Stian Carstensen began playing the accordion when he was nine, when his father came home one day with a small version of the instrument. That same evening Carstensen learnt his first waltz, and eight months later he won the section for his age group in a local championship. In the national finals he came second. Over the following four years he studied with Ottar Johansen. He took up the electric guitar at the age of 14 and started a heavy rock band, as playing the accordion earned him little street cred as a teenager. At the weekends, though, he toured playing dance music on the accordion. At the time, accordion wizard John Fjeldbu was a frequent guest of the Carstensens, and Stian Carstensen's interest in improvisation was aroused when he jammed with Fjeldbu. Accordion playing has long been a feature of the Carstensen family, and he became acquainted with the old Norwegian dance music tradition during family celebrations. Among his musical role models Carstensen includes Judas Priest, Django Reinhardt, his father and Balkan gypsy musicians.