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Cantinero On The Go
|Birth name||Christopher Lee Hicken|
|Origin||West Bromwich, England|
|Occupations||Singer-songwriter, Composer, Producer|
Chris Hicken (born in West Bromwich, England) is a British singer, songwriter/Composer, and producer who records under the name Cantinero. Currently based in Inwood, Manhattan New York, Hicken writes keenly observed, carefully crafted pop that blends acoustic and Spanish guitars, piano, and strings, with subtle electronic textures. His debut album, Championship Boxing, was released by indie label Artemis Records in 2004. The new album Better for the Metaphor, released November 2008 on the Tinkle Tone Recordings, has been listed as one of the Best CDs of 2008 NPR.
Hicken first arrived in the U.S. in April 1993, with his then-combo, Bigmouth. When Bigmouth’s guitarist suggested a trip to America, Hicken fell in love with New York City, where Bigmouth found itself welcomed by the city’s ex-pat British community. After two weeks and a handful of triumphant gigs, Bigmouth went back to Birmingham, returning a few months later, ostensibly to support fellow Brummies UB40 on an American tour. The band turned up at Toads Place in New Haven with a one-way truck rental full of hired gear only to discover that no one in UB40’s camp was expecting them. Fortunately, the pop-reggae hitmakers allowed Bigmouth to do the show, which went so well they were given the opening slot on the next six dates of the tour. The success of the UB40 trek confirmed Hicken’s belief that Bigmouth’s left-of-center pop-rock was best suited for American audiences. With that in mind, the band decided to make New York their new home.
Over the next few years, Bigmouth gigged all over town, building a substantial following via energetic performances and a self-released CD. They were courted by a number of major labels, but never quite closed the deal. By 1997, Hicken was disillusioned and decided to call it quits. “I couldn’t do it anymore,” he recalls. “I was in pieces. I’d show up for rehearsal and have these massive anxiety attacks. I had spent my whole life telling myself I was going to be a rock star, and then I realized it wasn’t going to happen. Dealing with that really crushed me.”
New York City
Hicken put his rock and roll fantasy behind him and earned a living tending bar in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood. He redirected his intellectual energies into studying philosophy at The New School. He also maintained a healthy obsession with music, with a growing interest in electronic artists such as Boards of Canada. When his roommate, Spacehog drummer Johnny Cragg, invested in an assortment of computer recording gear, Hicken began to immerse himself in the creative process, gradually getting his head around the idea of making music again. "It became my solace learning my way around the technology, making these one-minute pieces of electronic music," he says.
Hicken played some tracks for a friend, Michael Chambers, former drummer in NYC combo, the Phoids, and one of the founders and owners of Artemis Records who liked what he heard and pushed Hicken to further his musical experiments. Burnt out from years of bartending, Hicken decided to take a shot. In May 2002, he finished a five-song demo and soon found himself with the very thing he’d been waiting for his whole life: a record deal. He invested the advance money in a home recording setup, converting a spare room of his four-bedroom flat into Lovely Studios. Moved by Ken Burns Jazz docu-series, he decided to focus on a more traditional sonic approach, opting to use acoustic instrumentation rather than computer-based technology.
Hicken’s debut album under the name Cantinero, a nickname bestowed on him by a Spanish bartender co-worker, was released by Artemis Records in 2004. Recorded at home with the window open, the songs are directly informed by Hicken’s experiences in New York, complete with samples of street sounds, his dogs barking, infomercials, and answering machines. Thematically, the album is “about the pursuit of a dream, and what to do with the rest of your life when the dream dissolves” (City Life)
The album received numerous positive reviews, which praised its mixture of bedroom pop intimacy and electronic textures. “Championship Boxing is compelling stuff — easy on the ears, but with depth and complexity in layers that grow with each new spin” (splendidzine.com). “A prolific songwriter with a majestic voice, Hicken is raw, affecting and honest—a quality often lost in the melding pot of today’s music. Traveling the road of finding his niche in an ever-changing music industry, Hicken has found his home by simply being himself—truly original and dedicated to the music he wishes to create (copperpress.com).
Better for the Metaphor
Hicken moved to a log cabin in the Catskills area of upstate New York in 2006 after ten years of living in Manhattan. There, in the middle of a 200-acre (0.81 km2) preserve next to Minnewaska State Park, he began to write the songs for his self-produced second album Better for the Metaphor. He recorded the album at Tinkle Tone Studios, in the Hudson River Valley area of Rhinecliff.
Christopher L Hicken. Vocals, Keyboards, Bass, Guitars, Programming, Percussion.
Richard Steel. Guitars, Bass, Vocals.
Martin Ewens. Bass
Christian Bongers. Bass
John Dely. Piano
Frank Ferrer. Drums
Johhny Cragg. Drums
Michael Chambers. Drums
Howard Rappaport. Slide Guitar
Ivan Armijos. Spoken Word
Better for the Metaphor
(Tinkle Tone Recordings)
Christopher.L.Hicken. Vocals, Guitars, keyboards, programming, Percussion, Bass.
Martin Ewens. Bass.
Scott Martin. Drums.
John Dely. Piano/Organ.
Harvey Mason. Drums.
Tamir Muskat. Drums.
Doug Derryberry. Guitars.
Johnny Cragg. Drums.
Dean Oloughlin. Vocals.
Jennifer Glass. Vocals.
Michael Chambers. Drums.
Skoota Warner. Drums.
Lisa Liu. Violin
Lauren Riley. Cello
James Armstrong. Vibes/Percussion
Paul Ogunsalu. Bass
Chad Fischer. Drums