Singer-songwriter Ben Kunder is taking his brand new disc Better Human on the road this Fall with a stop in Red Deer slated for Oct. 5th at The Krossing.
Better Human marks Kunder’s sophomore album, and it sees him digging into various themes about trying to find balance in life.
“This record is about trying to navigate through the world while sharing darkness to see the light,” he said.
“It’s been cathartic for me to realize that, while I was filling my social media with pictures of my kids and stops on my last tour, I was also filled with anxiety and struggling to find time to really be joyful,” he explained.
“The more I started opening up about it, the more I realized everyone was feeling the same way.”
Kunder teamed up with engineer/producer Aaron Goldstein at Baldwin Street Sound last Fall for the record, welcoming a host of esteemed players — bassist Anna Ruddick (Randy Bachman, Bry Webb, Ben Caplan), Arkells drummer Tim Oxford and keyboardist Anthony Carone, violinist Drew Jurecka, and Wintersleep drummer Loel Campbell.
“I guess there was a little bit more urgency in writing this album,” he explained. “I found out I had studio time and funding to make this record, so I went on a tour and took some time away to do some writing,” he said.
“The past few years since my last album came out, they’ve been some of the most beautiful, love-filled and inspiring times but also some of the most trying (seasons) and times of struggle personally.
“So the vision was about me personally working harder to be better for myself and for my kids and the environment, and to be active in just experiencing what is happening. And then in turn, to have that be a universal message,” he said.
Kunder said a love for music came early.
“Both my parents were in theatre and in the arts,” he said. “My dad was also an avid record collector and concert-goer, so from an early age we were going to see musicals and plays, and he would take us to see concerts (with artists) like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan before I was 10.
“We also inherited a family piano when I was two, and we had lessons. But then I found my dad’s old guitar from university when I was about 11.”
Kunder also went on to teach himself how to play from his dad’s old Bob Dylan songbooks.
“Music was very much a way of life in my household and being creative and artistic was always encouraged.”
He said an unfolding career in music happened gradually, as he first ventured off to theatre school.
“I basically did both music and acting for about 10 years” he said. “Around the time that I decided to record my last record Golden was basically when the shift happened and I decided to pursue music solely.”
Kunder said the theatre training helped him with simply knowing how to handle being onstage.
“I think all of that experience made me very comfortable performing in front of large and small audiences,” he said. “It also created a bit of professionalism and etiquette – and of course I had done a lot of training vocally and physically. So it taught me a lot about stage presence, too.”
Kunder said it took a bit of time to find his own voice in terms of style, although he was aware that he had an ability to sing from a young age. “I think a lot of musicians and songwriters, when we start out, we are heavily influenced by our idols and what exists – so we ‘emulate’ others a lot.
“Some people find their voices right away. But it took me a while to develop who I was, and I’m still developing that. There’s a great Dylan line – ‘I’m always in a state of becoming’.”
As to what fuels his passion, Kunder said it largely boils down to that magical connection with an audience.
“That’s what it’s about. Whether I’m sharing stories and connecting with one person or 100 people, that’s the magic hour.”