Count This Penny
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Count This Penny

Madison, Wisconsin, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF

Madison, Wisconsin, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2010
Band Folk Americana




"Daytrotter Session"

released September 23, 2013 - Daytrotter

"Daytrotter Session"

released September 23, 2013 - Daytrotter

"'Appalachian Pop'"

Folks may have a faint idea of what to expect from a band that describes what it does as “Appalachian pop,” but they’ll likely be surprised by how instantly inviting Count This Penny sounds. It’s music steeped in old American traditions, but the concise form the songs adhere to and the pop structures the band employs make the songs modern and streamlined enough to thrive far from the mountains where their inspiration first saw the light of day. - AV Club

"CTP's harmonies hit it big in the midwest"

The folk duo Count This Penny sings mainly dark songs, including a signature murder ballad, yet the increasingly popular local band gets its enigmatic name from a “Sesame Street” bit.

Everybody has their particular YouTube habit, said Amanda Rigell, who with husband, Allen Rigell, and banjo player John Ray, makes up Count This Penny. “For some people it’s cat videos, for some people it’s music videos. I get a huge kick out of watching old ‘Sesame Street’ clips.”

Several years ago, when the couple was still living in their native Tennessee, Amanda found an old clip of a young boy holding a penny in his palm and asking Grover to “count this penny.”

“Allen and I watched it like 1 million times,” Amanda said during an interview on the back porch of the couple’s small Near West Side home.

“It’s like a weird, imperative command to have as your band name. Count this penny. Yeah, it is kind of crazy,” she said.

With its haunting harmonies, unforgettable hooks and endearing stage banter, Count This Penny has burrowed into Madison’s music community and become a top concert draw.

Since moving to Madison in June 2010 for Allen’s career, Count This Penny landed an appearance on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” and as a result, watched their first EP hit No. 6 on the iTunes singer-songwriter chart.

The radio gig was in March, before many folk music fans in Madison had discovered them.

“They contacted us out of the blue. Of course, we were thrilled,” Amanda said. “Allen and I both — even in Tennessee — grew up listening to that show. It was like totally woven into our childhoods.”

In May, Count This Penny opened for young roots music star Sarah Jarosz at the Stoughton Opera House, and on Nov. 2, the band will headline their own show at the theater, an honor for a local act.

The Opera House received a lot of positive feedback after the duo’s warm-up performance, said Christina Dollhausen, the venue’s event coordinator. “Their harmonies and their musicianship is impeccable.”

The couple trade off on lead vocals, guitar and bass. They’ve dubbed their alt-folk music “Appalachian pop,” but on a summer tour back home in the South, realized that it maybe wasn’t the best characterization.

“That might fly in the Midwest,” Amanda’s cousin told her, “but you better not call it Appalachian pop down here. Nobody knows what that is.”

The Rigells have demanding day jobs, he in health care, she in education. They try to keep their work and creative lives separate, Allen said.

“We don’t want to be viewed as people who just do this on the side,” he said. “We do it as more than just a hobby.”

Allen and Amanda, both 33, met in high school in Oak Ridge, Tenn., outside Knoxville. Allen remembers the first time he heard Amanda perform at an open mic. “I’m thinking, man, I need to stay close to her. I need to keep her around.”

The couple went to college together at Emory University, where Amanda won a singer-songwriter competition and performed at a regionally renowned club in Atlanta.

“I wanted to have that experience,” Allen said. “Not the experience of playing in front of people, but that sort of joy that I saw in Amanda.”

Taking up guitar himself gave him a great excuse to interact with Amanda, and it grew from there, Allen said. The two didn’t date until after college. They married in 2006, but didn’t start playing together until 2009.

For a married couple, the Rigells write a great deal of emotionally charged songs about breakups and lost love. “There’s nothing wrong with writing fiction,” Allen said.

There’s just something about a heartbreak song that’s really appealing to her, Amanda said. “I would love to sit down and write a happy song. I would love it. But I haven’t been able to. I’ve tried.”

They each do an equal amount of songwriting, and do so separate of each other.

“Sometimes when we are playing music together, I forget that we are married, because it’s just this other kind of partnership,” Amanda said.

Count This Penny has put out two recordings, an EP “Gone,” and the recently released CD “Pitchman.” They also recorded a 7-inch record with two songs commissioned by the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, based on archival letters from Wisconsin Civil War soldiers.

Among Count This Penny’s biggest fans count Stephanie Elkins, the host and producer of the Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Simply Folk” program.

“They tell wonderful little stories,” said Elkins, who had Amanda and Allen on her program live last year. “I think that Amanda in particular is such a talented writer in general, and then to have that translate into songs is just really a gift.”

Another admirer is musician Jim Schwall, host of “For the Sake of the Song,” a folk show on WORT-FM.

“Those two singers are just incredible. They are getting notice wherever they go,” he said. “They have pretty quickly become a part of the music scene here. When you see people that good you notice them righ - Wisconsin State Journal

"'Telling stories through song'"

They’re masters of telling stories through song, taking on the voices of well-crafted characters—a runaway kid, a woman married to a no-good preacher man, the father of a suicide victim, or a couple reuniting after the man gets out of prison—in ways that resonate empathy. The subjects are often bleak, but the melodies and harmonies are cathartic. - MetroPulse

"'Count This Penny mines Appalachian riches'"

Their voices — one a bit gravelly, the other crystal clear — form gorgeous harmonies and textures when paired. - ISTHMUS

"Tax Day Soiree"

[...] Supporting The Devil Whale will be Count This Penny, a Madison duo transplanted from East Tennessee. Veterans of the club scene in Knoxville, Count This Penny is just starting garner a following in Madison, receiving a big push from ISTHMUS a couple weeks ago. If you like the Everybodyfields, the Civil Wars, or some old school Gram and Emmylou, you will dig Count This Penny. - Muzzle of Bees

"'Every Smile Just Like a Wrecking Ball'"

It’s impossible to divorce the band’s live show from their recorded material, and that’s a gift. There’s a certain intimacy about CTP; they draw you in and make you feel like you’re part of the show, yet at the same time deliver something so special that you feel like you’ve stumbled onto a private moment not meant for everyone. - Mixtapes | Heartbreaks

"'Near Perfect Folk Music'"

Pitchman and Count This Penny are yet another example of near perfect folk music, one that uses the harmonies of male and female vocals, outstanding songwriting, and traditional folk and country instrumentation to craft an album that, from top to bottom, is sure to please fans of the genre and beyond. - Ear to the Ground


Wolves Are Sheep (EP) - 11/4/2014

Pitchman (full-length) 2012

Paper to Iron 7" 2012

Gone (EP) 2010

Radio support:
KPR-Lawrence, KS
WDVX-Knoxville, TN
WORT-Madison, WI
WMMM-Madison, WI
WSUM-Madison, WI
WUWM-Milwaukee, WI
KRFC-Fort Collins, CO
WNCW-Spindale, NC
Wisconsin Public Radio
WUTC-Chattanooga, TN
WXPR-Rhinelander, WI
KWLC-Decorah, IA
KDEC-Decorah, IA



Count This Penny formed in 2009 when Amanda and Allen Rigell cancelled their cable and picked up a couple guitars. In the time since, they've appeared on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, seen their debut EP chart in the iTunes singer songwriter Top 10, and shared stages with The Head & The Heart, Shovels & Rope, Kacey Musgraves and The Lone Bellow. After amassing sold out shows throughout Wisconsin, they were named one of "10 Wisconsin Bands to Watch" by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The duo has since expanded to a four piece band for their forthcoming EP Wolves Are Sheep. Catch them at Communion Club Nights in November. 

"If you like the Everybodyfields, the Civil Wars, or some old school Gram and Emmylou, you will dig Count This Penny."
-Muzzle of Bees | Austin, TX

"Near-perfect folk music."
-Ear to the Ground | Pittsburgh, PA

"It’s music steeped in old American traditions, but the concise form the songs adhere to and the pop structures the band employs make the songs modern and streamlined enough to thrive far from the mountains where their inspiration first saw the light of day."
-The Onion's A.V. Club | Madison, WI

Band Members