Their first single and album title track is called “American Beautiful,” and for exciting new family trio The Henningsens, “American Beautiful” may be an American spirit story wrapped up in a love song, but in lyrics like “we’re a little unusual, we are American beautiful,” there’s a window into the unlikely story of a group whose musical journey has been anything but typical.
To introduce the trio, they are Brian Henningsen (bass, guitar, vocals) – family patriarch and father of 10 including eldest son Aaron (guitar, vocals) and daughter Clara (lead vocals, guitar).
With the 2013 release of their Arista Nashville debut album, American Beautiful, helmed by four-time GRAMMY®-winning producer Paul Worley (Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride), The Henningsens showcase a sound that is fresh, vibrant, and uniquely their own, with Clara’s expressive and inviting vocals center stage, together with gorgeous family harmonies, compelling songcraft, and vivid storytelling, offering lyrics that paint sometimes traditional themes in non-traditional ways.
It’s their gift for songwriting that first began turning heads in Nashville, with writing credits on multiple albums, most notably the Platinum-certified debut from The Band Perry, who scored big with “You Lie,” written by Aaron, Clara, and Brian, as well as the two-week #1 smash, “All Your Life,” penned by Brian and Clara.
“We try to be very lyrically descriptive,” Brian says of the trio’s songwriting. “We always say it when we write: we’re trying to make a little movie play in your mind.”
There’s a heartland theme that runs throughout the music of The Henningsens, which seems only natural for a family from rural Atwood, Illinois, where their 1700-acre farm has offered home and livelihood – and, at times, school, playground, and even birthplace – across seven generations. “Your best friends were your siblings,” Aaron says, and the Henningsen family, including Brian and his wife and 10 children, had everything in common with a large, traditional farm family.
“Lots of activity, lots of people, very little downtime, very little alone-time, and very little privacy,” Brian shares with a smile, as Aaron injects, “But a lot of fun.”
Their working farm has raised corn, soybeans, cows, “and kids,” Clara says with a laugh, noting that almost all the children were not only born on the farm, but also homeschooled. “Our parents always led by example,” she says, “and we were very fortunate in that regard.”
As for being a musical family, Clara laughs, “We’ve always been musical, but we didn’t grow up like the von Trapps!”
Indeed, while The Henningsens as a performing trio are still relatively new, their coming together as a band was part of an unexpected path that poignantly found Aaron and Clara sharing the dream their father once pursued – a career path that Brian relinquished for the sake of family, only to find – years later – that his family was bringing that dream back into focus.