Premiere: Penelope’s Dreamy Music Video for ‘Drive’

V chatted with the artist about her creative process, inspiration, and driving around Los Angeles.

Penelope may be just 23 years old, but she considers herself an old soul. The New York-born and Los Angeles-based songstress grew up listening to artists such as Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks, which inspired her to pick up on the piano and, subsequently, the guitar. By grade school, she was already singing a solo performance in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Music wasn’t Penelope’s main focus for a while, though. She occupied most of her free time with another passion: soccer. She was even recruited to Stanford’s team, but things went sideways after she suffered an injury on her wrist that required her to undergo surgery. As a way of coping, she wrote melancholy songs. Encouraged by her friends, she decided to invest in her music career.  

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Her intimate – yet very relatable – lyrics draw inspiration from personal experience and also from 1990s music, a combination that results in a minimalist but powerful collection of indie-pop tracks. In “Drive,” she sings about contemplating her life choices and her personality while taking on one of her favorite activities – driving. 

Penelope talked to us about the process of writing her newest song, the story behind the music video, and what is her favorite music to listen to when she’s behind the wheel. 

In your lyrics for “Drive,” you mention the other person’s distaste for “ketchup with fries” and love for “Charlotte’s Web” when they were a kid – these sound like very specific examples. How much of this song was inspired by a real-life situation?

Basically everything I write is inspired by a real-life situation or experience. I try to make details as specific as possible so that the songs are personal and vulnerable. All of my favorite artists do that and make me feel like I’m really involved in the intimate details of their lives, so I definitely try to do that as much as possible in my writing.

What else inspired you to write this song?

I wrote this song during my senior year of college just fooling around in my room with a new loop pedal I bought that day. It started out as a simple guitar loop to practice guitar soloing over but soon enough, words flew out and it became a full-blown song. At the time, I had a lot going on in my head with college wrapping up and I was going on drives almost every night just to clear my mind. So I wrote about my love of that, and how I’d much rather get in the car and drive than confront whatever I was dealing with.

What is your songwriting process like? What comes first – the melody or the lyrics?

For this track specifically, the melody came first. I remember humming along to the sound of the guitars and coming up with that first line – “I’m running from the love I hope to find” – and thinking about how great I am at running away from things. It didn’t take long for the rest of the lyrics to fall into place after that. But for the most part, my process depends on the song. Sometimes, I’ll be walking and think of a great lyric and write it down immediately so I can then build a song around it. Other times, I sing a melody into my voice notes and mumble some words that I can mold into a lyric. I let the process be driven mostly by the emotions I’m feeling and then follow whatever expression of them (sonic or lyrical) comes out first. 

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

What was it like to shoot the video for “Drive”? 

It was honestly such a blast. Israel [Riqueros] is an incredible director and the team involved was just phenomenal. The way they transformed the stationary car in a studio into a high-speed highway shot blew my mind. It was also a special experience for me because I got to involve two of my oldest friends from my competitive soccer days – one was my body double and the other kindly lent us her car. It was awesome to see my two worlds collide.

Is there a special symbolism behind having two different Penelopes in the video?

Definitely! The song is about choosing silence over confession, running away instead of facing something head-on. And so the video is the visualization of that conversation in my head. Will I be shy and hide behind the wheel? Or just say fuck it and ride on the hood of the car?

How much of the Los Angeles car culture inspired you in this song?

Hahaha, ugh the L.A. car culture. The worst thing about L.A.! I swear it almost made me hate driving. I used to have to commute an hour and a half to work, averaging about 8mph max. It was a headache and a half. So I wouldn’t say it was too inspiring for this song, but I definitely took some late night thinking drives on the 405.

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Would you say driving is a form of therapy for you?

Absolutely – I think the clearest when I drive, for some reason. It’s where I can be alone with my music, blasting it as loud as I want, or alone with my silence parsing through every little detail with no interruptions. There’s something so beautiful about being confined in a moving vehicle, physically moving and in the company of other cars yet so completely isolated from the world around you.

What is on your driving playlist?

Honestly, way too many songs… I literally have a playlist called “drive” that I put every song I’ve ever heard and liked… So sometimes I just shuffle that. But my top three of all time would have to be “Cadmium” by Pinegrove, “Motion Sickness” by Phoebe Bridgers, and “Run Away With Me” by the one and only Carly Rae Jepsen.


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