthdays, so I decided I'd write this song. We started writing and put some music down. I put words to it and I cried. It really came from the heart and I never thought it would be a lot lot. Turns out it really inspired a lot of people. It's really touched children and adults who have experienced the same thing. It's funny, a lot of things I've experienced I'm able to express in song.
Is there any song you wish you could've done better?
The third song is a song I wrote to my son. It's called "I Know. Again, I was going through a tough time with my son not being able to tell him exactly what I want to tell him. The idea was I don't know a lot about science and I don't know a lot of reasons why the weather is the way it is, but what I know is that I love him and how much he means to me. I just wish I had a little more time to develop it.
Is there anyone you'd love to see work with you on your next album?
I could name a thousand. Merle Haggard has always been special to me. The ironic thing with Merle Haggard is, his birthday is my son's birthday.
What do you consider your writing process?
I just get an idea in my head. Like the other day we had an idea about divorce fathers who have kids and sometimes turn into a Good-Time Dad. The idea was the Good-Time Dad missing the good times. We just get an idea and we start writing down things that relate to that. My wife always helps me out with the words. She's pretty good at writing stories. She has a lot of feeling; I think a woman's touch really helps out with these songs. Really, I don't have a method to my madness.
Do you write that often?
I'm the father of four and working a fulltime job makes it a little hard.
Do you write songs for your own benefit or for the reaction you get from the fans?
I think a little of both. The song I wrote about my father was for my benefit and I never really intended for anybody to hear that song, but a lot of people like to hear it. I think the songs I write for myself or my wife and for the benefit of others who are dealing with the same problems.
How many songs have you lost because the idea came to you but you weren't someplace where you could dictate it?
Too numerous to mention. If you don't write it down, you'll forget about it. Just write it down on a receipt, a gum wrapper -- just the idea -- and take it back home with you.
What's the most honest song that you've ever written?
I try to be true with all my songs -- from the heart. I don't like to just make up something that I haven't experienced because they become what I call Bubble-Gum Country.
What song do you remember hearing that you identified with the most? A song that you feel you could have written?
Tim McGraw sang a song, "You're My Best Friend." It's a song about his wife.
Do you notice any similarities between your music and that anyone else?
Alan Jackson. I wrote a song as soon as 9/11 happened. It touched everybody on an emotional level that's hard to explain. Of course I turned to music right away to help heal. I also thought it would also help some people who were going through some times. About a week or two weeks after it happened I had a song completed and I recorded -- "In Love We Will Remain." It talks about the same things that Alan Jackson's. I'm a product of bad timing because Alan Jackson is well known and he's established. His song is out there and a great song it was, but mine talked about the same things.
If you looked in your CD player now, what kind of music might you see?
A little bit of everything especially because I have a young daughter, I have a couple of 'Nsync in there. I have some blues and gospel and a lot of country music. And '60s and '70s country music and I have top country music of today. I try to be open-minded about the styles of music out there.
What is the motivation that keeps you working?
My wife -- she keeps me working. She really pushes. What really keeps me going is my love for music. I do have a desire to make it. I can remember as a young boy watching "Hee Haw" with my father and just going to my room and pretending that I was actually there and I was gong to make it there someday. Make to the "Grand Ole Opry." That real drive to get on the stage and perform and feel the energy of the band play. It's real inspiring.
Was that one of the happier points of your life?
The day I met my wife. We just talked for hours and hours and hours. The birth of my children, being able to be there when your child does well in a sporting event, T-Ball.
Out of your whole life, what do you consider the highlight, the moment you are most proud of?
When I see our kids are doing well and representing themselves and us well, it really makes me proud.
What other parts are there to Jeff Orrin besides music?
I'm a father and I'm a husband first. I spend a lot of time as a mentor in our community for the last 10 years. Coaching baseball, volunteering at the Y coaching a basketball program there. Very involved in junior high football and basketball. I like to give back to the community because, again, going back to growing up without a father, a lot of the adult role models in my life were coaches. There are so many kids out there that really need that and enjoy it.
What are some of your interests and hobbies?
Coaching sports and music. What else is there? Camping, hiking, fishing and biking.
What are your future plans as of now?
Take this as far as I can take it. Enjoy every minute of it. It's a very humbling business; I've learned to take rejection well. As far as my talent will take me. The sky's the limit.
This site contains press materials, high- and low-resolution color artwork and MP3 music.
Questions? Contact Jeff Orrin.
Questions about this site? Contact TheOmnibus.org
Logo and design by Vortex Visuals
Actor: Kozmo Kramer (Seinfeld)
Car: 1978 Ford F150, 4-wheel drive
Childhood Pet: My first bulldog, Reggie
Christmas Gift: My first guitar at the age of seven
Clothes: Levi jeans
Food: Ice Cream
Guitar: Martin or Taylor
Movie: Old Dr. Seuss movies and old Christmas specials
Place to relax: Pine Creek Valley in front of a campfire with a guitar
Song: Contry Boy Can Survive
Self-penned song: The Wish
TV show: ESPN
Performers: Toby Keith, Garth Brooks, Merle Haggard, Rick Skaggs, Alan Jackson
Given name: Jeffery Orrin Pennycoff
Birthplace: Williamsport, PA
Hometown: Jersey Shore, PA
Hobbies: Yard work
Leisure activities: coaching jr. high football & basketball
Spouse: Tonja Pennycoff
Children: Zach, Matt, J.T., Anna
Physical: Brown hair, blue eyes, 6' tall
First performance: Family gatherings
Musical beginnings: At age 14
Pets: Christie (bulldog), Penny (cocker spaniel), Phyliss and Abercrombie (domestic cats)
He is member of NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International).
This summer Jeff received an award as runner-up for the True Value Country Show Down, at the Clearfield County fair in PA, (which had over 50 contestants).
Jeff is honored to have been ask to play his song (God Made Her mine), at the Special Olympics grand finale in the spring of 2002, in Lewistown, PA.
Jeff's latest song (We Will Remain) is dedicated to Americans, the victims and the families of the Sept. 11th tragedy.
Jeff feels privileged to be entertaining with inspirational/country music and enjoys singing, either at large gatherings or just sitting around with friends and family.
Check out the artist's website:
1. God Made Her Mine
2. You Never call Me By My Name (David Allen Coe)
3. Tell Him How I Feel
4. Folsom Prison (Johnny Cash)
5. Coffee and Dreams
6. Get Used To Being Wrong
7. We Will Remain (Dedicated to sept 11th victims)