Ash Grunwald (born Ashley Mark Groenewald, 5 September 1976) is an Australian blues musician. He has issued eight studio albums and has received five nominations for ARIA Music Awards. Four releases peaked in the ARIA Albums Chart top 50: Fish out of Water (September 2008), Hot Mama Vibes (June 2010), Trouble's Door (May 2012) and Gargantua (by Grunwald, Scot Owen and Andy Strachan, July 2013).
The Blue Grunwalds, one of Grunwald's first bands, released the album Groove Cave, which generated some local interest.
In 2001 Grunwald formed a trio called the Groove Catalysts. The Groove Catalysts played a number of blues venues in Melbourne and at several festivals throughout 2001 and 2002. As a solo artist, Grunwald has maintained several residencies over the past few years and has toured throughout Victoria and the east coast of Australia. Throughout 2001 Grunwald also played in a duo with Lloyd Spiegel.
Grunwald drew attention as a solo artist with the release of 2002's Introducing Ash Grunwald, a collection of originals and blues standards that included "Smokestack Lightnin'" (Howlin' Wolf) "The Sky Is Crying" (Elmore James) and "Rolling And Tumbling" (Robert Johnson) recorded live with only acoustic guitar and foot percussion consisting of a stomp box and tambourine.
The album also includes "Dolphin Song," which is based on an actual encounter Grunwald, a devout surfer, had with a shark and the pod of dolphins that came to his rescue.
The positive response to Grunwald's debut resulted in two Australian Blues Awards (The Chain Awards) for 'Best Emerging Talent' and 'Male Vocalist of the Year' in 2003.
In 2004 Ash released his follow up album I Don't Believe, once again recorded solo and live. Since his initial release he had been made aware of two Tom Waits albums, Swordfishtrombones and Bone Machine. As a result, he emulates Waits' experimental bang and clang percussion using hammers, spanners, pots etc., in addition to a boss loop station as a bed for his lap steel, dobro and acoustic guitars. The album included six originals, two Waits compositions, "Going Out West" and "Jesus Gonna Be Here" (a cappela with hand claps) and blues standards "Walking Blues" and "Cross Roads" (Robert Johnson), "Empire State" (Son House) and "How Many More Years" (Howlin' Wolf).
On the strength of this release Grunwald received an ARIA Award nomination for 'Best Blues and Roots Album' in 2004, and the Victorian Blues award for 'Male Vocalist of the Year' (equal with Lloyd Spiegel) and in 2005 the MBAS Vic / Tas award for Solo / Duo of the Year (equal with Dave Hogan).
For the Live at the Corner album (songs from his first two releases plus Willie Dixon's "Spoonful" featuring Ian Collard on harmonica) Grunwald won the 2005 MBAS Vic / Tas and Australian Blues awards Album of the Year in addition to being nominated once again for the 'Best Blues And Roots album' at the 2005 ARIA Awards.
In May 2005, Grunwald was invited to take over as host of Triple J's Thursday night show 'Roots N All'.
In August 2006 Grunwald released Give Signs recorded on his own record label, Delta Groove Records. As with preceding albums it was recorded live and solo which received another ARIA Award nomination for 'Best Blues and Roots Album'. In 2006, Grunwald supported James Brown at his Tasmanian concert.
On 21 December 2006 Grunwald finished his role as a Triple J presenter. In September 2007 he was nominated for another ARIA award for Best Blues and Roots Album.
Ash released his next studio album, Fish Out of Water on 30 August 2008, with the album reaching No. 43 on the ARIA charts. The new album was greeted with positive reviews with many of the critics saying it is one of the best blues/roots albums of the year and a career highlight for Ash. The new album which was written with TZU's beatsmith Phillip Norman (aka Countbounce) enters new territory for Grunwald with many of the songs gaining a hip hop edge to Ash's traditional Delta blues. Several tracks gained significant airplay on the national youth broadcaster Triple J some of these included "Breakout", "Devil Called Me A Liar" and "Joke on Me". The album was also nominated 'Best Blues and Roots Album' at the 2009 ARIA Awards.
Grunwald appeared for the first time in a Triple J Hottest 100 with one entry in the 2008 countdown, with "Breakout" reaching number 50.
In October 2009 Grunwald recorded a performance at Fremantle's Fly By Night club for a release as a live album in early 2010. He also revealed in an interview with Sarah Howells of Triple J that he has started work on a new studio album.
Ash Grunwald's fifth studio album, Hot Mama Vibes was released 4 June 2010. It was recorded at Alchemix Studio in Brisbane, DJ Debris Studio in the Adelaide Hills and The Container in Melbourne. The Album features contributions from Mr Trials, Countbounce, Chasm, Fingers Malone, Benny Owen and Kanchana Karunaratna. "Mixing electronica with the blues was always a dream of mine," said Grunwald. "On the first album I was really trying to strip it back to raw elements, just be as soulful as possible. I guess every album since then has been a gradual move towards this point." "It's not something I would have put out there in the past. I would have constrained myself; I wouldn't have felt comfortable. This is my fifth album so it was time to just launch in there, do whatever I felt like." The first song taken from the album, "Walking" has gained coverage on Triple J, also featuring in the film Limitless and on its soundtrack.
Hot Mama Vibes was nominated 'Best Blues and Roots Album' at the 2010 ARIA Awards.
After the success of 2010's Hot Mama Vibes, Ash Grunwald relocated with his family to the warmer shores of Byron Bay, Northern NSW. A new home with a new home studio was built, and it was here that the recording began for the 2012 album Trouble's Door. Teaming up with his good friend and dubstep sideproject partner, Fingers (Colin O'Reily) Ash created his most internal and political album to date.
The album was well-supported by Triple J, particularly lead single "Longtime" which spent many weeks in high rotation. The song's film clip featured Grunwald along with close friends Xavier Rudd, Kram from Spiderbait, Pete Murray, Scott Owens, Dave Rastovich and Kong, surfing one of Australia's most iconic breaks – The Pass. Grunwald and O'Reily went on to win an APRA Award for "Longtime" for Blues Song of The Year.
At the beginning of 2013, after playing the St Kilda Festival with them the year before, Ash teamed up with Scott Owen and Andy Strachan from The Living End to record a version of Gnarls Barkley's 'Crazy'. Simply recorded as a bit of fun whilst the three were in each other's company, it was only later decided that it should be released as a free download through Ash's website, to act as a prelude to an upcoming tour and as an interesting, musical curiosity for fans. 'Crazy' ended up being picked up by Austereo's Triple M network across all markets and unexpectedly drawing Ash Grunwald across to the mainstream for the first time in his career, leading to a live performance on the Channel 7 ratings winning program The Morning Show. The unplanned success of the single took the three back into the studio where they played around with some of Ash's existing tracks, adding a driving rhythm section to some of his more well-known songs and to the writing of two brand new tracks "The Last Stand" and "Acting Cool". The collection of tracks ended up forming the heaviest rock album of Ash's career to date, Gargantua, which was released through Shock in June 2013.
"The Last Stand" was Ash's first direct activism song, leaving no room for doubt on his position against the Coal Seam Gas industry. The track was performed live on triple j with Scott and Andy as part of the Like A Version segment, along with a cover of the Gorillaz "Feel Good Inc" which also featured Urthboy. The cover made it onto the compilation release of Like A Version Vol 9.
Throughout 2014 Ash toured rigorously overseas, most significantly venturing out on his groundbreaking debut tour of the United States in support of his close friend Xavier Rudd. With Rudd's well established US profile, Ash was enabled access to some of the most iconic stages in America including The Brooklyn Bowl and the famed Fillmore in San Francisco. During that trip he was awarded the LA Music Critic Award for Best International Act.
In late 2014, Ash headed back into the studio, this time taking with him Ian Perez keyboardist for Wolfmother and Pete Wilkins, former drummer for Blue King Brown. Under the guidance of famed American Producer Nick DiDia (Springsteen, Rage Against The Machine, Pearl Jam, Powderfinger) an intense focus was brought onto the structure of song composition, to record an album that has been described sonically as 'psychedelic blues using synth rather than stringed bass' and conceptually as 'strongly political, rumbling from the depths of internal rage.' The title of the album was unveiled in February 2015 as NOW, along with a photo of Grunwald without his dreadlocks, which he has worn for the past 20 years. The album was subsequently released on 25 September.
Awards and nominations
The APRA Awards are presented annually from 1982 by the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), "honouring composers and songwriters".
The ARIA Music Awards are presented annually from 1987 by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Ash Grunwald has had five nominations, all in the category of 'Best Blues & Roots Album'.
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