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Meet Ren Farren

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ren Farren.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Ren. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
I grew up in Malibu, which was amazing because I got the best of both worlds. I get to say I’m from LA, and grew up a 45-minute drive from this kind of wonderland of rock shows and old movie theaters and vintage stores and late night diners—but I also got to grow up in that gentle intimacy of small-town life.

Everyone knew everyone, everything closed at 8 pm, and the main hang-out spots were grocery stores, friends’ houses, and of course, the beach. I was singing before I could talk and started acting in plays when I was six years old.  Belting out wrong lyrics to the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys, making up little skits with my friends, falling asleep in the backseat of the car to my parents’ CDs, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne.

I always knew I wanted to be a performer. I never considered anything else. I ended up at USC’s Popular Music Performance program, studying songwriting and voice and participating in the student theater world as much as possible. I had always been a writer, but USC was where I really started to figure out the craft of songwriting.

Those years were also really pivotal for me in that I started to discover current artists in the pop world, the hip hop world, rock, country, etc., who are doing very cool shit that makes me excited and makes me want to be a part of it. It was huge for me to figure out my modern influences, to soften the edge of my nostalgia and to correct that assumption that everything’s worse now than it used to be.

There were major growing pains for me in college, but when I started making friends I loved and making music I loved with those friends, everything opened up. I have two EPs and a few singles out that I’m really proud of, and I’m working on a new record with one of my favorite producers and best friends Madison Scheckel, aka Wolfy.

I’m playing shows, and I’m acting consistently too, doing voiceover work and performing in a Sam Shepard play in April. In my free time, you can find me at my friends’ gigs, at the movies, at comedy shows, reading in coffee shops, or wandering around Echo Park listening to true crime podcasts.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Of course, there are challenges. I struggle with my fair share of anxiety and depression—words that are being used so often by so many that they almost start to lose their meaning a little bit. But those things are real, and as hard as it can be, I think it helps us all to be honest about it, to connect and normalize.

The world is a scary place right now, and when you’re somebody who feels things really intensely, which I definitely am, and I think many artists are, it can be hard to walk through it every day. I’m an emo kid! I have a lot of residual angst.

And I also have so much love for everyone out there right now trying to grapple with so much overwhelming shit—the political landscape, the future of the planet, the way technology and social media have become so ubiquitous and kind of hijacked the way we pursue our dreams and experience relationships. I think if you’re smart and emotional and paying attention, there’s plenty to worry about.

But the thing is, for me, when I get so wrapped up in confusion or frustration or fear about the future, I try to take a step back and look at the big picture, the long game. Life doesn’t go in a straight line up and out, even though we can convince ourselves that it should. I’m okay with not being carefree all the time.

I expect, in my life, to go through the highs and the lows of what it is to be a human being. I don’t want to linger in pain or wallow in fear, and of course, I want the joy to outweigh the rest. But I know that heartache breeds strength, fuckups teach lessons, and that pain is malleable—you can turn it into other things.

And when I get to turn it into music, the catharsis I feel is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. And learning the power you have to shapeshift your lowest moments into acts of creation, into bridges to the emotional lives of other people, it feels like building a shelter for your heart. Like taking care of yourself. And the antidote to loneliness.

The music that means the most to me is music that’s made by people who have been through some shit! And who aren’t afraid to admit it. And I’m okay with going through some shit. And it’s okay if you’re going through some shit too.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
My music is a blend of a lot of different influences. I’m not trying fit super squarely into one genre. I’m doing indie pop with elements of folk and R&B and emo. A lot of my favorite artists are so different from each other. I kind of have these three things that feed into what I do.

There’s the music of the moment when I was a little kid, these crazy productions of bubblegum power pop, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, the BSB, N*Sync, the Spice Girls, etc. Then there’s the music my parents raised me on, which reaches right deep down into the core of who I am, Joni, Jackson, Bonnie Raitt, lots of Southern California Laurel Canyon folk rock.

And then there’s the artists I came to love on my own, at all different stages of my life—Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne, Fall Out Boy, Bruce Springsteen, Jeff Buckley, Arcade Fire, Fiona Apple, SZA, Blake Mills, Frank Ocean, Kacey Musgraves, Lauryn Hill, Julien Baker.

And I think I take from this first category a love of pop production and melodrama and fun, from this second category a deep commitment to lyricism and storytelling, and from this third category a devotion to being an artist with a point of view and a sense of self. I’m trying to have it all. I’m trying to hit on something universal.

Pop music with something to say, that you could belt out with your friends or cry to by yourself, whether you’re twelve or seventy. I just want people to know I’m being real with them, and let the music be as multifaceted as it needs to be. I know I’m not the first to aspire to these goals, but I’m hoping I can turn them into something singular.

What role has luck (good luck or bad luck) played in your life and business?
Luck! Luck is something I think is smart to acknowledge but unwise to dwell on. Often I’ll think something that happened to me was unlucky only to discover a few years later that it was actually probably a really good thing. It’s all perspective, really.

I feel so lucky that I’m managing to make a life where I get to perform, which is my favorite thing in the world to do. Connecting with an audience is a high I’ll be chasing forever, no matter what happens. The only thing I know for sure when it comes to luck is that I’m so lucky to have my parents, my family, my friends who are the loves of my life, this place I grew up in that I adore. And a voice. And the tenacity to keep using it.

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Image Credit:
Kylie Nicholson, Micaela Brookman, Maddie Ross, Emma Jenkinson, Maddie Ross, Micaela Brookman, Maddie Ross, Emma Jenkinson, Micaela Brookman

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