Alden Penner took on a rather peculiar collaborator when penning his single, "The Word," off of his upcoming debut solo record, EXEGESIS — a collaborator that not only shares his first name, but also died the year that he was born.
"The Word" is a kind of medieval dance of a jam, an other-worldly waltz that you can easily picture some classy ladies-in-waiting executing in ancient cloisters somewhere — all while Penner's ethereal voice croons about a "word" that was spoken at the beginning of the world.
Despite the uniqueness of Penner's sound, though, the words that he sings about the word — is your head spinning? — are actually not his own, per se, but those of Canadian poet Alden Nowlan.
"I started getting more curious about his work last year for some reason — we shared the first name," Penner explains, also pointing out that Nowlan died in 1983, the year that the musician was born.
"I developed this idea along with the co-producer of the album of calling [some songs on the record] the 'namesake series' after that little bit in 'This Is Spinal Tap' at the very end where, in the interview process, they're talking about this 'namesake series' in which a well-known musician or composer is paired up with a literary figure and makes a kind of recording based on that collaboration."
Nowlan's work shows up twice on the record — in "The Word" and the song "I, Icarus." Penner also composed a song called "Peace" from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. That religion previously inspired the music that he wrote with his last band, The Hidden Words.
"I've always, in all of my bands, sampled phrases from things here and there," Penner explains, referring to acts like The Unicorns, a.k.a. the band that helped Ted Mosby meet the mother, and Clues. Nowland is just the latest in a long line of literary preoccupations.
"[I have] a fondness for memorizing passages from different sources. I thought that was a good way of memorizing that poem, which I'm fond of," Penner said. "[In the poem] he's just kind of talking about the magic of language, which is something that I like to do as well. It's something that I share as a passion."
Although Penner has been in bands for years — playing music throughout his life growing up in Canada — this is his first solo full-length LP.
When asked why he chose now to finally strike out on his own, Penner replied. "I've matured in the sense of relying less on others to motivate me to do things."
Well, aside from Alden The First, that is.
EXEGESIS drops on February 4, but you can listen to "The Word" today exclusively on MTV News.