The beginning of the last decade saw Ash Grunwald emerging out of the popular wave of blues and folk artists. Australian indie music was going through its patchouli and campfire stage with John Butler, The Waifs, Dan Sultan and Mr Grunwald crooning their aching blues and folk-ridden souls around the countryside. Grunwald was always a blues performer at heart and his gravelly voice and rhythmic guitar was intensely raw. It was music that was performed with purely organic instrumentation – acoustic guitar, stomp box and tambourine. Things changed for Grunwald and as he grew as a performer, his music also changed but the soul remained the same. Australian Blues Awards gave way to ARIA awards on Grunwalds rise within sustainable success and being true to his art has always been first and foremost.
Underneath the exciting exterior of artistry always lies a normal life. Ash Grunwald, married and now a dad, is a musician on his resume but also a family man, as I find out when we chat. “Today I am solo dad-ing,” Grunwald says charmingly. “I am meeting up with some other solo dads today and we are going to look after each other's kids while the other ones surf. I have also been working in the studio getting the beats from the record into a live setting.”
His new album, Trouble’s Door, arranges two years of change for Grunwald personally as well as exploring the chaotically fluid state of the world around him in a global sense. Having always been an artist with a conscience, he is compelled to make music that is both personal and affective in a wider context. He has been touring as part of Krash, his project with Kram from Spiderbait and has developed as solid working relationship with Vika and Linda Bull. Utilising Pledge In Music, the project has been funded by pre-sales and special events.
Over three years ago, on his way across the country, he began a working relationship with the Hilltop Hoods and Trials from Funkoars that would solidify a shift in sound for Grunwald. The essence of blues remained but what he introduced was sonic diversity and a new, beats-driven sound. This sound has continued after the Funkoars collaboration and is present in his new songs. Bringing this new sound to life in a live setting is proving to be a challenge for Grunwald and I ask whether he is bringing in organic instrumentation to bring these sounds to life or doing it within a digital context. “It will be digital,” he explains. “With a program called Ableton Live that I have been using for my more hip hop derived stuff. We’ve been working out how to do it all live which is interesting. Working out how to program the sounds that we want and how to trigger those.”
People always appropriate artists and their music to the degree that they are excited by something new, yet sometimes want them to stay in a box. Artists are condemned for sounding the same and yet people are jolted when they take a new approach to their sound. Grunwald feels that his music is still very much his sound, albeit with a lot more texture. “I think people can still hear the same energy that has always been there it’s just that are different sounds being delivered,” he says. “But the same idea is there. It’s just a case of using different textures and sounds to produce something that has always been very rhythmic and very soulful. People have accepted the changes because it is still as relatable as the early stuff was. There are now just different ways the beats and melodies come across.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
ASH GRUNWALD will play The Corner Hotel on Saturday June 9 and The Westernport Hotel on Sunday June 10. Trouble’s Door is out now via Shock Records.