the AU interview: Ash Grunwald (Melbourne, Australia)


On the eve of Australia Day, and his performance at the Oversea’s Passenger Terminal in Sydney, I had a chance to chat to Ash Grunwald, who’s just about to release a new live album, and continue a relentless touring schedule – this time with the Funkoars by his side.

So you’ve got a new Live album coming out, which was recorded at the Fly by Night in Fremantle last October. Was there a special significance to the venue that lead you to choose it for the album?

Well it’s a really nice venue, and I’ve been touring in WA for a very long time. So it was a good chance to get a live album done in WA in a really nice venue!  The main thing about the album is that it’s a band album. Normally my other recordings have been solo, my live albums. I really wanted to document what was going on at the moment, because we’re doing something a little bit different. Certainly different to anything I’ve done in the past. So that’s why I wanted to get that down.

When you went into the gig, was it already decided that it would be the album? Or were you recording a few gigs on the road?

Yeah we did that one and knew it would be the one for the album, it’s how I’ve always done my live albums actually.

You actually recorded your early albums live and acoustic… it almost feels like the only difference between then and this live album is the sound of the crowd in the background – would that be fair to say?

No not really, I sort of like those initial albums for the feel, but I’d never do an album like that again, how I used to do them, just live in the studio. You have that atmosphere, but it’s just very bare bones. It can be a good thing, but now in the studio I really like to take my time and craft it, multitrack heaps, put little tidbits in there.

Speaking of the studio, for your last LP, Fish out of Water, you collaborated with Countbounce from TZU, giving it a distinct Hip Hop edge. What lead to this collaboration?

Well I was really just looking for someone like that, and that hip hop method of writing, along with the beats – it’s what I love. I just thought I’d do it that way, and I happened to bump into him through a songwriting workshop. It was great, meant to be I reckon because it worked out really well. I’m just talking to him now about doing some more stuff actually, and I’m also recording with a guy called Mr. Trials from a band called the Funkoars.

Yeah, and we’ve already heard some of that resulting collaboration in the fantastic track “Little Did I Know” – which itself resulted in a Funkoars co-headlining tour just about to start up. It sounds like these are going to be some special shows. What can we expect?

Well there’s gonna be some jamming. Yeah, it’s a bit interesting, we don’t really know what’s going to happen. It’s two very backgrounds that we’re from, but we like similar themes in our music, so it’ll work for us, and I hope it’ll work for the fans as well.

How did the collaboration with the Funkoars initially come about?

They approached me, and originally they wanted to do a version of my song “Mojo”, but do it about the band rider – you know the drinks a band gets – because they like to steal peoples riders, so they would change the lyrics to “give me my rider back”. They were going to do that for like a version – I’m not sure if it ended up happening or not – but we got to talking, and they thought we should do a track together.

So we started to do it over e-mail, and then I went over to Adelaide and tracked it, did the vocals – sort of made it up on the spot.

Onto the live performance, I used to live in Vancouver and noted you were a big hit over in British Columbia, along with fellow Aussie Xavier Rudd. What have your experiences touring that part of the world been like?

Great, yeah I really loved it. I want to get back there. I’ve just been talking to this band The Current Swell, who I just brought down here, about getting over there and doing some shows together again. So I’m keen to make that happen!

Moving back home, how important has the Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival been to your career? I know personally it was there that I first was introduced to you.   

Yeah it’s been a really good one for me – I’ve done it 5 times now. I guess I sort of made my name as a festival kind of act – and when you’re playing to 1,000’s of people at a time, it works well. And there’s a lot of other good ones as well. I’ve probably done Woodford about 5 times as well, and that’s an amazing festival on the Sunshine Coast. And that’s BIG too, they probably have 100,000 people come through there over the Christmas / New Years period. And the Falls Festival is another one that’s been really good for me as well.

Do you find that the festival atmosphere in general in Australia is good to Blues and Roots artists?

Definitely. It was really big for a little while. I have a feeling there might be a bit of a reaction against it soon – these things seem to work in phases, so they probably won’t want to have that label on festivals all the time, anymore. I dunno… I don’t really worry about those sort of things.

Looking back over your impressive career, one thing that I didn’t realise was that you were a radio presenter for JJJ for a year and a half. Are there any other jobs that you’d be keen to take hold of in the future?

Not really. There’s a few things like that, but I guess what I’d really like to do – I’ve toured relentlessly, I do enjoy it – but I think I’d like to spend one year not touring too much, where I just record. Different albums, different projects with different people. I guess as every year goes by it becomes a little less practical in terms of money, but yeah I’d love to do that at some point.

In a sense it would be a different career, as it wouldn’t be live based. Then again I do froth on playing live. I’m pretty content. I’ve gotten so much more out of my life than I ever thought I could get. I feel very very lucky to be a professional musician. It is an enchanted life if you’re honest about it. It’s hard work, but it’s fun good hard work. It’s not hard work actually. There’s just a lot of it I guess. It’s really just a constant party. Travelling can be a bit of a pain in the arse, but you know. Like yesterday, I came down, I had a great gig in Perth, had a little bit of party time, came down, went for a bit of a surf, went to the gig, few beers, on stage, it was really great, another surf in the morning, then we’ll jump on the red eye tonight for an Australia Day gig, That kind of pace is a bit addictive sometimes. Sort of exciting.

Sounds exhausting. But a blast.

Yeah I guess that’s exactly what it is!

Well, we’ll leave it on that positive note. Thanks for your time and have a great show tomorrow night.

Thanks mate!


Ash Grunwald’s new live album, Live at the Fly by Night is out now, and
we’ve got a review for it HERE. Also keep your eyes open for the Ash Grunwald
and Funkoars co-headlined tour, which has just started touring nationally. 

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.