Jayson and Sarah Benn owe a passion for music to their 3-year-old daughter Suzi. The husband and wife duo from Akron left separate bands to form Shivering Timbers after they started putting nursery rhymes to music to entertain their daughter.
The result is their debut album “We All Started In The Same Place.” Jayson provides backing vocals and plays guitar and banjo, and Sarah sings lead vocals and plays upright bass and banjo. Family friend Dan Auerbach, frontman for The Black Keys, produced the album in his Akron studio after the couple performed at his 30th birthday party.
“The birth of our daughter made the band,” Sarah Benn said. “We weren’t playing together until then. You spend a lot of time trying to entertain a baby. She had an embroidery piece on the wall with ‘Now I lay me down to sleep’ on it. Jayson grabbed her toy ukulele and we started stomping and dancing around like a couple of monkeys, howling the lyrics over and over. I liked the way it sounded. That’s how we wrote our first song ‘Evening Prayer.’”
Most of the other songs on the album developed from entertaining Suzi.
“I wrote ‘Noble Duke of York’ while I was changing her diaper,” Benn said. “I wrote another song while I was nursing her. It was a period of creation. It came in weird ways. Another one was getting puked on.”
With such a musical upbringing, it’s no surprise Suzi is learning multiple instruments.
“She has instruments all over the house,” Benn said. “There’s always a little parade in our house with banging out rhythms and being silly. It’s just what we love to do, and it’s what she’s learning to love to do.”
Suzi stays with her grandparents when the band hits the road, but she could eventually replace drummer Brad Thorla and tour with her parents.
“When she comes to the basement when we’re doing rehearsals, Brad is really nice,” Sarah said. “He loves Suzi. He lets her drum. Sometimes she’ll sing. She gets to be the frontwoman for Shivering Timbers down in the basement. That’s the running joke in the band. Brad calls Suzi his future replacement. It would be awesome if she’s good enough in a few years and she wants to.”
“That’s always been the plan,” Thorla said. “I’m just the fill-in drummer until she can play shows with them. I’m alright with that.”
Thorla can’t make the band’s July 30 show at the Ottawa Tavern, but Suzi isn’t ready to step in yet. They have a friend filling in on drums, but Sarah and Jayson do occasionally perform as a duo. The band’s debut album was recorded before the band had a drummer. With Thorla playing drums, the band’s second album is shifting to a more adult sound.
“We have been leaning a lot more toward a darker, more adult album,” Benn said. “We’ve all come into our own and found our sound. I’m really excited about the next album. I can’t wait to make it. It’s much more powerful and stirring.”
The band plans to start recording the album in January before starting its first tour of Europe in March. Benn said the band is considering running a Kickstarter.com campaign to raise money for the next album.
“We’re really broke,” she said. “We’re totally working our butts off. Jayson has a job, and the band makes a little money, but it goes right out the door for all the equipment and travel. It’s expensive to be in a band. We’re totally independent. Every move we make comes out of our pockets. We have a mortgage and a child. We’re trying to make it all happen.”
Shivering Timbers plays at 10 p.m. July 30 at the Ottawa Tavern, 817 Adams St. Visit ShiveringTimbersMusic.com for more information.