Grunwald to groove
FOR Aussie blues artist Ash Grunwald – who will play in Leongatha on February 8 with good friend Mia Dyson – the path to salvation lies somewhere in the past and somewhere in the future.
As the years have rolled on Ash’s music has changed – still very much blues-inspired, but now with an eclectic sprinkling of modern musical styles, most notably hip-hop. His heart is still somewhere in the Delta, but his riffs are ready to tear up the dance floor.
“I was gripped by blues music early on and by my young teens I was right into it. That really set me on my journey. I just did the normal thing a lot of kids do, taking guitar lessons,” he said.
“My grandfather was a guitarist and I used to play with him. When I got going – I guess it was in my early 20s
– I used to turn up to blues jams and I just took it from there really.”
The 36-year-old has spent the past decade on the road after exploding on to the scene with the 2002 release of Introducing Ash Grunwald, a collection of originals and blues standards.
Originally hailing from the suburbs of Melbourne, Ash now calls Byron Bay home. But he believes his time down south, mixing it with the best performers in the city blues scene, was a massive fillip for his career.
“I learnt a lot from those guys: from Chris Wilson, from Collard Greens and Gravy, from Jeff Lang. Every single one of those mentors and heroes would be completely disgusted if you ever said you were going to mix hip-hop and blues, but I’m just of a different generation,” he said.
“I listen quite eclectically. I’ve always prided myself on being pretty genuine on stage and genuine as a person. That means, I do what I feel like doing in music. But it’s always been pretty bluesy.”
Grunwald said it didn’t matter whether you were playing to stadiums or small audiences, it was “good to have your own thing happening”.
“In music you need to have your own sound, your own little area that’s nothing quite like anyone else. That’s what I aim for anyway,” he said.
The keen surfer and nature lover said his opposition to coal seam gas exploration served as something of an inspiration for parts of his latest release, 2012’s Trouble’s Door.
“I’ve been influenced a lot by the issue. It scares the hell out of me. I never thought we’d see it around Byron, but it’s everywhere, especially the Northern Rivers. It’s really, really scary,” he said.
“I didn’t do one song that was literally about coal seam gas mining, but that wider issue was playing on my mind and still is playing on my mind. The more docos I see the gladder I am about some of the songs I wrote on the album.
“There’s been a movement towards corporations being all powerful and dictating so many areas of our life that we don’t even know about.
“I believe that everybody should have the right to earn a living, but when companies get to a certain size it just gets crazy – beyond the law and beyond ethics. The only ethic for them is making profit. I think that really causes a lot of problems in our society for the everyday person.”
Grunwald believes the irony of the situation is that an everyday person will often rail against the people who protest against CSG.
While the album has a serious edge, there are also plenty of “booty shaking” tracks, he said.
He is good friends too with Mia Dyson and is excited about playing with her at the Lyrebird Arts Council-sponsored gig.
• This week, The Star is giving away two double passes for Ash Grunwald and Mia Dyson’s show at Leongatha’s Memorial Hall on Friday, February 8, courtesy of our friends at the Lyrebird Arts Council. Simply be amongst the first two entrants to email firstname.lastname@example.org with an answer to the following question: What is the name of Ash’s latest release?
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