FREE AS AIR: Provided he’s got that good old guitar, Ash Grunwald’s halfway to heaven.THERE’S a special bond between a blues man and his guitar, whether it is on the road or on stage. Blues and roots musician Ash Grunwald is no exception.
‘‘I’m so thankful to that guitar for taking me around Australia and around the world and seeing it in that much detail,’’ Grunwald told LIVE. ‘‘I love the one man band format, that’s what I did for so many years. There’s a different purity in just doing a solo set.’’
‘‘I took to the whole touring thing with a lot of vigour. I really do love that about the job. The tough life on the road was romanticised for me and that’s what I wanted, I never even had aspirations to play overseas and now I’ve played over the world.’’
Grunwald has spent the best part of a decade travelling around the country with his guitar in tow and has released eight EPs and albums along the way.
His track Breakout won the APRA Music Award for Blues and Roots Work of the Year in 2010. His album Hot Mama Vibes was nominated for the ARIA for Best Blues and Roots Album alongside the work of Dan Sultan, Jeff Lang, the John Butler Trio and The Wilson Pickers.
As well as critical acclaim, Grunwald has also built a loyal legion of fans who lap up his blues, funk and progressive sound.
By now, he’s well accustomed to playing both as a solo musician and with a band. He relishes touring and travelling alone (‘‘you’re more open to new experiences’’) and casually brushes off perceptions of the difficulties of being on stage alone.
‘‘I’ve got to say, it’s actually a bit of a scam really. People often say wow, it’s amazing how you can hold an audience, it must be lonely up there or whatever,’’ Grunwald told LIVE. ‘‘But if you’re up there by yourself on stage, you draw the audience in as your friends. As soon as you have one harmonica player with you or one guy on percussion, then it’s you and the team presenting to the audience and you’ve lost the link you had when you were solo. So I think its easier to connect with audiences solo for sure.’’
Grunwald also has a following overseas and has played gigs across Europe and Asia. Surprisingly, the blues and roots musician said audiences in different countries seemed to connect with his sound in the same way.
‘‘The most startling thing is a lack of difference. The two most interesting places are probably France and Japan,’’ he said. ‘‘To see those people reacting the same way as Australian audiences is amazing. You think, wow, the power of music and, I’ve been working so hard on crafting these lyrics and they can’t even understand what I’m saying and it’s still the same. There’s probably more we get from music on that animal level than we do on an intellectual level.’’
Next year Grunwald will tour Canada and Europe and play his first shows in New Zealand. Even after years on the road, it’s obvious he still enjoys playing to live audiences the world over, whether it’s in brief sojourns or longer journeys.
‘‘As time has worn on, especially when my touring entourage got bigger and bigger, it became more of those blocks – you go out and do the album tour and that’s it. But then there is more of the blues troubadour in me that just wants me to just keep gigging and stay on the road.
‘‘For me, the road has often been more of my home than my home. It’s where I write my songs, where I test stuff and a lot of my songs over the years have been written as I perform them. That influence has kept me kicking [on with touring] a little bit more than your average camper.’’
This tour is no exception when it comes to road testing new material, with Grunwald planning on playing some of the 16 or so new songs he’s already recorded for the album, which should be finished by April or May.
The tracks were recorded at Grunwald’s home studio – his pride and joy – stacked with vintage gear.
‘‘My studio I am absolutely in love with and as it was being built I was on eBay buying really good gear and I’ve been really happy with the way it has been going,’’ he said. ‘‘I wanted to get stuff to be able to do something absolutely 100per cent record quality so that every time you record something it’s valid.’’
Ash Grunwald plays Lizotte’s Newcastle on December 28. More information and tickets at newcastle.lizottes南京夜网.au/live/.