Ben Kunder was introduced to the arts at a young age, so it was kind of a given he would pursue some sort of artistic expression. For Kunder, it was music. Fans will get a chance to hear tunes from his latest CD Golden on Oct. 3rd at The Hideout.
Golden was recorded in Toronto and was co-produced by John Dinsmore. From start to finish, there is an authenticity to virtually every song. It’s all powered by Kunder’s vocal abilities which shine with an accomplished versatility as well.
“Both of my parents were in the arts – my mother was an actor and my father was an actor and director, and later became a drama teacher,” he explains during a recent chat. “I grew up being surrounded by it – it was a creative household and we were encouraged to explore our imaginations and creativity.
Kunder’s father was also a huge music lover and a collector, so it wasn’t long before Kunder found a growing interest in music being sparked in his own life. “When it came to music, I was brought up from a very young age to respect and appreciate music. Not just to listen to it, but also to take something from it – try to understand and empathize.”
As kids, his dad would also take Kunder and his siblings to concerts featuring artists as Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and the Chieftains just to name a few. “Then we would get together – being even just six or seven years old – and we would hang out after at a coffee shop. He would ask us what we thought about it, or how the concert made us feel,” he said. “So I was brought up to have an opinion and to have that be respected as well.”
Kunder did take piano lessons for a time, but it didn’t really click. Later on, he discovered his dad’s guitar from his university days in the basement. “Along with it were all of his old music books from the 60s and 70s – Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, for example. So I just taught myself from those books.”
When it came time for post-secondary education, Kunder opted to study theatre at Sheraton College. So trained as an actor and musical theatre performer, he has a way of breaking down the fourth wall and connecting with people. His folks encouraged him to try his hand at theatre as well, so it seemed like the natural course to take.
“I was deciding whether to go to college for music or for theatre. I felt like with music, I was finding my own voice but that with theatre, I could be trained and it might be helpful with performance in general.”
There is no question that choice has enriched his abilities, plus he worked as an actor for years as well. It was a fascinating journey as he would land acting gigs in shows clear across the country, spending months in the middle of scenic B.C. or a few weeks on beautiful Prince Edward Island, he said. “It certainly fed my inspiration for writing about traveling and exploring the country,” he said. “That was something that was always important to me.”
With Golden, “I tried to create an album that had fluidity and was really a cohesive project. I wanted it to also reflect my life of travelling within this country and how that has affected me over the past few years,” he said.
Teaming up with Dinsmore was an absolute gift as well. “He had a home studio, he seemed like a great guy and he has a great resume himself as a musician,” reflected Kunder on first meeting Dinsmore. “I also respected many of the bands and songwriters that he had worked with already,” he said, adding he dropped by to check out Dinsmore’s home studio and everything just felt right.
“His place had a warm nostalgia to it,” he said. “When we started out, he was not co-producing – he was engineering the record. But after a couple of weeks I started to notice that we were communicating really well and that he was sharing his thoughts – and they were all great. So I asked him if he wanted to co-produce.”
As said, the results speak for themselves. The project has a polished feel, but there is that compelling sense of ‘realness’ to it, too. The songs never lose their sense of accessibility.
“Once in a while I sit down and it’s like a sudden sun shower,” he explained of the inspiration to write songs. “I’m fully inspired and write a song and know the melody. Usually, I have a bunch of guitar melodies or I feel inspired to write some poetry and they sort of come together.”
Meanwhile, thanks in part to his background in the arts, being on stage feels like home.
“Because of my acting and performance background I feel really natural in front of people and on stage,” he said. “The difference is I’m sharing something really personal when it comes to music. I try to make a point of being open and connecting.”