Lake Land College Welcomes Home The Henningsens for a Final Performance. This concert will be the final show for The Henningsens trio. Brian Henningsen and his son, Aaron will continue writing while daughter Clara is embarking on a solo career.
Lake Land College 50th Anniversary
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Lake Land College Field House
Buy your tickets today!
lakelandcollege.edu/alumni or any First Mid Illinois Bank & Trust location
All Student tickets (college, high school, junior high and grade school) are $5, General Admission are $10, festival seating
Brian Henningsen, Laker Nation Class of 1981, never would have thought playing in a band with his Lake Land College ag friends would have led to a successful career as a country music artist and songwriter.
“Interestingly, my music career started at Lake Land. My first band included a friend from ag classes. We would sing and play country music for friends and it soon became a passion. I look back fondly on my years at Lake Land. It was a great life experience!” Henningsen recalled when he was inducted into the Lake Land College Distinguished Alumni Society in 2015.
Laker Homecoming for the Henningsens will be a family event. Brian’s wife, Debby (Pflum) Henningsen, Laker Nation Class of 1981, was a cheerleader during her time at Lake Land College. This fall, Brian will return to his alma mater with two of his children for their band’s final concert performance. The trio consists of Brian on bass, guitar and vocals, who is the family patriarch and father of 10; eldest son Aaron on guitar and vocals; and daughter Clara on lead vocals and guitar.
“We will continue to play, write and laugh together for years and years to come,” Henningsen said.
Originally from Atwood where they still have their 1,700-acre family farm, The Henningsens’ story is one of pursuing the American dream – just as the lyrics describe in their hit debut single “American Beautiful.”
It’s their gift for songwriting that first began turning heads in Nashville, most notably on the Platinum-certified debut by The Band Perry, who scored big with “You Lie,” written by Aaron, Clara, and Brian, and the two-week #1 smash, “All Your Life,” penned by Brian and Clara.
“We try to be very lyrically descriptive,” Brian says. “We always say it when we write: we’re trying to make a little movie play in your mind.”
Coming together as a band was part of an unexpected path that found Aaron and Clara sharing the dream that their father once relinquished for the sake of family, only to find – years later – that his family was bringing that dream back into focus.
Music had been a sideline for Brian, playing in Illinois-area bands off and on for more than a decade, and by the early ’90s, he’d also begun songwriting. Trips to Nashville and meetings with music publishers followed, but in early 1996, his father was involved in an accident that brought Brian home, as he set aside music to help care for his father and take over the family farm.
By 2003, Aaron was writing and performing in a college band. While Brian enjoyed the farm, it was the pressure of farming in tough times, the excitement of Aaron’s music and a song that Brian had written at the time that all became catalysts to reignite his thoughts about music, as did an inspiring talk show – literally an on-the-tractor radio epiphany that allowed him to feel that he could explore a life beyond farming.
“It was like you have that ‘Eureka!’ moment,” Brian recalls. “I’m not trapped in any circumstance I’m in. I have the ability to make my own destiny, which leads into the premise of ‘American Beautiful.’”
The following year, the family purchased a historic fixer-upper in rural Tennessee.
But the evolution of the group began in early 2007, when they penned their first song together with a writer in Nashville. When the trio played it at an open mic night at Nashville’s fabled Bluebird Café, Clara recalls they had no idea what to expect. “People were saying how great it was that we were performing as a family, and we really weren’t even thinking about that.”
It was during this time that Aaron met longtime musician/songwriter Cactus Moser, who shared some of the group’s demo recordings with producer Paul Worley. In 2008, Worley introduced them to another family trio who had yet to sign a record deal: Kimberly, Neil, and Reid, soon to be known as The Band Perry.
“We know it’s unusual to see two generations of family living and working so closely together, but we love doing it – and we hope that it might be a positive inspiration to others,” Henningsen said.
Partnering with companies they believe in, like Becks Hybrid and Sue Bee Honey, has helped them to extend their positive inspiration to people they most identify with and care about – farmers.
As for the future, Clara will be launching a solo career while Brian and Aaron will continue writing.