Penny And Sparrow Are Much More Than A Simon And Garfunkel Cover Band

Penny & Sparrow is a duo featuring guitarist and singer Kyle Jahnke & singer Andy Baxter. Neither are nicknamed Penny nor Sparrow, so how did they come to be called Penny & Sparrow? Jahnke and Baxter were roommates at college. They started playing free music as entertainment for themselves & other students in 2011. They never bothered with a name.

According to Jahnke and Baxter, they would give the group ad hoc names, often derived from sports teams. One week they would be Utah Jazz, the next Dallas Cowboys. I’ll get back to origins of the name Penny & Sparrow in a minute, after a taste of their music. Simon and Garfunkel were one of the duo’s formative influences. Here is the Boxer:

With their harmonious voices and folk duo format, Penny & Sparrow have long been compared to Simon and Garfunkel. While the band cites more contemporary artists including Damien Rice, Ryan Adams, The Swell Season, Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, & Mumford as influences, the duo admit that there is no getting around the Simon and Garfunkel association. The World Café has said Penny & Sparrow “steadily built a sound as attentive to detail as Simon & Garfunkel and as open to the present day as Bon Iver,”

In their own words, the duo says: “There was clearly some similarity to Simon & Garfunkel. We acquired other influences, but to say we weren’t influenced by Simon & Garfunkel would be a lie. The fact that they were one of the first guitar-vocal duos is not a small thing.” Nonetheless it would be wrong to pigeon-hole as a Simon and Garfunkel cover band. The duo write many of their own songs & their records often feature modern textures and production. These are tracks from from their new LP:

It is immediately notable that for this album, Olly Olly (2022) the duo have opted for a bigger, richer sound, sometimes with a full band. For the opening track of Olly Olly, Over-Under-Lude, they even feature Houston, Texas rapper Tobe Nwigwe on a verse. Unfortunately this song isn’t on the above video, and there is no proper video made for it, but I’ll link the song at the end anyway. It’s an interesting addition to Penny & Sparrow’s catalogue which now features six studio albums.

Going back to the band’s name. When the college roommates were pressed by their friend to come up with a more permanent name for their duo, Jahnke and Baxter had a third roommate who used Penny & Sparrow as a pseudonym for his writing. They borrowed the name for the band and it stuck. I can find no reference to how the roommate felt about the adoption of his pen name, but I have read that he continues to contribute to blogs under that name.

One of the interesting facets of Penny & Sparrow is the story of how their music and touring have literally opened up their lives. On the website of their management company, Missing Pieces, the duo has explained that they grew up in the US South, where “the straight white Evangelical Christian male perspective is, if not the only, then the most correct view.

Touring was what really got us outside of that bubble we grew up in. We met so many people on the road whose lives were so different from ours.” Here is Over-Under-Lude (feat. Tobe Nwigwe)

If you would like to see more from Penny & Sparrow, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel or follow them on Facebook or Instagram. You can also visit their official website for more information.

Please be aware of people impersonating The Music Man. Click here to see our brands so you know who to trust.