Ash Grunwald - Professional Musician / Surfer

When did you start surfing? How did you get into it?
I was brought up in Melbourne so didn’t get to the coast that often, I would go and play around when I was younger.  I progressed really slowly in the 90’s riding those wafer thin pencil nose Rusty boards and what not and it wasn’t really until I started getting more into music that I used the opportunity of touring to sneakily surf as much as possible. So the two have been linked from the early days with me, it was all such a big adventure travelling around the country and surfing these amazing waves, some I didn’t really deserve to so it was like a baptism of fire.  After touring for a while you can basically live wherever you want to so I moved to Torquay and made Bells/ Winki my home break. I lived there for about 5-6 years, and for the last 4 years I’ve been living in Brunswick Heads just north of Byron, which has been amazing as well.

What is it that you love about surfing?
I love about everything! Even to the point where at times it has been a hindrance to my music career in that I give surfing priority over it but I wouldn’t take it back for a second. It’s got the excitement of a rollercoaster mixed with the health benefits of yoga, mixed with the weather knowledge of a fisherman! It’s just all thrown in together as this life cure. I’ve noticed it when I’m travelling and a lot of keen surfers will notice that it really affects your happiness to a great deal if you can’t surf.

Do you try to tour places close to the surf?

I have definitely toured like that in the past, then when I was away from that I’d be off snowboarding. It’s all been facilitated by music.

What is your most memorable session and/ or your favourite surf spot?

There’s just too many, I really love WA. Down in the south west is one of those places where I’ve done 1 gig in 2 weeks and just stopped there. There was this one stage where Margaret River was about 6-10 foot over a period of about 2 weeks, some days howling off-shore, some days not much wind. Some of those low-wind days were just so special. I think in Australia, when you get those no- wind days, despite the size, those sessions can really stand out as memorable ones.

Were you always into music?

I grew up always playing music. It was one of those things that I didn’t really have any ambition with, but it was just something I loved to do, and was always a part of me. It’s like surfing; you will meet surfers who don’t really make a big deal out of surfing, and they could be someone who absolutely rips, but it’s just not a big deal to them. That’s what music is to me. It’s something that just feels natural and something I’ve always done.

Did you always want to be a professional musician?
I never thought I’d be a musician, I had no plans to make it my profession because I thought it was just something famous people did. I didn’t think it was possible. Also, the fact that I loved Blues music, which isn’t traditionally that big in Australia. I went to Uni and became a qualified teacher and also got an arts degree in media and literature. I did a couple of years teaching, I burnt the candle at both ends then when push came to shove I got out of it.

How did you end up becoming a professional musician?
The whole time I was teaching and studying I was playing. I would go to Blues jams and open mic nights. I was pretty ambitious with that kind of stuff, I would tour the open mic nights and play probably 4 nights a week. It gave me heaps of experience on stage, and it just became something I slowly progressed into. Even when I became a professional musician in that it was all that I did for work, I was still relatively unknown.  I’d do restaurant gigs, do Saturday night band gigs,  and do shows etc, and just earned my money that way. I remember thinking that no matter how hard I worked it was still better than a day job.  From there I got my own PA, jumped in a van and just started touring. When I look back at it now, it was a really hard slog. I wouldn’t even consider doing all that now. Driving gig to gig, loading all the gear out, setting up my PA, playing 3 set gigs, loading all the gear back up and driving off. I loved it at the time though, I remember thinking, “this is it! I’m a Muso!”

It’s funny, I think the things we do in life, we look back and we’re so glad we did it, all that hard work, school of hard knocks kind of stuff etc., but if we had to do it again, we probably wouldn’t.

What have you been up to recently in regards to touring?
I recently did a week in WA then came home for a night followed by 3 weeks in Canada. I got back last week, spent a couple of nights at home then took the family with me down to Newcastle, Wollongong, and down to Port Ferry.

You have an upcoming gig up on the Gold Coast for Bleach Festival. Is that the dream gig, a festival environment in an area surrounded by waves?
I love the festival vibe, my aim at my gigs is to give it that festival vibe, so I love it. I try to create a vibe where everybody is having a really good time and smiling and laughing. I don’t often have fights at my gigs, its just good partying fun. I tackle some heavier subjects in my music sometimes, but the idea is to give people a break from those heavy things in life and make sure they walk out feeling more positive than they did when they walked in.

You can see Ash playing at the Bleach Festival on March the 22.  Click here for details.

Do you have a favourite song to play at the moment?
Given what I just said, my favourite to play would have to be the title track from my last album called ‘The Last Stand’ which is about coal seam mining. I’m not anti-capitalism, we’re all working for money, but I do think that massive corporations are running and wrecking this country. It’s really underreported, and I feel like I can’t just stand by partying without kind of having my say and trying to inform.

Do you plan to keep playing music and surfing in the years to come?
Yeah for sure. You always weigh up that clock though. Over the last 15 years I’ve been becoming a better surfer, but I’m 37 now and I start wondering when my body will start to go downhill.  So there’s this dilemma of ‘Do I surf every day and make the most of my time, then play gigs later on because I can still do that when I’m old’, or ‘Do I set myself up gigging so I can retire and surf everyday with my big gut and mini-mal’. Then again, Kelly Slater has thrown that into conjecture.

Do you have any people that have mentored you, or that you have looked up to over the years?
There’s been a lot of people I’ve looked up to along the way that have really helped me, there’s been a few guys from Melbourne; Ian collard and Chris Wilson who had a big influence on me in the early days, and also Xavier Rudd who has been a trailblazer in the soloist genre and he’s also a good mate. So those would be my 3 main ones.

Where can we find you online?


Posted by: Troy Roennfeldt, on March 13, 2014
Categories: Interviews