STORY WRITTEN BY JOE SZCZECHOWSKI
For Digital First Media
When Jenny Appel was an 18-year-old freshman studying English and history at the University of Delaware, she met Tyler Somers, a sophomore marketing major with a double minor in music management and voice. She admits “it sounds cheesy” but says for her it was love at first sight. Looking back, she says she could imagine falling in love with Tyler after meeting him only once, but in her wildest dreams she never would have imagined herself in the place she is now – pursuing a career in music as one half of the husband-and-wife duo Jenny & Tyler.
“I was in the Deltones, the a cappella group at UD, but I never would’ve thought that this was something that I would be doing for a career,” Jenny says. “Tyler was really the one who said, ‘I think this is really possible.’ He encouraged us to give it a shot.”
Since 2007, the prolific duo has independently released six albums and two EP’s. Their first label release, “Of This I’m Sure,” was issued by Residence Music on Oct. 16. A tour in support of the album stops at Wilmington’s World Café Live at the Queen, 500 North Market Street, on Wednesday, Nov. 4. Jillian Edwards opens the 8 p.m. show. Tickets are $12 in advance (available on ticketfly.com) or $18 at the door.
The Wilmington show will be a homecoming for Jenny & Tyler, who now live in Nashville. Tyler is a Delaware native whose parents still live in Wilmington. Jenny moved to Dover, Delaware in her teens because her father was in the Air Force and was stationed there. The first time they sang together was in the stairwell of the Trabant Student Center at the University of Delaware.
In addition to a shared love for music, Jenny and Tyler were brought together by their strong Christian faith. In the past, their music has often been an overt reflection of their faith. For “Of This I’m Sure” the duo took a different approach.
“We wanted to make a mainstream record,” Jenny says. “In the past, a lot of our records were labeled as Christian records, but we look at ourselves as Christians who are making music, rather than making Christian music. On this record we’re very conscious of that, because we wanted to reach a broader audience, and Residence is a general market label.”
While not overtly religious, the songs on “Of This I’m Sure” remain very spiritual.
“If I had to describe it, I would say it’s more of a folk-rock album, and it sounds like an ocean,” Tyler says. “We worked with our producer Gabe Scott to achieve the sound that we had in mind. The album is about love of different kinds – family love, friendship, romantic, divine. We like to talk about the idea of love as an ocean – the mystery of it, the power of it, the refreshing aspects of it. We really wanted this record to sound like that.”
The sound of “Of This I’m Sure” might be described as a cross between Mumford and Sons, She and Him, and Coldplay. Sonically, the album is lush and layered, but the exquisite harmonies of the duo are always at the forefront of the music. Both Jenny and Tyler give credit to producer Gabe Scott for helping them achieve their musical vision.
“We met Gabe Scott when we were touring with Bebo Norman,” Jenny says. “Gabe plays in his band. He’s such a kind, warm person, and he’s played on so many records – everyone from Ingrid Michaelson to Ben Rector, to Francesca Battistelli and the Civil Wars. Our record is the first one he’s produced. We just really admired his work and thought that he would bring a lot creatively to the record, and he really did. Working with him was an amazing experience. It was a learning experience for us as well.”
“Working with a producer is so valuable,” Tyler says. “It adds another set of ears and another set of creative skills to the project.”
Scott’s involvement also gave the couple a fresh perspective on their material.
“There’s a song on the album called ‘You Are a Song,’” Jenny says. “It’s written in a very pop style – more so than the rest of the record. It’s just a really light love song. Initially, we felt it might be a bit too poppy for us, but Gabe liked it and thought we should use it on the album. It’s turned into one of my favorite songs on the album, and from the response we’ve gotten online, a lot of people have picked it as their favorite song.”
Tyler says that the couple had talked about the idea of recording an album that dealt with the many aspects of love for several years.
“As the songs started to come together, we saw that there was a similar theme running through them, whether they were new or had been written a few years ago,” he says.
“We also noticed that nearly every song references the ocean or water,” Jenny adds. “The ocean is a very significant thing in our lives. We were married at the beach, so it just naturally makes its way into our writing.”
The album and current tour were fan-funded through Kickstarter. It has allowed Jenny and Tyler to tour with a full band this time out and represent the album more accurately in a live setting.
“We felt like these songs really deserved to be heard played by a full band, at least on this release tour,” Jenny says. “Our fans paid for this album and tour, and we’re also making a live record on this tour. That was part of the Kickstarter campaign as well.”
In addition to bringing a band on tour, Jenny and Tyler are also bringing along their family. Their daughters – two-year-old Jane and six-month-old Sarah – are with them every step of the way. Jenny says it’s a big adjustment, but she and Tyler wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Even when we were newly married, we always said that if we couldn’t keep our family together while doing this, then we would not be doing this,” she says. “It wouldn’t make sense for us. I don’t know that either one of us would have the ambition to do it by ourselves, but doing it together just makes a lot of sense.”
Both Jenny and Tyler are looking forward to playing Wilmington’s World Café Live at the Queen for the first time. “We’re really excited for the hometown show at the World Café,” Tyler says. “Ironically, we’ve never played the Queen, although we’ve heard great things about it.”
Jenny & Tyler have dates scheduled into November. They plan to take a break from touring in December, but intend to get back on the road early next year.
“We’re hoping to go back out in the early spring,” Jenny says. “We’d like to be the opening act for a bigger band. That would be ideal for us right now – just to keep building our audience and moving forward.”
Jenny & Tyler are offering a free download of their seven-song album “Live At Studio A” to anyone who visits their site by going to jennyandtyler.com/free.