Ash Grunwald talks to us at Falls Festival 2005/06

Ash Grunwald is a staple of the Australian blues and roots scene. He has played to audiences all over the world, from Mississippi to Melbourne, winning fans over wherever he goes. Ash continues to tour all over Australia, one night playing in a small country pub, the next stepping onto any of the nations biggest stages. He never fails to play an entertaining show. Ash’s latest album “Live At The Corner” has been quite successful, and due to his constant gigging and hosting “Roots and All” on Triple J, his reputation continues to grow. was lucky enough to talk to Ash Grunwald just after he stepped off the stage at the 2005 Falls Festival, where he played to over 10,000 people.Chris M- Firstly, how do you feel when you’ve just walked off stage after playing a show like that to that many people?

Ash- Um, its probably not the answer I’m supposed to give, but, actually pretty blank. Like, not many emotions, its really weird. But when you think about it later it’s like YEEEEAAAAHHH that was sick!!!!! At the time you’re like really pumped but, its just weird. I don’t know if I’ve got a weird quirk or something, but you feel pretty blank straight after it, just because it draws so much vibe out of you. Sometimes you’re just really fucked after, and you think, well I didn’t do that much, why am I so tired? But, it’s an emotional thing. But other times, especially when I first started playing festivals, after being in front of those big crowds a couple of days in a row, especially when it was new to me, it would energise me heaps. Like I could do anything I wanted. I could go out, I could drink then surf then drink surf and do all this stuff that I shouldn’t, and I’m thinking ‘I should be dead by now’. But I was just really pumped. But now I must admit I’ve got a bit more used to it, just a little bit, but I still totally dig it.

Chris D- I came and saw you last year (at Falls), and you opened up at the top stage, and then you come here and you’re playing to the entire hill, this massive crowd…. do you feel yourself playing differently?

Ash- Nah, I reckon it’s exactly the same, and about the same level of fun, although I feel a sense of accomplishment. I’m like ‘yeeaah yeeaahh I got up to the big stage, and I didn’t fuck it up!’ You know, I was like ‘wow, they gave me that spot’…. even when I came here I didn’t usually think about any festivals until I get there, and I’m sitting here and I’m reading through the program, you know, and you look- ‘Ahh, look who’s on what stage’ or whatever and you think well geeeze, you know….

Chris M- Well you look at it, you were down here (the main valley stage) versus Lior (at the same time in the top tent stage), and Lior’s had a big year…..

Ash- Yeah he’s had a huge year!

Chris M- and they’ve put you on the main stage and him up top. How does that make you feel?

Ash- Yeah, well I was pretty stoked by I, and then the gig went pretty well….

Chris M- It went awesome!!!

Marc B- It went nuts!!!

Chris D- Yeah it was really cool!!!

Ash- Well yeah, I got into it. Cos, you know, Faker were on before me and I’m sitting there thinking…well I’m hearing this rock and I was hearing people cheer and I was thinking, is this as far as it goes for playing blues to…. like I know young dudes have gotten into it, and I just think that’s really sick, and I started to believe anything was possible. And then just for a split second I was thinking, ‘oh…I hope it doesn’t work out that this is as far as it goes and this gig is where I find out ‘oh no, this is rock!’ That was the question. But no, it was cool, their (the crowd) singing was helping my mojo!!!

Chris D- Well just looking around, there was heaps of people who knew the words to every song…

Marc- it was fantastic!!

Ash- I think this year that, and then doing a couple of these festivals, and then doing the Missy Higgins support tour a couple of months ago are the two examples where I thought, this is it, this is going to tell me whether there is any potential for playing blues to…. just everyday dudes who aren’t actually into blues. But yeah, they’ve gone alright, so that bits good.

Chris M- What about those support dates? Are you after an opportunity to play to a wider audience?

Ash- Yep, yeah, I wanna see if I can go over to…’s interesting, how you go from doing a Robert Johnson cover to Missy Higgins or something, ya know. Or, I did the supports for Pete Murray…it’s really bizarre. But they’ve all gone alright! That’s the funny thing. But I think this style of music, its not really that inaccessible. When people hear it they generally dig it. It’s just for years people haven’t heard blues and roots in the mainstream.

Chris M- So its just a matter of getting your sound out there?

Ash- Yeah definitely….

Chris D- And you’re some of the people that are doing that,

Ash- Well hopefully!! Cos I was a weird little kid, you know, I sort of sat outside my generation like some people do and who just sort of like…’why does that kid like listening to reggae??’ And who knows why? But they do. And I was just really into my blues. But now, if I was growing up and I was 15 now, I wouldn’t be so weird for liking blues! Because a lot of kids, like the kids who are 15 or whatever, they like it. So it’s pretty crazy when you think about it. It’s pretty cool!

Chris M- So, you’re a Melbourne boy…..

Ash- Yep,

Chris M- Based in Melbourne?

Ash- Based in Torquay…

Chris M- The Victorian scene, like along the Great Ocean Rd and the Melbourne scene, how do you see the blues scene there traveling at the moment?

Ash- Well, the blues scene, that’s what I grew up in- the Melbourne blues scene. And that’s one thing…before this roots thing and everybody’s into it now in the mainstream, the Melbourne blues scene was still sick! You know, there was Chris Wilson, Collard Greens and Gravy, Lloyd Spiegl…a whole lot of people in that scene, and I’ve learnt a lot from all those people, and used to go watch them…I used to go watch Chris Wilson every Tuesday at the Dan O’Connell. I’d go there and think ‘what the hell? This guy is amazing! He is amazing! Why am I watching him for free?’ And Melbourne’s always been my home, so it’s a good thing….

Chris M- What about nationally? Do you think the blues is capable of really taking off? Is there a strong scene nationally?

Ash- Certainly for roots there is. And the really good thing is that roots is a million different things that are all sorts and they all get locked in together. So that’s a good thing, because if somebody likes a reggae band, and they walk away thinking ‘yeah that roots music was cool’ that helps the guy who is playing some blues or some country, cos people say ‘well hey, I like roots music’, so we can all be bunched into that. But there are a lot of good blues acts out there. And even here (falls) you see the Vasco Era and stuff, there’s a new generation of dudes coming through playing pretty bluesy stuff. And then, did you hear Rob Sawyer?

All 3 of us- Oh yeah!!!!! Rob’s awesome. Seen him plenty of times this year, big Rob fans.

Ash- Yeah he’s great! And what he does sort of draws a lot of inspiration from reggae, and also just from good guitarists.

Chris M- Yeah he is an amazing guitarist.

Ash- Yeah!

Chris D- You have played a few overseas gigs, like festivals, is blues bigger there? Is it easier to get into there? Or is it the same sort of deal?

Ash- Yeah it’s the same. Take blues music, I think blues…is in a different category to the roots music…the blues scene is smaller than the other styles in certain places, surprisingly particularly in America.

Chris M- Have you played the States?

Ash- Yeah, not a great deal, I just played this little thing in Memphis, and it wasn’t really that big. I was surprised that this wasn’t such a big deal. I played this thing called the International Blues Performer of the Year, where you go over and you compete over there and um…. it wasn’t that big. But this year I went to Belgium and Spain. The Spain thing wasn’t that big but the Belgium festival was a little smaller than this (falls) but one stage, and 10,000 people….

Chris M- so it was all really concentrated on the one stage….

Ash- Yeah. And they have a sick festival scene, they have heaps of stuff. Apparently in summer they have 5 festivals a week!

All 3 of us- What? A week? That’s awesome!

Ash- A week! Like, on every weekend they have 5 festivals. Because they just stay in, in winter and they go to the pub. But all the pubs are shut in summer and they just hit it. And they do the festival thing and its like drinking and going crazy, and that’s my kind of festival.

Marc- So what’s the deal…. you played today, and you’re off to Tassie now…. do you get time to check out any of the other acts?

Ash- I did. I used to, but now it’s really…. like I’ve just been at Woodford and just came down and bang and then I’m off to Tassie and then the Feelgood Festival. But you just see what you happen to see by accident, or whoever you make an effort to try and see. But if you go and see everything you’d be stuffed!!

Marc- So tomorrow you’ll…..when is Feelgood? Is feelgood the next one?

Everyone else- Nah Feelgood’s later on…

Ash- Right now I’ve gotta fly out at 7:40 to Tassie…

Marc- Ahhhh Feelgood’s in Sydney isnt it….

Ash- Yeah yeah…and then….

Marc (going slighlty insane)- Ahhh hahahaha that’s all to much for us….hahaha

Ash- Yeah and then after this Tassie one I have to leave really quickly and go up to Sydney. And then I’m touring down from Sydney just all down the south coast and then up, and then fly out of Brisbane. So it’s pretty hectic at the moment…but it’s fun! But I’d better get going now guys….
Us- You are awesome…thank you so much
Ash- Thank you

Chris Duell - Founder / Developer at LoudNLocal, currently working at VentureCraft