Currently touring his latest release Shout Into the Noise, Ash Grunwald is a Bluesfest veteran with about ten appearances under his belt. His most recent show was earlier this year where he not only appeared solo, but he was part of some awesome collaborations – yet another great thing about Bluesfest.
Seven caught up with Grunwald poolside at his home in New Brighton to ask him what he loves about Bluesfest?
Quite clearly it’s the lineup. I mean, it’s always been the best blues lineup of any festival in Australia. There are so many legends. You know, from BB King to Bob Dylan – Buddy Guy has been a regular and Ben Harper has always been huge. Jack Johnson – many times – and so many others. I remember getting a few healings from the Blind Boys of Alabama back in the day. It’s created a lot of memories for me as a punter. In a way, it’s the only festival that I’ve actually spent much time at over the years. Generally I play my gigs and I see a few things and then I’m out of there. As a performer it can be draining to spend a lot of time on site because of adrenaline – you just want to do the best job you can do on your gig, but I’ve always made an effort to stick around [at Bluesfest] because it’s so amazing.
I am also looking at the 2023 lineup – it’s huge. The thing I love about it is there’s a lot of hardcore blues acts. Obviously, I’m looking forward to seeing Buddy Guy and Bonnie Raitt, two huge favourites of mine. I’d love to see Kingfish again (Christone Ingram), and Beth Hart. And, I’m really excited about Marcus King. (See the interview in Seven, 26 October.)
You tour a lot – did you find it hard (post COVID) to get up-and-running and back into touring mode after not being able to?
It’s really hard to answer that because that was my whole agenda. I was actually getting eight gigs a week because I was doing doubles, and then we got shut down for that second six months. I just got out there every time I could.
It’s always been my agenda to be on the front foot and do the best I can to get it happening. But having said that, yeah, of course it’s been difficult. The difficulty has been planning your actual career, your wider career life. You can’t time the release of an album because then the tour gets shifted. And so then that stuffs up the release. Things like that have really affected me. I think that’s affected a lot of people. It affects planning and momentum.
You live locally, is it nice to play such a big show on home turf?
Yeah, it’s cool. It’s cool that your friends come along and see you play around the corner and then they see you playing to 10,000 people. It’s pretty cool. It feels like a bit of a home turf thing, but, in the same token, Bluesfest always feels special as a musician when you’re playing it, so you don’t ever take one set at Bluesfest for granted.
Who will you have on stage with you next Easter?
I’m doing the three piece. I’ve been touring solo and I will be doing solo next year as well – the only exception to that is the Bluesfest gig, which is going to be the lineup with Ian Peres (Wolfmother) on keyboards – he has played with me a lot over the years and played with the who’s who now; he’s played with everybody. And Bobby Alu will be with us too – so that’s gonna be awesome.
See Ash Grunwald at Bluesfest next Easter, and at Bluesfest Melbourne 8 & 9 April, 2023: bluesfest.com.au