Ash Grunwald sings the blues 

The Aussie musician talks about his latest album, becoming political and maintaining a work-life balance

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - fast track Australian bluesman Ash Grunwald balances work and fun, even on tour.
  • Photo submitted
  • fast track Australian bluesman Ash Grunwald balances work and fun, even on tour.

For Ash Grunwald, life is all about balance.

The Australian bluesman has performed around B.C. many times, but he's avoided a gruelling cross-Canada tour because it would take too much time away from his young family.

"I'm going to change this, but just because I don't like to be away from my family too long, when I come up, I just play B.C.," he says over the phone from Vancouver. "I end up playing every night of the week anyway... I'm starting to bring my family over and I'll start touring wider now."

His recent summer jaunt along the American west coast up to Canada, proved that family fun can happen on tour. "I met up with my family in L.A. and we explored the California coast and that was really fun," he says. "I don't think of America as an outdoor place, but I was completely blown away by the grandeur of (the Redwoods). That's the feeling you get in Canada. You just don't expect it in America."

While most musicians from outside the U.S. attempt to break into that massive entertainment market, Grunwald has mostly avoided it, save for a few one-off trips, including one to a blues competition in the south and another to the annual South by Southwest Festival in Austin. "I've virtually lived on the road for the last 10 years," he says. "(Your tour stops) should be good places you want to be... As soon as I started touring I used it for my own evil purposes and booked gigs near the coast where I could surf. That's how I also got into snowboarding. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow I'll be stoked with how things have gone."

This time around, Grunwald is touring in support of his latest album, Gargantua, released earlier this summer. The record sprung from a cover of the Gnarls Barkley hit "Crazy," which he recorded with Scott Owen and Andy Strachan, the bassist and drummer from the punk rock band The Living End, who he says are "maybe the best rock rhythm section in Australia."

Their very bluesy take on the pop song was put into rotation on mainstream radio at home. "I've had spot play on radio there, but never on commercial radio," he says. "From there I said, 'Do you guys want to do a little album?' We did it really quickly. It's mostly old songs revisited and put into a three-piece context."

The record also includes Grunwald's first overtly political song. Recently, he's become passionately opposed to the fracking that's taking place in the Byron Bay area where he lives.

"In the past I thought, 'Oh, I'm not going to be a political musician and I don't want to marginalize anyone. But all of that polite shit is gone for me now. I just think, 'No way.' I'll do anything I can to stop it," he says.

The result was "The Last Stand," the heavy hitting rock single from the new album. It references the "bubbling methane gas" directly and also the idea of fighting for what you believe in, in general. "(Byron Bay) is a natural paradise," he says. "That's why I live there. In Australia, if they do that there, they'll do it anywhere. They have tried in Sydney and places like that right near water supplies. They'll do anything they can get away with. Before this tour, I wanted to expose more of (this issue) to my audience, so I interviewed people for a five minute documentary that I'd show at the beginning of my gigs."

He left both the documentary and his band behind for his solo tour of B.C., but he says he'll pull out all the stops for his show in Whistler at the GLC on Aug. 23. "I'll do "The Last Stand" and I'll do "Crazy" and there's a few new things in there. I brought my most pro setup that I've ever brought over — all the bells and whistles."

Still, his wife just might be the most excited for the tour stop. "I've got to try to convince her not to move to Whistler," he says. "She loves it, especially in the summer."

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