After a recent relocation to Bali, Aussie blues and roots rocker Ash Grunwald finds himself enjoying the fruits of his newfound work-life balance.
Since releasing his previous studio record, 'Now', in 2015, Ash and his family have established a new lifestyle in Bali. “We'd just been holidaying here and found different pockets that are really amazing,” he says.
“We thought it would be a good adventure; we've got two kids as well so it'd be an adventure for them and I'd be lying if I said that the surf wasn't a big motivation.
"We tried it for a year and it looks like we'll probably do two years like this and then get a bit more permanent back in Oz. It's a great way to live and I'm really loving it.”
The shift has clearly paid off for Ash as he releases a brand new single called 'Hammer', from his as-yet-untitled tenth studio album. He explains how the new single and impending album hark a return to a more traditional blues form and style. “I get a specific idea in mind, and it could be a line-up idea or how I'm going to do an album,” Ash says.
“It's usually more to do with just the instrumentation and different things. With 'Now' I did what I set out to do and I am still doing a fair few of those songs live, but after you've done nine albums there's a couple of other songs to cover as well.
“Now, I'm probably going back to my roots and going a bit bluesier; similar messages but I'm getting back to that thing of trying to write songs that sound like they've been around forever.
“I'm really happy with 'Hammer' and people have said they thought it was a traditional song, like an old blues standard I was covering, and to me that's the highest compliment.”
'Hammer' is representative of this shift back to Ash's earthy origins, incorporating sparser composition with tight focus on his lyricism and guitar work. “'Hammer' fulfils that brief that I was talking about: trying to write a little more traditionally and a little more bluesily [sic], similar to the sort of music I was making at the very start of my career.
“I've threatened this for about four albums then I end up going off in a different direction when I come to do the album usually, but I might do a more traditional, rootsy, bluesy album this time around.
“That's what I've been writing a lot more of and getting back to my roots. I really do feel like over the past nine albums I've had a chance to explore a lot of different areas musically, and I feel like it's time to do an album that is bluesier.
“'Hammer' is influenced by old-field hollers and the music of working on chain gangs and in prison camps. It's very influenced by those themes. The second verse is quite literal and that's about being involved in the fight against coal seam gas mining, and I think that encapsulates where I'm at with things.
"I want to write a song that sounds like it's been around forever, but is about things that are affecting us at the moment.” In addition to his own launch shows for 'Hammer', Ash will also perform as support for Midnight Oil when they play Hope Estate in the Hunter Valley later this year as part of their massive 'The Great Circle' world tour. “Totally stoked to be getting that gig, that was really cool,” Ash says.
“They're obviously going to smash it totally out of the park. Definitely one of, if not the most loved, Australian rock bands, and the thing I love about them also is that they were able to do political music that everyday punters absolutely loved and could be sung equally in a pub or at a festival; loved at all levels.”'Hammer' is available now.
Ash Grunwald Shows
Sat 15 Apr - Newtown Social Club (Sydney)Sun 16 Apr - Crafted Live (Wollongong)Thu 27 Apr - Prince of Wales (Bunbury)Fri 28 Apr - Boston Brewery (Denmark, WA)Sat 29 Apr - Settlers Tavern (Burnside)Sun 30 Apr - Fly By Night Club (Fremantle)Fri 5 May - Tapas Lounge Bar (Devonport)Sat 6 May - The Good Shed (Hobart)Sat 21 Oct - Hope Estate (supporting Midnight Oil)