Ben Kunder Is Golden

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Toronto’s Ben Kunder is a songwriter for everyone. Over the course of the last eight years, his voice and songs have earned comparisons to the likes of Ryan Adams and Jackson Browne.

Trained as an actor and musical theatre performer, the singer-songwriter stops by Moncton’s Plan b Lounge for a performance on Tuesday evening.

Kunder grew up in an artistic family, making his foray into the world of theatre and music somewhat of a given. The son of a theatre-actress mother and an actor-director father, he admits there were many occasions while growing up that he did the “typical” child thing of pushing back against his parents’ wishes.

“Both of my parents actively tried to get me to attend a specific school or audition for a number of shows. I pushed back against what they wanted me to do, as that is the first instinct that many kids would have. Little did they know I was secretly singing show tunes in my bedroom,” Ben laughs. “Music and the theatre became equal passions.

“As I grew up however, I was much more open about getting into their world. I certainly would never blame my parents for trying to steer me in that direction. I think they saw the potential early on and simply wanted to give me the right opportunities if I wished to pursue them. It was always my choice, however.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Kunder made the decision to follow in his parents’ footsteps, eventually graduating from a musical theatre program at Ontario’s Sheridan College in 2007. Since then, he has had the opportunity to perform in productions from coast to coast while also calling various locations across the country his home for a period of time.

Ben spent time in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, Montreal and Charlottetown, but it was his experience on Salt Spring Island, B.C., that had a profound effect on his artistic pursuits.

“My wife and I ended up moving to Salt Spring Island on an open-ended ticket for making music and art. I grew up camping and was big into the outdoors, so leaving the big city to live in a solar-powered cabin was a bit of a dream. To wake up every day under blue skies next to the ocean and be forced to cook on a fire was a liberating experience in many ways.”

While he enjoyed the time spent on Salt Spring Island, Ben admits his pursuit of songwriting took a bit of a hit because of his peaceful surroundings.

“It was a dream environment in many ways, but I found that I was just so blissed out and happy all the time, it was a struggle to not be writing about sunshine and rainbows all the time,” he laughs. “When you live in a city, you can find inspiration in the conflict and people that are all around you. I was lacking that grit when I was living in British Columbia.

Returning to his current hometown of Toronto, Ben began recording what would become his debut album Golden approximately two years ago after striking up a friendship with John Dinsmore, a member of acclaimed roots act NQ Arbuckle.

Due for release in late winter or early spring, Kunder sees his upcoming album as a true representation of who he is as an artist.

“The album is about love and the human struggle and how we are each trying to find our place in the world,” Kunder notes. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to live independently as well as travel, but I find relating to people and connecting with them is very much who I am and how I approach life. It is all about the sharing of experiences.”

Kunder says that he feels incredibly lucky to have been backed on his upcoming record by musicians he considers to be the cream of the crop. The wealth of talent which they brought to the making of Golden is something that he is fortunate to have leveraged.

“I have always felt so lucky to be surrounded by people with incredible talent and ability that can also envision the sound I was looking to achieve. Every one of them helped open up the sound of this album and ultimately, helped the record find its voice. I am proud of what we have accomplished together.”

What: Ben Kunder
When: Tuesday, Dec. 9, 9 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton