"It's been a long journey so far; it feels long but it has been less than 10 years, "stated world renowned Tenor Jonathan Antoine as he discussed his newest album, his literary career and more.
Antoine is 25 years old and has accomplished more in less than three decades; make that one decade, than most in the entertainment field do in a lifetime. He is the youngest Tenor to have a number one classical album, his audition at the age of 17 on "Britain'sGot Talent" is the most watched audition of any performer in history, he has worked with The Royal Philharmonic, Diane Warren, Grammy Award winners and nominees and those are just a few of the weapons in his vast arsenal.
An absolute delight, Antoine has taken his share of lumps too; proving that if one wishes to overcome adversity or struggles, it can be done through sheerperseverance and attitude; more on that in a bit.
However, Antoine has now released a new album just in time for the holiday season; one which is done with conviction and purpose.
"I do! It is my very first Christmas album in fact; 12 tracks of pure holiday joy, " he said with a laugh that would make Santa himself jealous. "It's more traditional but in a contemporary way; the adult contemporary kind of thing but for me it was all about having to change the things up that I've heard every single Christmas. There are things that come in and out of fashion and some are just classics that you'll hear caroling in the streets with them and that was my goal. I wanted something that everyone; I personally have beautiful memories tied to these recordings and I thought that if I could bring that to others; that's amazing to me. The album is called "ChristmasLand," I think the title was brought up by our producer Gregg Field, who is just a legend and it's kind of playing on the idea that Christmas and holiday spirit is almost like a place that we all go together; we all get into the spirit and transform our houses and our local areas in general into our own Christmas lands. I tried to encapsulate a little bit of that and the mysticism and magic of the holiday season. That's what I was shooting for; hopefully it lands (laughs)."
What he was "Shooting for" was not an easy target to hit; in fact, on the surface it would appear to be a logistical nightmare but due to the wonders of technology, this release was literally a"Worldwide"masterpiece, originating from the studios of Abbey Road; where else?
"I am from Essex outside of London in the UK. I think the album was as spread out as it possibly could be unless we had somebody in Japan (laughs). We had all of the sessions and Gregg Zoomed in for all of them; in a way it's nice to be using the same thing that everyone is using to communicate at the moment and yeah it was all done through that because obviously none of us can get around and come to one central location. So, it's all online communication and trying to get the best performances despite that but because of all of this communication that we have now and because of how wonderfully so many people have adapted and adopted it; its been thankfully less terrifying than it could have been. The measures that have been taken to ensure safety during the pandemic in Abbey Road particularly are awe inspiring. To be able to continue to produce music and be in this historic place while all of this is going on and an unprecedented time is happening is very, very valuable. I recorded vocals and it was engineered at Abbey Road, it was mastered at The Bakery in Los Angeles. Funnily enough, at the moment when I go to sing with the orchestra so that we get a really authentic performance, there are no click tracks so it's very performative and of course I'm a machine for blowing air all over the place so I'm a danger to my fellow musicians; so I was relegated to my own booth. It was certainly interesting but to be able to sing and be performing with The Royal Philharmonic is an absolute joy and wonder."
"It was quite a bizarre thing but it felt natural," he continued." Because of the distance, Gregg and I have communicated a lot through Zoom throughout the year, it kind of felt like an extension of that in a way; we've all become used to it. I think, honestly, making a record is obviously a costly thing, particularly when you've got a full orchestra and all of that stuff. So, it's a cost effective measure as well as a potentially life saving one during a pandemic. So, it's a multiple headed sword but all of the edges are wealth and good in that case with our adoption of that technology. They had to route the Zoom audio through the mixing board and out to everyone's headphones; the Abbey Road engineers are geniuses, they make magic."
With the making of any recording there are always decisions, in the case of "ChristmasLand" the song selection Antoine had at his disposal was immense; so, how did he narrow it down to just 12 tracks?
"I think it correlates back to me singing in the living room at the age of five. Those Christmas songs that I grew up with steadily stayed long; thankfully I have incredible creative minds around me like Gregg. He and I were the driving force behind the majority of track list; we came together with each of our own lists, we put it all in a big spreadsheet and made our initial evaluation which helped kind of narrow it down and get rid of the ones that we definitely didn't want and then we had the really hard stuff and it was, maybe, maybe not; is this exactly right? So, it took us about a week of back and forth and trying to whittle it down to our perfect 12 and I think we were pretty close."
The album hit the shelves and online retailers several weeks ago and Antoine has already created two videos for two of the songs; "Amazing Grace" and "These AreThe Special Times." The latter written by Diane Warren with an Italian lyric by Marco Marinangeli.
"I do, yes! He exclaimed enthusiastically, "I have two now, I put out a video for "Amazing Grace" which is a beautiful video; I was just super proud of what we created. We created both of the videos at the same time on the same shoot and to have the different types of dancing across both of them is really cool to me. The "Amazing Grace" video is cut between the dancer and I and kind of very loosely showing the story and the second video is "These Are The Special Times" which is kind of a fusion piece, a dance technique fusion showing the story of two dolls I suppose; it sounds quite strange to explain it but it's a story of love and new beginnings and endings and the cyclical nature of being itself and the idea that it is people and the particular connections once again that make our lives special and bring us those special times."
"Yes, Diane allowed us to use this wonderful gorgeous song and to get it translated it to Italian; she gave us "Compass" for the last album and she's basically just an absolute legend. Every e-mail that I get from her is one of the most enthusiastic and day brightening things that you can possibly receive. She is just an absolute pleasure to speak to and she writes a pretty good song too (laughs)!"
Like most entertainers, Antoine realized his, "Passion" at a young age and as he matured and it developed, it would drive him to seek greater heights.
"I am just 25, for those who may not be familiar; I was on "Britain's Got Talent" in 2012 and from there I was signed to Simon Cowell's record label and from there onto Sony Classical and Masterworks and for a while I've been independent and doing my own thing just continuing this whole journey. My career started in 2012 but I've been interested in singing for almost all of my life. Whatever was on the radio I would pretty much sing and dance to like a little five year old in the living room and I think most of that spirit has stayed with me frankly (laughs). It is just something that I get intense joy out of and when I got into high school I started taking lessons and one of the first songs that I sang was "Where Is Love" from "Oliver" and I fell in love with the idea; it feels like you're going somewhere, it feels like you're in a place that I can't quite explain, it's ethereal and magical. One of my first ever performances at school to feel that feeling and then to be validated after by people's parents come up and say, "Oh that was really nice" and be very complimentary; it was life affirming for me at that young age. That kind of stuff spurred me on very hard to pursue my passion. I'm very lucky, very fortunate and glad."
Ah but the path to his success has not been consistent smooth sailing; as is the case with many in the industry there is a back story and for Antoine his revolves around a less than easy childhood. Due to his build, Antoine was a victim of bullying and he struggled with certain aspects of his youth; seeking comfort it seems from his talent but true to his infectious personality he turned this negative into a positive and lent his talent and charms to creating a children's book.
"Yes, I partially wrote a book; it's based on my story. "Jonathan The Porcupine" is available wherever good books are sold (laughs). I collaborated with a wonderful lady named Cathie Gebhart who wrote the series "Dan The Fish" which is all about kind of teaching kids about themselves in a way and about the world. It's making really great little stories and she contacted me asking if she could adapt my story. So, we went back and forth and eventually this beautiful pdf shows up in my email and it's just this adorable, adorable children's book. He's a porcupine and he lives among all of these wonderful woodland creatures but he has these spines, this spiked exterior that drives people away from him. I think a lot of us can relate to that, we have certain things that we feel separate us from others but through the connections that he makes he finds things that make him happy and finds things that make him use what's different and finds that those differences are what makes us beautiful. Hopefully people will take a little bit of that away and love themselves a little bit more."
His booming voice is capable of filling the smallest rooms and the largest concert halls and has been known to even turn on an "Alexa" or two during Facebook live events but does he have a favorite style of music to perform or listen to? The answers may surprise you.
"I really do have a soft spot in my heart for arias, while a lot of them are very, very difficult It's rewarding and that ethereal feeling of being lost in the music; I find it very easy to get into that when I'm singing classical or arias. Listening wise, I really like heavy metal (laughs)."
To discover more about Jonathan Antoine, please visit www.jonathanantoinemusic.com.
In a year rife with turmoil, division, debate, sickness and loss; may you all find solace in whatever makes you happy and brings you comfort. May you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
That's it for this week! Please continue to support live and original music and until next week....ROCK ON!