Justin Patterson & Laura Lynn Danley of ‘Ten Penny Gypsy’: “Trust your instincts”

“ Trust your instincts” — Starting out in the business, fear of not being good enough can be a paralyzing thing. People around the world might have heard our music sooner had we trusted our instincts, had a little more courage, and taken some risks. We are obviously on to something now. As a part of our […]

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“ Trust your instincts” — Starting out in the business, fear of not being good enough can be a paralyzing thing. People around the world might have heard our music sooner had we trusted our instincts, had a little more courage, and taken some risks. We are obviously on to something now.

As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ten Penny Gypsy, Five-time Arkansas CMA nominee.

Arkansas singer/songwriters Justin Patterson and Laura Lynn Danley formed the Folk/Americana duo Ten Penny Gypsy in 2017. Their self-titled debut album was nominated for “Album of the Year” at the 2018 Arkansas Country Music Awards, and they received additional ACMA nominations for “Americana Artist of the Year” and “Vocal Group of the Year” in both 2018 and 2019.

In July 2020, Ten Penny Gypsy released their second full-length album, “Fugitive Heart,” an eclectic, upbeat album combining Americana and Country/Blues sounds. It was produced by veteran songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Crawford (Neil Young, Steve Winwood, Dwight Yoakam,) and features 2020 Arkansas CMA nominee Buddy Case (Guitarist of the Year)

In October, 2020, the single “Your True You” from “Fugitive Heart” reached #1 on the iTunes Country Sales Chart — South Africa.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/cd9f567710dd8374f8301bf4bff23390

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Justin: I grew up an adopted, only child in Fort Smith, Arkansas. My father was a VP for a furniture manufacturing company, and my mother was a housewife and volunteer. I’m told I was a well-adjusted kid. I attended a Lutheran school through the ninth grade, and then a public high school. I was very involved in athletics, concentrating mostly on basketball. I went on to play basketball for one year at a junior college.

Laura: I was born in Grand Rapids, MI the second of four children and only daughter. My father was an industrial engineer and my mother a homemaker. My favorite childhood memories were the summers spent at my grandparents cabin on Nugent Lake. I loved playing sports with my three brothers, and taking day trips with the family on our motorbikes. I was a gregarious child who had a flare for the dramatic, and who always took up for the underdog.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Justin: My father always listened to Merle Haggard records when I was a small child. I used to lip sync to those songs in front of my parent’s bedroom mirror, so they decided to get me a guitar when I was six years old. It was a little red Stella Harmony. The fire was pretty much lit at that point. My first guitar lessons were from Gene Gasaway, who had been a fiddle player for Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys in their later years.

Laura: I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t singing or making music. I remember my mother sitting me on the piano bench beside her to have me sing for neighbors and family. I sang on the church stage for the first time when I was only 4 years old, and my brothers and I performed in a quartet for a while. I learned young that music has the power to unite and heal, and I hope I am still singing the loudest from beyond the grave.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Justin & Laura: Receiving news that our self-titled debut album had been nominated for “Album of the Year” in 2018 by the Arkansas CMA. It was a real surprise to us, but provided validation for some difficult career decisions we had made. On the night of the awards, we found ourselves backstage with Country Music legends like Tanya Tucker, Collin Raye, Barbara Fairchild, and the families of Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell. While our sound is not traditional country, the ACMA still honored us with a place at their table. We felt a real sense of belonging, and it was gratifying to realize our perseverance had paid off.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Justin: The first sound system I bought had powered speakers, and I had no idea they needed an amplifier to put out sound from the mixing board. I showed up for a show at this crowded, noisy little place, and needless to say, no one heard my band that night. We all tried to shout out above the crowd, but to no avail. I got laryngitis. Lesson learned: read the instruction manual.

Laura: My funniest mistake may also be my favorite one. I was at a songwriter festival, and had just come through the complimentary food line with a full plate. I misjudged the weight-bearing capacity of a lawn chair, and it collapsed with me. I hit the ground, and the food went all over me. Observing this from across the way was a songwriter named Justin Patterson, who I did not know at the time. Justin later said that was the moment he first became attracted to me. Not long after, we became partners in life, and later became Ten Penny Gypsy. Lesson learned: As women, we often underestimate our unknown super powers!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Justin: We’ve been busy recently promoting our latest album release, “Fugitive Heart.” The national reviews of the record have been tremendous. They seem to spotlight different songs as their favorites, which confirms it’s a great listen from beginning to end. “Your True You” is a song that recently reached #1 on the iTunes Country Sales Chart in South Africa, and our video for “Lonesome No More” has been selected for several film festivals worldwide. The album showcases the guitar talents of 2020 Arkansas CMA nominee Buddy Case, and the great musicianship and sonic skills of our producer Anthony Crawford. We certainly want to thank them!

Laura: For three years running, Ten Penny Gypsy has been host and curator of the Arkansas-based monthly performance showcase, “Sounds of Unity.” We’ve featured such great talent as Cory Jackson from NBC’s “The Voice,” and Ryan Harmon from Season 18 of “American Idol.” As founders of the series, we are excited about our recent partnership with Yadaloo Music and Arts Festival, which will allow us to tweak the format, grow our audience, and attract even greater performing talent from Arkansas and beyond.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Justin & Laura: Inclusion was the most important ideal that inspired our “Sounds of Unity” monthly showcase mentioned above. We wanted to provide a venue where a diverse group of performers could gather and feel welcome. Humankind won’t truly thrive until we become a global community caring for every citizen equally. Embracing diversity in the arts gives us all a chance to see through the eyes of another, and beyond our own limited perspective.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1 “Be yourself” — You will have the most success at your endeavors when you are authentic. If you try and be something you aren’t, you get exposed pretty easily. As we release new music into the world, we’ve learned not to worry about the labels and expectations other people put on our work. We just write and perform in the best way we were gifted to do.

2 “You don’t have to be perfect” — When you love what you do, your audience can feel it, and that’s the most important thing to them. We don’t always give a flawless performance, and are often hard on ourselves because of it. We’ve learned to show our love, and always be our “Perfectly Imperfect” selves!

3 “You can’t do it alone” — We tend to be control freaks when it comes to all things Ten Penny Gypsy. In today’s ever-changing environment of music promotion, the workload can become burdensome. We’ve learned to surround ourselves with veterans of the business and tech savvy people who can share the load with us.

4 “ Trust your instincts” — Starting out in the business, fear of not being good enough can be a paralyzing thing. People around the world might have heard our music sooner had we trusted our instincts, had a little more courage, and taken some risks. We are obviously on to something now.

5 “CD’s will soon be obsolete” — We’ve always been old school and slow to ride a technological wave! Yes, we still like to hold that physical CD in our hand, pop it in, and play it from start to finish. Who does that anymore? What is this streaming thing?

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Justin & Laura: Remember where you came from! The demands of promoting our music become so great sometimes, it’s easy to lose perspective, get frustrated, and forget why we got into this business in the first place. For us, it was always for the love of the song, and the joy songwriting has brought to our lives. When things are hectic, we always try to remember back to the days when we worried that no one would ever hear our music, and that reminds us to really appreciate this ride we are on.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Justin: My movement would be a demand for more responsible journalism from the national news media. We all get our news from different sources, and those sources have become purely agenda-driven. They all employ the commentary of “qualified experts” saying completely different things. They shape opinion, yet the truth remains elusive. Freedom of the Press is a precious right in this country, and its abuse has caused a great division among us.

Laura: I wrote a song several years back called “In La’Kech” which means “I am You.” That song would be the centerpiece for my movement to promote human unity. I would translate it into every language, and form a choir with members of all nationalities, and we would tour the globe singing that song! Help me make it happen!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Justin & Laura: We choose Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee of the Americana duo Sugarcane Jane. In 2016, we felt we had written some great songs, but weren’t sure how to proceed as far as putting them in their best form and getting them heard. We became acquainted with Anthony and Savana at a festival in Alabama. Anthony was a veteran of the music business having toured with Neil Young, Steve Winwood, Dwight Yoakam, and others. Savana had spent a lot of time in Nashville, and had her own recording studio there. They were kind enough to listen to our demos and invited us to their studio to record our first album. Anthony’s musicianship and production skills made our songs blossom. Savana was instrumental in our marketing and branding. That album was nominated for “Album of the Year” by the Arkansas CMA in 2018. We worked with them again on “Fugitive Heart” in 2020. Their guidance has changed everything for us, and we’ll always be grateful for them.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Justin: Mark Twain once said, “ The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” For a procrastinator like myself, those words are an endless source of motivation.

Laura: “We create our tomorrows by what we dream today.” This quote is on my wall at home, and it provides me inspiration everyday, knowing that I have some control over what the future can bring.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Justin: James Taylor. When I first heard the acoustic guitar intro to “Something in the Way She Moves,” it changed everything I believed about music in a single moment. It made me want to write songs. From the finger-picking guitar style to the lyrical phrasing, his influence can easily be heard in songs I’ve written for Ten Penny Gypsy. “Highway 65,” from our most recent album, stylistically reminds me of “Copperline,” one of my favorite Taylor songs.

Laura: Oprah Winfrey. I have personal journal space dedicated to conversations I’d love to have with this woman! Her free meditation series with Deepak Chopra changed my life. It would be my dream to share my songs “Perfectly Imperfect” and “Your True You” with her audience on Super Soul Sunday!

How can our readers follow you online?


This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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