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Ash Grunwald's 'Raw' side

Australian blues and roots musician digs a bit deeper on most recent album, Hot Mama Vibes



It seems like Ash Grunwald is always coming to Whistler in the aftermath of some huge natural disaster: in 2008, he visited shortly after devastating brush fires hit close to home, and this time around, he's coming to Whistler in the aftermath of floods and cyclones in Queensland. Luckily, the floods passed by his home.

"We're actually in a really wet area, but for some reason when the floods happened, they went around us," he said.

Last Thursday, he was enjoying a final few relaxing days at home in the gorgeous setting on Byron Bay before heading out on the road, yet again.

"I've traveled Australia a lot over the past decade and it's my favourite place, so we moved up here and have been up here for a year," he said.

"It's a very idyllic location. Like, I'm standing here dressed in a pair of shorts and I'm on my back veranda and I'm looking out and ... probably 10 metres away is a nice river in our backyard."

"It ruins touring a bit, because it's so fun to be home!" he chuckled.

He actually just wrapped up a national tour, opening for Jack Johnson, hitting the major capital cities along the way.

"That was a great experience. I've met Jack around the traps a few times, but I never really expected to get a support act or gig from him or anything like that," he mused.

Johnson's sound certainly is a lot mellower than Grunwald's, especially when you listen to some of his grittier tracks like "Walking" and "Love Me" that are included on his latest album, "Hot Mama Vibes."

"They wanted me to do my thing, so I just did that, and I played a bit of a combination for those gigs of a fair bit of my old stuff as well as some surf-oriented stuff."

He also stepped outside of his comfort zone on that tour, experimenting with some new technology on the big stage.

"It's easy, in those contexts to just go with what you know when the crowd's really big."

For the past six months or so, Grunwald has been playing around with Ableton Live, learning to integrate electronic sounds into his live set. During solo side shows in between the Jack Johnson tour, he was able to experiment with the new technology.

"It was pretty full-on because I've started bringing in a bit of the technology and using my iPad and using this foot controller and this and that to trigger all these different beats and whatever!" he explained, adding that it was a "freaky" experience to test it out on-stage.

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