Men We Admire: Karrnnel

Canada’s multi-award winning fiddling sensation Karrnnel Sawitsky has just released his latest single titled 101. With a different take on the typical fiddle sound, 101 has a New York City feel – big city, modern, musically and stylistically diverse and of course, full of groove.

Consistently amazing audiences with his music and passion, Karrnnel Sawitsky is increasingly in demand for solo appearances, recording sessions and concerts. As a spirited performer and composer,Karrnnel’s music draws from the various styles he plays – Canadian Old Time to Métis, Ukrainian to Scottish, Bluegrass to Jazz, and everything between.

Name: Karrnnel Sawitsky

Age: 30

Occupation: Musician (fiddle player)

Relationship status: Girlfriend. Amy Matysio who is an actor, improviser, singer and general amazing person. Oh yeh – and she is one funny babe. She can make me laugh like an old school Adam Sandler movie. Shameless plug #1 – check her out at www.amymatysio.com. We both have very busy schedules and travel a lot, so we truly value the time we have together. We also make funny Christmas cards.

For how long: Coming up on two years in March.

How many kids do you have?: No kids. Just a 3 and a half-year-old niece and 2 nephews – one is 9 months and the other is 4 months.

Pets? Is rhubarb a pet? If that doesn’t count, than no pets.

Car(s)? 2010 Toyota Rav4. I am fully aware I am probably only one of four men in Canada without kids that has a Rav4 but I will use the minivan argument – it is functional. I am sorry uncompromising gentlemen, guess I won’t get into that league anytime soon. I don’t like Captain Morgan’s anyway.

Gadgets? Gadgets while on the Road: Retina Macbook Pro, iPad2, Apogee duet2, AKG C1000s mic, Zoom H4n.
Gadgets at Home: Too many to list really. Mac Pro, Pro Tools 8 rig, various mics, KRK speakers, pedal board with way too many pedals (Ask Amy), apple TV.

Stats? 6ft and 185lbs

Favourite instruments? I love my fiddle of course. I think string players have a special relationship with their instrument – different than other instruments. The acoustic properties of every fiddle is important to what makes your voice as a player, so I think every fiddle (violin) player is extremely tied to their instrument. The fiddle I play was given to my family by an older couple – they really just wanted the instrument to be played and they were getting on in age. I don’t know much about the instrument other than that it is at least 110 years old – the two previous keepers of the instrument left engravings on the instrument (initials and a year). (Attached are 2 pictures of these engravings)

I recently just bought a cheap fiddle and I am very excited to mess around with it. Not that way – I mean like mess with the acoustic properties of this instrument and messing around with different effects pedals while playing it. I am not going to say much but I will be doing some experimenting with it in December (after I am done the tour I am on right now). I will have some videos and sample tracks available online of the process and outcome, and possibly a guest vocalist or two for a couple demo tracks.

Sports? I played Junior A hockey in Saskatchewan with the Notre Dame Hounds for 2 years after high school. I still play rec hockey whenever I can (which isn’t that often anymore). I run a few times a week, especially while on the road. I am training for my next marathon – hopefully run a marathon in June 2013.

I also started doing hot yoga about 2 years ago and I love it (I know – strike two uncompromising gentlemen). Hot yoga has helped out with a lot of old hockey injuries, running injuries, and soreness from playing music (physical not mental). I am also a golfer. It is a GREAT game and I only wish I could spend more time playing it.

How did you get started on your current career/lifestyle path? 

I have two older sisters that play fiddle and my dad plays accordion, so it was inevitable that I would take up the fiddle. Besides, when you are a wee little guy and you see you ‘cool’ older sisters playing fiddle of course you want to do that. (quotations around cool only refer to my inability to know if they were cool when I was four years old – I can confirm they are cool now)

We played as a family band for years and then I ventured out on my own and started to have a solo career. Music has always been a huge part of my life so it wasn’t a choice whether to pursue it. It was just a matter of when to pursue my passion.

Did you have any mentors who helped steer you on this path?

My family is definitely my biggest influence and mentors. Having 2 older sisters that played fiddle and my dad on accordion pushed me musically and was a huge benefit. Also, my mom and dad have been my biggest supporters from day one. My dad acts as unofficial videographer and my mom is on catering duty at shows around home (good old Ukrainian cooking is always a big hit).

My first fiddle teacher, Everett Larson, was also a very important mentor with my music. He has taught music professionally since 1953. Truly a remarkable man. Taking lessons with him taught me so much more then music. Music is about the community, the culture, and so much more than just the notes.

My godfather, who passed on a couple of years ago, was a musical hero to me growing up. He played pretty much every instrument and played them well. He travelled a lot and would randomly stop by our house and it always ended up in a big jam. Those are some of my favorite musical memories.

How has your work contributed to a) your development as a person and/or b) the lives of others?

To me, my work as a musician is defined by the music I write and anything I create. So the stem of who I am comes through the music I write. I think as time goes on and as life’s bumps, grinds, and rollercoasters change me, my music changes with it. Conversely, as I progress my creative voice as an artist and through the experiences that I encounter because of music, I think it changes me as a person. It is a two-way street.

Because I write my own music, teach at camps/workshops, and perform, I get to see first hand how others react to my music. Like any artist, getting people to experience your creation is one of the most rewarding things – either as you intended or in a way that you did not. I hope that I can continue to create music that will be enjoyed by many people for years to come.

If you had one piece of advice for someone just entering your field, what would it be?

Smile and be different – never stop creating and developing your voice as an artist.

Do you have a personal work philosophy?

Always be aware of the differences between when you are working creatively and time can’t be a factor, and when you must be effective and efficient. It is a fine balance.

What do you do for fun? 

I play music of course. I love what I do and have an amazing community of musicians to have fun with. Because I travel so much, I love spending time with friends as well. Seeing people that are important to me that I don’t get to see very often is my idea of fun. And cooking – I love getting home after a tour and cooking meals for my girlfriend and me.

Never fear failure; rather let regret be your motivational fear.

What motivates or inspires you?

The feeling of getting things done and being creative and productive is very addictive for me. That is one of my biggest motivators. I also find friends and anyone who is successful in work and life to be very motivational.

To me, inspiration is something totally different. Inspiration is something or someone that stimulates my creative spirit. I am constantly inspired by people, nature, animals, and experiences. These are the things that shape so much of the music I write and arrange.

What has been your greatest achievement (personally, professionally or both)?

Personally: continuing to pursue my passion.

Professionally: 2012 Instrumental Album of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards (with “The Fretless”)

What is the one thing you hope to achieve?

Besides a maroon swimming lessons badge, I hope one day for skinnier thighs. Joking aside, in terms of validation by others, I hope one day to win a Juno and/or a Grammy. In terms of personal achievement, I hope one day to write and perform my music around the world at major music venues and one day even with with full orchestras (and my band of course).

What is your super power?

Being a fiddle player with a degree in Civil Engineering that enjoys yoga and running, and who was a former hockey player and model, I believe it is quite obvious. I can juggle lives.

Who’s your hero?

Musically: my godfather, Victor Wooten. Generally: my mom and dad.

What are you reading (or watching) these days?

I am reading The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten – for the second time. Also just in the process of finishing Outliers by Malcom Gladwell – got this referred to me by a mega-talented videographer friend, Preston Kanak (shameless plug #2: http://3minuteshorts.ca/ ).

I have also been completely entertained by pretty much anything by Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac. My iPad bookstore and kindle app makes being on the road like always having a library with you.

Insert any piece of advice, anecdote, villain story, funny story, joke, recipe or life lesson you’d like to share with our readers.

ADVICE: Fiddle is a lot more than a ridiculous verb.
LIFE LESSON: Never lose the ability to laugh at yourself.
RECIPE: Sour Cream Apple Pie (made it about 5 times now and it is amazing)
Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface, fit it into a 10-inch (6-cup capacity) pie plate, and flute the edge decoratively. Chill the shell while making the topping and the filling.

Make the topping:
In a small bowl blend together the butter, the sugar, the cinnamon, and the flour until the mixture is combined well and chill the topping, covered, while making the filling.

Make the filling:
In a large bowl whisk together the sour cream, the sugar, the salt, the vanilla, the eggs, and the flour until the mixture is smooth, add the apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin, and stir the filling until it is combined well.

Spoon the filling into the chilled shell, smoothing the top, and crumble the topping evenly over it. Bake the pie in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until it is golden and the apples are tender, transfer it to a rack, and let it cool completely. Serve the pie with the ginger whipped cream.

Thinking back to a time when you had to make a hard choice, how did you decide, and do you feel, in retrospect, that you made the right move? 

I am a very analytical person and rarely make hasty decisions. But for those really hard decisions, I 100% go with my heart and with what I know is the right decision for me. This isn’t always the most logical decision but it is the decision that will maintain my personal happiness.

If you had it all to do over again, would you change anything?

I would change nothing. I would not be where I am and know what I know without making all the mistakes I have made.

What’s next for you? What’s your next big idea, project etc.?

Three friends and I formed a band last year – a folk music quartet called The Fretless – and we have a very busy year ahead. We are on a 5 week tour of Europe right now (until the end of November) and then have tours slated for March and April in the US and Canada. We will have another busy summer in 2013 playing music festivals across Canada and the US and then have another tour in Europe next October.

As for my solo project, I am working on the pre-production of my next solo album and hope to get in the studio in mid 2013, with release in later 2013. It will be an album of 100% original music – similar in instrumentation to my most recent single that I released on October 10, 2012 entitled 101.

I am also working on pre-production of a second Fiddle and Banjo album with banjo virtuoso Daniel Koulack, from Winnipeg, MB. Release of this album is anticipated for mid 2013.

I have another big project on the go – I can’t say too much about it but you can check out my website for upcoming info on this.

Karrnnel – Coast/Rain from Preston Kanak on Vimeo.

Karrnnel’s Website: www.karrnnel.com

Karrnnel on Facebook: www.facebook.com/karrnnelmusic

Karrnnel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/karrnnel

Karrnnel on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/album/101-single/id567142628?v0=9988&ign-mpt=uo%3D1