Ash Grunwald is a bluesman. A veritable one-man band known for his high energy festival sets armed with guitar and stompbox, he’s been making music for nearly 20 years. During that time he’s clocked up countless miles in a van, lived on the road with his partner and daughter, recorded ten albums, dozens of singles, been nominated for six ARIA awards and won two APRA awards, had global tours, killer collaborations and sustained industry success. He humbly speaks of a time when he was totally DIY, literally cutting out the covers of his own CDs and selling them ten at a time. He’s on the Gold Coast this month as part of a classic Australian lineup for the one-day festival Under the Southern Stars and Samantha Morris got the low-down on what’s in the pipeline.
We kick things off by talking about 2017 and the success of Ash’s two most recent singles ‘Hammer’ and its follow-up ‘You Ain’t My Problem Anymore’. Both bangin’ blues tracks which gained the musician a heap of traction and new fans to boot.
“I guess this is a little bit of a new era for me where I release singles and it’s not leading straight away to an album,” Ash said. “There’s an album coming out this year but those singles were more about themselves.”
Ash says the songwriting formula for him is quite simple – he talks about real-world things and tries to tackle issues that come up in life. In terms of evolution, he’s proud of the range of material he’s produced but says his roots lie firmly in the blues.
“I’ve done a couple of real blues rock albums with some collaborations like the guys from The Living End and with Ian from Wolf Mother on a different album, I’ve experimented with slightly fusing hip hop with blues at one point and I feel like I’ve come out the end of all these experiments and I’m gonna go back to that blues style,” he said.
And while it’s early in the year his tour schedule is already looking full. After Under the Southern Stars here on the GC, he has a bunch of regional dates before he heads to WA for a west coast tour and he has some international destinations in his sights too.
“I’m going back to Europe, I’m doing stuff in Spain and also in Greece actually for a few festivals there and I might tour on the back of the album towards the end of the year maybe … just gotta see what happens, but yeah it’s looking like a fun year.”
It seems Ash Grunwald was made for the festival stage. And the feeling is mutual.
“I played one festival gig where there was about 30,000 people in the audience,” he said, “but I would have to say the biggest highlight overall is playing at exciting music festivals to a lot of people and just feeling that energy – it’s pretty amazing.”
With more than 20 years music experience under his belt, Ash Grunwald has seen a thing or two. He says he’s not even the same person that embarked on that journey, maxing out two credit cards to buy a van to live in and get things started.
“Unfortunately, I reckon I was more content at the start with having way less success,” he said.
“At the start I was just happy to be in my van just doing a gig and just getting by and trying to be at the coast and surfing, living a good lifestyle and living the dream. I was stoked and I was hardly playing to anyone,” Ash said.
“Whereas I guess now I’ve had some highs and lows – like how it can be a challenge on your ego if your gig doesn’t go well or an album doesn’t go well, it feels like there’s more on the line these days. So I’m trying to find the space to get back to that guy who’s just loving it for the journey.”
“One thing I’ve come to lately is I’m loving it just for the music and not so much for the party because it was all about the party there for a few years. So I’ve sorta reconnected with that pure love of playing music.”
Ash Grunwald is at Under The Southern Stars at Broadwater Parklands on Saturday 10 February alongside Jimmy Barnes, Ian Moss, Tex Perkins, Diesel, Richard Clapton and The Rich and Famous.