After 10 years of traveling down the musical road, Australian roots-rocker Ash Grunwald doesn’t claim to have his style figured out.
Instead, the multi-genre toting, psychedelic bluesman and eclectic songwriter has let the music shape his path as he has stayed the course of artistic experimentation.
Growing up in Melbourne, Grunwald has attained an impressive international following, and has had songs featured the box-office smash films Moneyball and Limitless.
Gargantua, Grunwald’s seventh studio album, features the rhythm section of Scott Owen and Andy Strachan of the psychobilly punk troupe The Living End.
“Just to play with things and do different things in music is what I love,” Grunwald said. “It’s kind of like the fact that I love Thai food but, you know, I have to go for a pizza every now and again, too. It’s a bit like that. When I keep experimenting with things, it’s how I work.”
After asking Strachan and Owen to collaborate with him, the threesome recorded a very spontaneous version of the 2006 Gnarls Barkley hit song Crazy.
The cover tune gained substantial Internet success, and was play-listed on commercial radio all across North America and the U.K.
With a heavy blues influence within his melodies and vocals, Grunwald sees Melbourne as a place that has played a pivotal role in his musical education.
“I don’t even know if I would have got into blues if I had lived anywhere else in Australia,” he said. “Melbourne was really the place for that kind of sound. The community radio is as big as commercial radio, and it’s pretty much huge. There are two big stations, and they are both run by volunteers, and that kind of independence allowed me, when I was growing up, to just flick around the dial and hear heaps of blues.”
Seeing different musical heroes play live in Melbourne in his teens, Grunwald began to develop his own style and was able to get involved in the fellowship of the Aussie roots scene.
“Aussie roots was just starting up and I sort of hitched a ride on to that scene, and I started playing to young people and non-blues people and I was just so lucky that that came along, because it’s not a very illustrious career to play blues music, unfortunately,” Grunwald added. “It came along just as I was hitting my stride and so it was all very cool.”
With musical influences that shoot all over the map, the 36-year-old songwriter has never been satisfied listening to any one specific style of music.
Grunwald admits that he has a soft spot for hip-hop and a lot of powerhouse acts of the ‘90s.
“The things that I can remember moving me are things like the rocky, funky Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine — they both had a few songs that pricked my ears up that weren’t blues,” he said.“I had a little bit of hip-hop here or there and I ended up having a massive fascination and love of Biggie Smalls because his raps and his flow are so musical, and almost jazzy – but it’s very cool.”
When he’s not avidly touring or recording, Grunwald tries to spend as much time as possible catching waves or cutting through mountain powder.
Inspired by the folklore of the great outdoors, the surfer and snowboarder wants nature to be a big part of his creative process.
“I set off touring to pursue a lifestyle and I’m an absolute fun junkie,” Grunwald added. “I like to write about things that are important to me but I’ve never written a song about snowboarding, but I’d love to — I’ve written a lot of songs about surfing. Surfing is one of those things that when you’re on that big wave and there are sharks around you, there is a lot of mythology that builds up around the campfire. I love that element of it and so I love to write about that.”
Grunwald also finds his time in the outdoors to be contemplative, and seeks to quiet his mind from the busy, loud world that we live in.
“I’m a gadgets man and I love them, but it’s increasingly hard to live life with something blasting in your ears all the time,” Grunwald said. “For the last few years, I’ve been blasting audiobooks and podcasts into my brain and there’s often not a moment where some concept is being blasted at me. I love it, but you need some silence to start making things yourself.”
With a deep love for the Canada’s West Coast, Grunwald loves the contrast between Whistler and his Aussie homeland.
“I love it here,” he said. “It’s awe-inspiring and we don’t have anything like B.C. in Oz, of course. It’s grander on a massive scale. It gives me a sense of absolute wonder.”
Grunwald will be performing at the GLC on Friday (Aug. 23). Doors are at 9:30 p.m. and tickets are $15 in advance at the venue or $20 at the door.