Ash Grunwald performs in Nanaimo in support of the Nanaimo Blues Society.

Unexpected success: Music takes Ash Grunwald to places he never imagined

NANAIMO – Verbal slap in the face puts musician on the right track.

It was a verbal slap in the face that would forever change the way Australian Ash Grunwald approached his music career.

“There are those little moments where somebody sits you down,” Grunwald said. “One guy sat me down and gave me that verbal slap in the face. He basically said, ‘Look, you can do this for a living if you want and you can travel the world and everything,’ and it really stayed with me.”

At the time Grunwald had recently begun his career as blues player and never gave any serious thought to the idea of performing anywhere outside  of Australia.

“Initially it wasn’t ever my dream,” Grunwald said. “I didn’t think it was possible at all.”

Since those words of encouragement more than a decade ago, Grunwald’s music has earned him various awards,  an appearance in a Hollywood movie, sent him tour with Jack Johnson and taken him all over the world.

On Sunday (Aug. 3) the Australian will be performing at the Nanaimo Entertainment Centre as part of the Blues Benefit Bash – one of the final stops on a lengthy North American tour that has seen him play to crowds as far east as New York City.  Throughout the tour, Grunwald’s wife and two children have accompanied him.

“That’s something that I have done differently in my career than how other people have done it,” Grunwald said. “If I am going to be away for more than a month I take my family with me.”

Since the early 2000s, Grunwald has released 11 albums. His first album, Introducing Ash Grunwald, features Dolphin Song, which is about an incident Grunwald had with a shark while surfing. The album would help Grunwald win the Best Emerging Talent Award and Male Vocalist of the Year Award at the Australian Blues Awards in 2003. More recently, Grunwald’s song Walking was featured in the movie Limitless, which starred Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper.

“That was absolutely epic,” Grunwald recalled. “We knew it was in the movie, so when we went to the cinema and watched it and couldn’t believe the context that it was in. It was in the central montage scene where the whole plot changes.”

Grunwald’s lyrics touch on a wide range of subjects, such as the environmental challenges that Australia has been dealing with. The bluesman has used his music to speak out on fracking, which has become a heavily divided issue in his home country.

“Having the environment decimated sort of shook me and sprung me into action,” Grunwald. “I have written songs about that subject and that overwhelming feeling that a lot of us have that we’re ever increasingly being run by the corporate world and we’re being overtaken and that everyday people aren’t being represented anymore.”

Grunwald has been fortunate enough to perform throughout Europe, Asia and North America. He credits music for providing him and his family with the opportunities and experiences they’ve had.

“Normally for somebody from Australia to have their child walk up the Eiffel Tower or something, you have to be quite well off to do those things, but music has facilitated that for me. It’s crazy and I never expected any of it,” Grunwald said. “I wouldn’t have seen snow if it wasn’t for playing music.”

The show starts at 8 p.m. For tickets, please visit www.porttheatre.com or call 250-751-4321.

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