Gifted musicians in their own right, Saskatoon-based John Antoniuk and Jen Lane have teamed up on a new duets CD and are hitting the road to share the brilliant results with fans.
They perform at the Velvet Olive on Sept. 11th.
The couple first met in 2002 and at the time, were both busy solo performers on the Saskatoon music circuit. It was during their attendance at one of their many showcases that the industry began to buzz with the idea of a full collaboration between the songwriting couple.
These ideas led to the pair spending some time between individual writing sessions to try to create some songs together. The personal dynamic that is present between them comes to life in their writing.
“We played a singer/songwriter showcase together in November of 2002, and that’s the first time we met onstage. Then it was in about March of 2003 that we thought we should get together, jam and sing a little bit together too.”
One of the first tunes they tackled together was Oh My Sweet Carolina by Ryan Adams, and that really started it all between the two. “We realized that we enjoyed singing together, and we sounded good together as well.” Besides the professional collaborations, a personal connection was flourishing as well. They started dating shortly thereafter.
“We’ve been together for 11 years now, and married for seven.”
As is clearly heard on the newly-released Jen & John, they indeed complement one another beautifully as they perform each other’s music. Antoniuk comes from the indie/roots side of life and Lane has a bit more country/folk in her repertoire. Together, they create straight ahead rhythms and harmonies that complete the musical package.
Things kick off on a charming, laid-back note with Give It All Away which sets the stage nicely for the personal, plaintive tones of Lost, featuring Lane’s sweet vocals opening the tune and later joined by Antoniuk. Having a Good Time continues to show just how well these artists complement each other as does End of the World.
The project was produced by Lane and Antoniuk and recorded at The Recording House in Saskatoon.
Antoniuk recalls back in the early days that he and Lane were careful about balancing their personal and professional lives – and they were still strong, independent musicians in their own right who wanted to explore their own individual creativities.
Fortunately, it’s all worked out rather seamlessly. “It’s helped us grow in a really good direction musically, too.
“We have different writing styles, but it’s also about having two Alpha leaders of bands in a relationship working together. It really forces us to challenge each other. I think I bring a little more of an edge to her music, and she helps to soften a little bit of mine.
“It helps us not be so self-involved, whether it’s full on coming up with some lyrics or chord progressions or just challenging us to come back with something stronger.”
For Antoniuk, following the path of a musician didn’t come that early on. He injured his knee playing football in high school so that dream was sidelined.
But he soon picked up a guitar and something was sparked inside. He also started writing songs soon after that inspired by artists like Dinosaur Jr. “The guitar playing was really exciting to me. I also followed that vein along to Bob Dylan and the guys with more unique voices. It was the 1990s, so Nirvana and Pearl Jam were also huge influences on the first stage of my career, too.
“I’ve found that a great song can be recorded as a country song, a blues song or a rock song or a folk song. The better the song is, the more genres it tends to be able to mold itself into.”
The songwriting process also changes from song to song – sometimes the melody surfaces first, and other times a lyric begins to take shape. No matter how it unfolds, Antoniuk relishes the creative aspects of his profession.
Over the years, Antoniuk and Lane have performed many times on a national stage showcasing at Breakout West, Canadian Music Week, North by Northeast and Prairie Scene and achieved International recognition at Folk Alliance in Kansas City, Missouri, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and through SaskMusic’s Export Showcase in Los Angeles.
As mentioned, Antoniuk and Lane have always kept their projects separate, with Antoniuk working on Smokekiller and the recent more rootsy, eponymous Always With You and Lane taking three of four releases to nominations for Album of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards.
Meanwhile, the new album is a co-production effort and features three new songs written by Antoniuk, two new songs written by Lane and a couple covers for a special treat. The aforementioned Oh My Sweet Carolina is included as is Crazy Mama by J.J. Cale (1972) which was recently discovered when Antoniuk got Lane a record player for Christmas last year and picked up a few old, used records.
These days, the two couldn’t be happier sharing so much.
“You just can’t buy the feeling this brings. I can put in 24/7 to this job, and it pays me back all the time – just the way it feels in my heart, the life I get to have and that my wife is here with me on tour and we get to do this together.
“I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”