Karl Sanden grew up playing music in the Thompson River Valley, and he spent most of his childhood years in Kamloops BC. Along with his brother and sister, he frittered away his afternoons practicing the piano throughout his elementary and high-school years. After leaving music behind for several years, he now devotes much of his spare time to studying the accordion and mandolin, and hopes one day to pursue music full-time.
Since returning home to Vancouver, British Columbia from a French-language immersion program in Trois-Pistoles, Quebec, where he made more friends playing music than he did speaking French, Karl has been forging a new identity as a freelance musician. After spending several months rediscovering the beauty and complexity of music theory while learning to play the harmonica, he suddenly inherited his grandmother’s 1950s Scandalli accordion. The old squeeze-box had been mouldering in a basement for 20 years when it resurfaced in conversation, and since no other family member had any desire to brush the vintage from its keys, he became the proud new owner.
He taught himself to play the accordion through trial-and-error, Youtube tutorials, a lot of inspiration from the Squeezebox Circle, and his background in classical music. He now maintains a significant classical repertoire, a number of Irish dance tunes, and many modern classics in addition to some traditional accordion favourites.
After hearing Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers, he fell in love with the sparkle, twang, and precision of bluegrass music and has since taken up the mandolin. Having a string instrument in his box of musical tools has added immensely to the tonal qualities of his recordings, and has proved to be a very useful songwriting tool.
His most recent project is the 7-track EP, Fort Madeline, which was released digitally on Bandcamp and CBC Music on July 21st, and which will also be available shortly on CD at several Vancouver record stores. Comprised of two classical pieces and five original songs, this concept album is by far his best work yet as an artist. As well, he had the amazing privilege of working with a local Vancouver Artist, Jamie Smith, who has created a magnificent stenciled design to complement the music. The album is somewhat autobiographical, and it uses the image of an adventurer who sets out from a place of security to discover something of lasting value and eternal significance, with the hope of returning someday with that prize. This narrative parallels his own journey as an artist and his search for new insights and fresh ways of thinking as he discovers his own aesthetic voice.
Like most musicians, he operates on a shoestring budget and endeavors to do all of his post-production work himself, including his own recording, mixing, producing, mastering, and web development. These more technical skills have begun to take a front-seat over the last year, and he is keen to use his production skills in collaboration with other artists. Karl has done several small recording projects for friends, including the single Robots, which has yet to be released by the amazingly talented Celine Tsai.
He can often be found swingin’ his mandolin and squashin’ some reeds at any of several open-mic venues here in Vancouver.