Few husband and wife duos meld their musical talents quite as well as Saskatoon-based John Antoniuk and Jen Lane. They perform Aug. 17th at Fratters.
Antoniuk comes from the indie/roots side of life and Lane has a bit more country/folk in her repertoire.
They have performed many times on a national stage showcasing at Breakout West, Canadian Music Week and Prairie Scene, and achieved International recognition at Folk Alliance in Kansas City, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas and through SaskMusic’s Export Showcase in Los Angeles.
The couple has always kept their projects separate, with Antoniuk working on Smokekiller and the recent more rootsy Always With You and Lane taking three of four releases to nominations for Album of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards.
The CD Jen & John, released in August of last year, is a co-production effort by Antoniuk and Lane and features new songs written by Antoniuk, two new songs written by Lane and a couple covers for a treat. Oh My Sweet Carolina by Ryan Adams was the first song the couple sang together when they met and began jamming.
“It’s been an amazing year,” explains Antoniuk during a recent chat of the time since the CD’s release. “The adventure began last August – we went out west and had a really nice swing through – the audiences were also really receptive to the album. It was something they’d been asking us to do for awhile.”
Then last fall, the couple also headed to Kelowna to record a new solo project for Lane which is set for release early next year. “It’s super organic and was a really beautiful experience,” he says of the recording process.
As for the release date, that may be quite a ways from now, but it’s a purposeful move.
“One thing I’ve learned in this business is that an unreleased record is really gold in your hands,” he explained. “When you put it out, the first thing people say is, ‘Wow, this is great – what’s next?’ And you are like, what do mean what’s next? I just spent the last 18 months of my life making this for you,” he laughed. A better way to go is to build up the momentum prior to a CD’s release via video, promotion and radio.
Plus, it gives the couple more time to focus on the Jen & John project.
After recording wrapped up on Lane’s CD, they toured eastern Canada for awhile and did a residency at The Cameron House in Toronto as well. Currently they are back on the road and loving it – they are also grateful to Creative Saskatchewan for funding the tour and making it possible, he said.
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 collaboration between the two. They played a singer/songwriter showcase in November of 2002, and that was the first time they 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,” said Antoniuk.
One of the first tunes they tackled together was Oh My Sweet Carolina by the aforementioned 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 for John & Jen, 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.
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 were 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.” This fall, he’s hitting the studio himself for a new solo CD to be released next year under the Smokekiller banner as well.
These days, the couple works hard to manage the demands of recording and touring while of course protecting their personal lives.
“We just focus on making sure that each of us maintains our whole self. I work at being the best John Antoniuk that I can be, and Jen works at being the best Jen Lane that she can be,” he explained. “If I focus on those things, the residual stuff is what we get to enjoy. I think I’m her biggest fan, and she’s probably mine. We are just excited to be able to work together in this capacity and spend time together outside of it all.
“Technology is great, but I’m really glad they have the ‘do not disturb’ mode! That’s our time.”