The Henningsens

The Henningsens

Leann Mueller

Family band scores a hit with bright single

2013 has been a year to remember so far for the Henningsens. The Illinois family act is enjoying watching "American Beautiful," their current single, navigate the Billboard charts where it reaches No. 40 on Hot Country Songs and No. 28 on Country Airplay this week.

"It's been a whirlwind, but a good one," says Clara Henningsen. "Whenever we got the first chart of the year, it was already in the top 40. I texted Lesly Tyson at Arista, and I asked 'Are we in the top 50?, and she said 'Girl, you're at # 38.' It was so surprising," she told Billboard.

Brian – the father of the trio said going out on their first promotional run at radio has paid dividends. "We got really good traction from our radio tour. We had a really good time doing that for about three and a half months."

Brian told Billboard that music had always been a part of the family life, and once upon a time he was just about to pursue it full-time as a solo artist until tragedy struck.

"In the 1990s, I began to write for the first time – sort of my own brand of country, folk and Christian acoustic stuff," he says. "I got the bug to do that, and thought about pursuing it as a career. My wife and I would make an occasional trip to Nashville and meet with publishers or record companies, and things like that. In 1996, my father was injured in an accident very badly on our farm, and as a result of that, he was paralyzed. Our family has farmed there for 142 years, so the option of giving that up for music was not in the cards, so I took over the farm. I stayed there and helped my mom and sisters care for dad for the remainder of his life. It put our music on hold. Then, in a strange turn of events, Aaron and Clara had grown up, and were doing their own musical thing, and we got together about six years ago, and wrote a song together. We went to Bluebird Cafe, and played an open mic night, and kept doing it. That led to a publishing deal, then a recording deal with Arista."

Their songwriting also garnered the attention of one of Nashville's hottest acts, the Band Perry. "We met them through Paul Worley. We sat in a conference room and played them 'You Lie' and 'All Your Life," said Clara. "They were just about to record their debut album, and called us about a week later, and asked if they could record those songs. They are some of our best friends in the world."

The trio is making friends just about everywhere they go as of late, with their undeniable harmonies and down-to-earth personality. Their career path recently led them to a debut on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Needless to say, performing on the hallowed stage was a bucket list moment, according to Clara.

"That was so amazing, for a lack of other words," she said. "We sang right after Holly Williams, and were waiting on the side of the stage. It was nerves and excitement at the same time. You don't know which one you should have more. It was one of those things that go by so quickly. We played two songs, and you have to remember to soak it in. You are on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, and this is the only time it will ever be the first time."

With the single performing well at radio, the trio are busily preparing their debut album, which contains many different moods and styles, including the story song "The Color Red," which Brian says stems from a true story.

"We knew a man who had lost his farm, and he was very angry, blaming somebody else for it," he said. "There was some serious consideration of killing someone over it, but the man's brother found him at a tavern, and the only way he could stop him was to break into his truck and steal his gun. He never told him what he had done."

The Henningsens are a group that is very proud to be where they are right now. "We're on the same label as Carrie, Brad, and Jerrod," gushes Clara.  "We are so grateful and humbled to be a part of it. There's so much history here, and we're honored to be a part of it."