Ashes to beaches

He loves surfing, he loves touring and he’s a bit of an accidental advocate for the fight against coal seam gas expansion. Busy dad of two, Ash Grunwald, spoke to our editor Samantha Morris just before hitting the GC for Bleach*.

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Ash Grunwald had only been back in the country for a few days when he took time to chat about touring, family and protest songs. He’d just returned from Canada where he played a three week tour. Home for one day, he was then off to Port Fairy Folk Festival, with stops in between.

“The Canada tour was the best winter tour I’ve ever done,” Ash said.

“There’s heaps of Aussies – we almost sold out some places. We went to a lot of ski fields and in a way that’s like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s easy to turn up and have a fun gig.”

“I get on with Canadians well,” he said. And by the sounds of it, the trip wasn’t all popular snow fields. “We went to some out of the way places too. Like some of the places we went were mostly Canadian people. Every year that goes by, I feel like there’s more Canadians on board which makes me feel like I’m getting somewhere.”

“You go to the ski fields and because there’s so many Aussies there you’re well known. They tell their friends from all over the world. It’s been really good for me,” he explains.

It won’t be long before Ash is back in north America with a tour of the US not far off. “It’s a really good tour of the USA,” Ash said. Although he wouldn’t divulge who his “awesome” Australian support act is.

It’s tough for any musician being on the road, but it’s especially tough when you have two kids at home.

“One’s five and one’s nearly a year old,” Ash said. “My daughter who’s five has been to France three times, Canada twice, US, England. She’s well travelled. She’s been to more places than what I’d been at 24 or 25,” he laughed.

And he’s philosophical about the time away. “We have options that you don’t have in other jobs,” he said. “There are negatives but also positives. Last year, they came over to Canada. And next February we might just go and live in Whistler for a month, tour from there and be home a bit.”

“You know, we just take the positives and I hit the road and we mix it up a bit. If the US works out, that’s a lot of touring. I just need to get as big as I can so I can afford a rock and roll tour bus,” he said.

Ash is next on the Gold Coast for Bleach* Festival and he agrees that it’s a unique opportunity for artists launching into the global market, especially as far as surf culture is concerned. There are thousands of surfers from all over the world here on the Gold Coast for Bleach*.

“I’ll go on a boat trip to Indo or be in Sumatra somewhere and someone will paddle up and know my music. I was in Morocco and there were Canadians who knew my stuff. I’ve never played in Hawaii and I’ve had Hawaiians paddle up and know my stuff. “

“I could be confused and start thinking I’m huge, but that’s not the case. The surfing scene, it’s not just geographical. Surfers travel all over the globe and they share music. They take music right around the globe.”

“The beachy context is something I love,” he sais. “I love surfing. I’m passionate about it and I surf every day. It’s a natural fit for me.”

Something else Ash is passionate about is coal seam gas. More specifically, the fight to halt the expansion of gasfields across the country. According to Lock The Gate, the practice of fracking has negative impacts on land, water and community prosperity.

“I didn’t want to write protest songs, but the situation certainly calls for it. It’s important for musicians to stand up.”

“I think with coal seam gas, they’re just selling us off. A couple of jobs here and there and they’re pushing it. We know fossil fuels are wrecking the environment and now they’re wrecking the Great Barrier Reef to get the gas out of Australia.”

“I’m just convinced that we, the people, run a mega second to corporate interest.”

Rest assured though, an Ash Grunwald gig isn’t all gas fields and rising up.

“I make gigs about having a good time. That’s my primary role and that’s how I play my music. That’s from a philosophy of, we’re only here once, we should really enjoy it.  The way people are working so hard these days, they need a respite.”

“Having said that there’s no reason why a message as important as the coal seam gas one can’t be thrown in there as well.”

His most recent album Gargantua has been out for eight months and Ash says it’s been a good thing for him.

“It got me to a different level. It got playlisted on commercial radio and TV, so that was really cool. My music – I play differently now. I’m playing the same stuff and solo for this trip, but everything feels like it’s just tighter.”

“That makes it seem a bit groovy. It has more groove just because you’re tighter.”

You’d think he’d be feeling a little jaded after five solid weeks of touring, but no. “I have truly loved the gigs more than I have for a long time,” he said.

We wrap up talking about his Bleach* set which goes down right next to Burleigh Beach just before twilight.

“We’re just going to have an amazing time. It’ll be a cool vibe.”

Bleach* at Burleigh, Saturday 22 March
Ash Grunwald is joined by MTNS, GOVS and Robbie Miller
Burleigh Beach, Justins Park

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