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Let’s Get to Know 'Melodic Mama' Kendra Penland

Local Music Makers

In my opinion, music found Kendra Penland, instead of the other way around. She’s spent years nurturing her talent rather than forcing it on people and as a result, her fan base has grown and continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

Her singing voice is deep, emotive, tinged with just enough rasp to draw us in with a sigh. She understands what each song deserves and as she explores how she can bring feelings to the surface, we respond in kind.

Because of our mutually busy schedules, the most convenient way to conduct the interview was for me to send her some questions that she answers in her own words herein.

Let’s get to know Kendra Penland, shall we?

Where were you born and raised? I was born in Charlotte, NC, adopted as an infant. I was raised primarily in Farmington, NC, and I have a younger brother who was also adopted.

What were your interests as a kid and who did you want to grow up to be? I was into fashion design and would sew clothing lines for my Barbies. I rode horses, played soccer and tennis, and I recorded myself singing with my boom box.

Did you do anything musical in grade school or high school? I was in chorus and was in some musicals, but I never thought it would be my career.

When and how did you decide to start gigging and booking shows for yourself? I was working in restaurants when I was 19 and 20 and inevitably after shifts I would end up at a house party where someone was playing music and I might sing. I never thought much about it until a friend who owned one of the places where I worked passed away. I was asked to sing at his memorial. A couple of music venue owners were at the service and suggested I put together a band and they said if I did, they’d book me.

How did you meet/find your current band mates? I met guitarist Jeff Mooney and bassist James Fisher at LEAF, and I met drummer David Ackley at Ginger’s Revenge. We’ve been playing together for seven years. I love playing with them; they’re like family to me.

How would you describe your sound? It’s an eclectic mix, everything from obscure Indie to Jazz, Blues, Soul, Country, Yacht Rock, murder ballads.

How did you come up with the band name, “Melodic AF?” I used it in an offhand, descriptive, sarcastic comment before we became an actual band and it stuck!

Tell us about your kids...I have 2 sons, Clem and Vaughn. They’re both really cool humans. Clem is a talented musician, a painter who has sold multiple pieces, and he’s a published writer who has released some fantastic songs. Vaughn has an authentic, candid and thoughtful way of moving through the world. He loves the outdoors and just started guitar lessons. They’re kind, smart, and hilarious. I’m incredibly proud of them.

What is it about performing/writing/singing that keeps you seeking opportunities to do so? I love the connection with fellow musicians as we help to create an enjoyable vibe for the audience. Playing and writing music is therapy for me. I love telling a story musically that others can connect with through melody and lyric.

You’ve got a weekly Thursday residency at the Root Bar in East Asheville called “Kendra & Friends.” How did that start? I’ve been bartending, playing music and hanging out there for years. At the end of 2022, Cori, the music booker, asked if my band wanted to play weekly through the winter to lure folks in during the slow season. Since my guys are pretty busy, I thought it would be cool for me to host and invite other musicians from every genre to join me each week, saving one week per month for the band and me to play. I also wanted to structure it differently than other residencies, where I sit in with my guests, and let them drive the set lists.

How do you decide who to invite? I pick a mix of musicians with different styles. Some I have played with many times, some never. Some of them are more well-known, and some less so, but everyone I book is incredibly talented.

Who’s on your calendar in the coming months? I’ll have Owen Walsh, Free Champaign, Allen Dale Sizemore, Dan Johnston, Mikal Oliver, Anuraag Pendyal, The Hail Bop Group and of course, Melodic AF.

Describe your favorite moment on stage so far and why? It has to be the week the band and I played one of my originals. It’s a song I wrote about my paternal Granny. My parents were there and I remember I lost it because when we finished, my dad gave me a standing ovation.

Other than your regular Thursdays at The Root Bar and your guest spot with me at the Invitational Blues Showcase at One World West on March 2nd, what other performances are on your calendar? Melodic AF is booked the first Fridays of each month, 9 to midnight at the Town Pump in Black Mountain.

Kendra is excited to be releasing her first original album this year too, where she’s been exploring for the first time, co-writing and collaborating with other artists.

Her warm, captivating, gregarious demeanor glows on and off the stage. A quintessential song interpreter, her magic enchants the listener. With a big, loving personality, Kendra takes advantage of the band breaks by greeting everyone in attendance, thanking them for coming and making sure everyone is having a good time. And we so are!

Follow Kendra on Facebook and Instagram:

Peggy’s March performance dates:

Sat Mar 2nd - One World West Invitational Blues Showcase featuring Kendra Penland and Patrick Locket, 4pm-7pm

Thurs Mar 7th – River Arts District Brewing Company with Kelly Jones and Aaron Price, 6pm-8pm

Fri Mar 8th – Mills River Brewing with Kelly Jones and Quinn Sternberg, 6:30pm-9:30pm

Sat Mar 9th – Connestee Falls Blue Ridge Lounge,

Brevard, NC 7pm-9pm

Sat Mar 16th – The Buzz, Hendersonville, NC with

Bill Loftus & Charlie Wilkinson, 6pm-8pm

Thurs Mar 21st – River Arts District Brewing Company with Kelly Jones, Ruthie & Andy Hunter, 6pm-8pm

Sat Mar 30th – Sierra Nevada Brewing, Mills River NC Peggy Ratusz & Daddy LongLegs Blues & Dance Band


Sun Mar 31st – Easter Sunday Funday with Adam Rose and Bob Songster, 4pm-7pm

picture of peggy

Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach,

song interpreter, and songwriter.

For vocal coaching email her at


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