Ash Grunwald is updating his genre, writes Patrick Donovan.
The seeds for Ash Grunwald’s new album lie among the giant oak trees at Michael Gudinski’s Mount Macedon mansion.
Each year, Australian songwriters are teamed up and challenged to write a song together in one day. Grunwald, a 31-year-old blues musician who started dabbling with electronic flavours on his last album, was teamed with Pip Norman, aka DJ Countbounce, the vocalist and producer of local hip-hop group, TZU. Their response was the super funky Fish out of Water.
It is usually considered a success if a song produced from the workshop ends up being released. But Fish out of Water not only became the title track to Grunwald’s new album, it opened the floodgates of creativity and started a chain of events that has led to the release of one of the funkiest blues albums released in this country.
“I met Pip and we got on like a house on fire,” says Grunwald. “He grabbed his laptop and got a beat happening; I picked up my National guitar and played a riff. We wrote some lyrics, mucked around most of the day. I haven’t done a lot of collaborations before so I had been a bit tentative, and I soon realised during the day that he was producing me, but it worked really well.”
“To meet someone like Pip, and realise that I could work with someone who really knows the genres and subgenres of electronic music – beat-making and hip-hop – as much as I know the roots side of the track, was exciting.”
Norman says he was keen to “unleash the beast” in Grunwald. Using Gnarls Barkley, the Black Keys latest album Attack and Release (produced by Gnarls Barkley’s DJ Danger Mouse), and funky bluesmen Buddy Guy, R.L. Burnside and Tony Joe White as reference points, he encouraged Grunwald to push it to the edge.
“In TZU, we like to mess around with soul and blues and rock’n’roll, so I was keen to work with someone a bit different. I feel like I empowered him a bit. He usually produces his own work, so by me doing that, he let the reins go.”