The Edmonton Journal Interviews Chris
By Roger Levesque
EDMONTON - Toronto bluesman Chris Antonik admits that some of the themes on his sophomore release Better For You don’t fit the typical blues cliches.
There’s less of that ‘my baby’s gone and left me’ vibe, and more tracks that Come From a Good Place, as one title puts it.
“If you look around,” he notes, “there are a lot of positive blues songs out there.”
Who says a happily married husband-father can’t make his own sensitive, upbeat blues?
“This album was really kind of a love letter to my wife, about becoming a less selfish person and giving back more. It’s about getting out of my own skin and trying to focus on other folks.”
The guitarist-singer explains that Turn to Shine is a tribute to his wife, while Come From a Good Place (a duet with Shakura S’Aida) was prompted by the new experience of fatherhood. The title track Better For You wonders about how to make a relationship more fulfilling and the disc’s lone cover tune is a casual take on Walter Horton’s song Have a Good Time.
But Antonik hasn’t forgotten to add a little grit to the album’s mix of classic and rocking blues styles and a few more fictitious songs about the darker side of life. Check out Broken Man, featuring Mike Mattison from the Tedeschi Trucks Band sitting in on vocals. Shake Me Down is about dealing with restless urges, the funky Nothing I Can Do is one of several numbers with horns arranged by Richard (Shuffle Demons) Underhill featuring Josh Williams’s vocals. Williams plays Hammond organ on much of the album, while Monkey Junk’s Steve Marriner and singer Suzie Vinnick also guest on the set.
I’ll Help You Through is the positive, gospel-influenced closer, about missing a loved one.
“I wrote that song on the day my wife had to go back to work after having our first child. It was a rainy day here in Toronto and an awful day for her. Call it empathy, I guess.”
Seeing the glass half-full hasn’t hurt Antonik. A few years into his touring career, he has a growing following in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, with favourable reviews to match. The Blues Underground Network named the independently produced Better For You the Best Canadian Blues-Rock Album of 2013, while he was a nominee for the Maple Blues Best New Artist of 2010 following his debut release.
Antonik is still getting used to the job of vocalist, which really took off on Better For You. But for that deep, bluesy feeling, you can go straight for the man’s heartfelt guitar and the lovingly constructed solos from his Fender Stratocaster that fill out the album.
“My first CD was more straight-ahead with a bunch of guests on the vocal parts, but for this album I hit all the sub-genres of blues that I wanted to explore. The electro-beat tune Tell Me What You Need was even influenced a bit by some of the hip-hop I’ve listened to.”
Growing up in the Toronto suburb of Markham, he was a late bloomer who started guitar in his late teens and got a college business degree before settling in Toronto around 2000. Initially inspired by listening to Robert Johnson and Eric Clapton, and by witnessing Jeff Healey, Buddy Guy and B.B. King onstage, Antonik started out like so many others, jamming in blues bars, playing in cover bands. Then about five years ago, he chose to take another step.
“The light went on and I realized I had to write my own songs instead of recycling old Hendrix and Clapton riffs all night long.”
Antonik says the Toronto blues scene has been good to him, but his music is set to go further and wider than ever this year with impending tours through the U.S. and Europe. This week, he’s excited to be making his Alberta debut at Blues On Whyte, with Guenther Kapelle on bass, Trevor Bigam on drums and Edmonton’s Graham Guest on keyboards.
© Copyright (c) Edmonton Journal
Originally posted by edmontonjournal.com BY ROGER LEVESQUE, EDMONTON JOURNAL APRIL 16, 2014