Ben Kunder

Ben Kunder knows a thing or two about craftsmanship, about coaxing details from imprecise ideas and contouring hard edges to create something beautiful and seamless.

As a musician, Kunder has expertly navigated that rarefied space between elegiac folk and accessible pop. That achievement was handily illustrated by his quietly dazzling, star-studded 2015 debut, Golden, which drew critical acclaim and airplay from Canada to the UK to the Netherlands while cementing Kunder’s status as a peerless singer/songwriter and sought-after live performer and opening act.

And as a carpenter, Kunder has kept himself firmly grounded while keeping his family fed. Of late, Kunder has also kept himself flush with studio time by bartering with his friend, producer and musician Aaron Goldstein, swapping woodworking skills for sessions at Goldstein’s Baldwin Street Sound in hometown Toronto.

“My first record, Golden, was a collection of songs I’d been working on for years,” he says. “Now, it’s a bit more immediate and I am becoming a more conceptual songwriter, writing about things that are important to me or about specific experiences I go through.

“It’s interesting that a practical thing like carpentry can mirror songwriting,” confirms Kunder, whose eclectic CV also includes showcasing at the International Folk Alliance Conference as well as at NXNE and CMW plus living on each of Canada’s coasts both on and off the grid. 

He continues: “With both songwriting and carpentry, you are starting from nothing but an idea. Hopefully in the end you have something that will last a lifetime.”

Kunder’s new songs – slated for his hotly anticipated 2018 sophomore disc – find him tweaking his approach somewhat. Where once it was a bottle of bourbon and a guitar in the rehearsal space whenever the moment struck, the arrival of Kai and brother baby Jude means moments must be stolen and musical ideas captured with haste as they arrive.  

The essence of Kunder’s writing, however – his ability to pinpoint and then soundtrack the radiance of both the ordinary and the extraordinary - remains undiminished.

“My days are long, that’s for sure,” Kunder allows. “But when you have passion and ambition and support to follow through, it doesn’t matter how exhausted you are or how much sleep you’ve had. You keep going until the job’s done.”

 

DISCOGRAPHY

Golden (2015, independent) co-produced by Kunder and John Dinsmore (NQ Arbuckle) at the latter’s Lincoln County Social Club studio. Nine original songs with Kunder on vocals, guitar and piano alongside marquee guests Brian Murphy (Alvvays) on guitar/piano/Wurlitzer, Rich Knox (Dustin Bentall, Danko Jones) on drums/vocals, Anna Ruddick (Ladies of the Canyon, Randy Bachman) on bass/vocals and Aaron Goldstein (Cowboy Junkies, Daniel Romano) on pedal steel.  John Connolly, Kirty and Ladies of the Canyon’s Maia Davies and Jasmine Bleile also contribute vocals.  

Golden charted on college radio Canada-wide and received airplay from many respected international radio programs in Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, along with airplay and interviews at BBC1 and BBC2 in the UK and at RTE in Ireland. Single ‘Half Moon’ was the #2 song of CBC Music: Sonica’s Top 50 Songs of 2015.

TBD sophomore album (independent) currently in production at Baldwin Street Sound, Toronto with Aaron Goldstein (producer), Gus Van Go (mixing), Kenneth Meehan (mixing) and John Fedge Elliot (mastering). Guests to date include Tim Oxford and Anthony Carone (Arkells), Loel Campbell (Wintersleep), Oh Susanna, Jim Guthrie and Sarah MacDougall.

SHOWS & SHOWCASES

Toured Canada September 2016 and Europe November/December 2016 with Sarah MacDougall; has shared stages with Oh Susanna, Sarah Harmer, NQ Arbuckle, Andy Maize (Skydiggers) and New Zealand’s Marlon Williams; showcased at the International Folk Alliance Conference (2015); North By Northeast (2014); and Canadian Music Week (2015).

CRITICAL RESPONSE

"Kunder's extra special voice, along with gorgeous production, lends the record an almost velvety quality..." Matthew McKean, Exclaim!, May 2015

"Everything about Ben Kunder's debut album, Golden, is warm. From his vocals to the production, the entire record glows…" Judith Lynch, CBC Music, May 2015

"Ben Kunder's voice sounds like filtered sunbeams..." John Gjaltema, AltCountry.NL (Netherlands), June 2016

"Soulful country-pop with a voice to die for..." Jeremy Searle, AmericanaUK (United Kingdom), July 2016

"The kind of mellow sincerity in his voice to take it beyond generic country-pop…" Chris Young, Toronto Star, May 2015

"A powerful voice that drives home his music’s impressive melodies and dynamics..." Katie Hartai, Ottawa Life Magazine, May 2015