Karl-Johan Wigander is a professional drummer, musical director, and producer based in Nashville, TN. Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, Karl-Johan started playing drums at the age of 8 years old and started playing professionally around the age of 12.
He made the move to America at the age of 18 to pursue studies at Musicians Institute and graduated with a degree in Drum Performance in 2019. In July of 2019, he moved to Nashville to start working with up-and-coming country artist Kyle Daniel. With Kyle, he has toured all over the U.S. together with a handful of other artists and bands. Some of his most recent credits include Cole Pender, Kyle Daniel, BBC Americana Fest Collective Album, Polar Music Prize (TV), Kaya Stewart, Googoosh, and Meg Myers.
We love to catch up with MI graduates and ask them about their journey during and after MI, and where their career will go next! Read below for more.
Why did you choose to study at Musicians Institute?
I’ve always wanted to live and work in Los Angeles so MI seemed like the perfect place for me to go to work on my musical abilities while also being exposed to the industry that’s out
What is a lesson you learned in an MI class that you feel you use the most in your career? What was your favorite class?
This will probably sound a little cliche but actively listening to the other musicians that you’re playing with. Developing a great ear and “touch” is way more important than making
a bunch of noise. I really dug the private lessons and LPW’s. Barry Squire’s class on music business is a real treat as well. Definitely take that and get on his radar if you’re a musician, he hosts a lot of auditions for various bands.
Can you share the journey of getting your first live music gigs after graduation?
Getting my first “real” gig actually started when I was in school. I visited Nashville a couple months prior to graduating and met a fellow Swedish musician. It turned out that he was playing guitar for a southern rock/country artist and they needed a drummer. Long story short, I got introduced to the guys in the band during that trip and essentially got the gig by hanging out with them. So after I had graduated (Spring of 2019) I decided to move out to Nashville to go on tour.
This lasted for about nine months until the pandemic struck. I was 20 years old at the time and had a total blast getting to play with guys that where close to twice my age and fantastic musicians. We did some awesome runs with bands like Marshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels, and Vintage Trouble.
What is the most important advice you have to MI students who want to be successful in the industry?
I think the best advice I could give is to take advantage of everything that the school has to offer and really sit down and work on your craft. In school you have what seems to be an endless amount of time on your hands. Going out and meeting people in the “real world” is hugely important as well. You have the benefit of going to school in the middle of Los Angeles so why not make the most out of it. Chances are that you’ll stay in town after graduating so having made connections prior to that is a huge bonus.
What are some things you cannot live without while you’re out on a tour?
Aside from good gear it has to be my computer and Swedish snus.
How was your experience opening up for such legendary musicians on this past tour?
It was an incredible experience getting to share the stage with bands like Smashing Pumpkins, My Chemical Romance, and Alanis Morissette. It’s always fun meeting new people and seeing how different crews operate. You learn a lot from it.
What is next for you? What do you still hope to accomplish?
I’ve got some recordings waiting to get done and tours that are coming up later this year. There is a lot that I still want to accomplish but if you break it down it all has to do with being able to play drums for a living, there are also a few different artists that I would love to get a chance to work with at some point in my career.
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