Knocking For Trouble

5 June 2012 | 7:00 am | Daniel Cribb

Ash Grunwald is hoping for a musical revolution. His credit cards need one...

More Ash Grunwald More Ash Grunwald

Ash Grunwald's latest album may be called Trouble's Door, but that's far from the one it's opened for him. Since its release, where it surfaced at number seven on the iTunes charts, Grunwald has had more airplay than ever before – the first track, Longtime, on high triple j rotation. What makes the success of his sixth studio album all the sweeter is the freedom associated with it and the confirmation that his fan base is stronger than ever.

Having a home studio is almost standard protocol for musicians these days, saving artists thousands of dollars. Jumping onboard that bandwagon after the release of 2010's Hot Mama Vibes Grunwald finds himself with a new level of independence. “A guy contacted me from America, he almost got me on a Ben Stiller movie and a few other things, and said 'This TV show needs a Woody Guthrie cover'. I had people over and we were chilling out and I was like 'Cool, I'll just have some tea' and I went down [to the studio] afterwards and we still partied and had a few drinks, but I recorded and mixed down a song while I was doing that and had it to him by the morning. I saw an email in the morning saying 'Don't worry, we've already got someone',” Grunwald laughs. “But I thought 'Oh well, the process was great because now he knows that I can turn something around straight away'.”

The release of Trouble's Door is the key to a new resource with which to fuel his livelihood – the fans. And by getting fans involved in the release of his latest album, he's taken that freedom created by home studios to a new level. Launching a Music Pledge campaign, in which fans can contribute funds towards the album, in the final stages of its production, meant his credit card bills weren't pages long this time 'round. With that said, it's far from a one-way street. When someone makes a pledge they receive a reward, ranging from a digital download of the album to a Skype guitar lesson or surf with Grunwald.

“I've started doing my pledge things. I've sent out everything and I gave a few people calls on their birthday the other day. It was pretty strange because it was a bit like 'Yep. How's the weather there?', and they're like 'Yeah, good... Okay, catchya later',” he laughs. “I'm still learning. It's all new things and this is what excites me. You know, the music industry is formed by a lot of tradition really. There are always people who did this and that before you. [Music Pledge] is a little bit like dub step music. It defiantly has its influences and its predecessors, but it sounds like radically new music. I get excited about things that haven't been done before. To me, that gets me pretty stoked. There are things happening all around us. It seems like the rate of change is speeding up and I love it.”

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Ten percent of post target funds raised were directed towards the Lock The Gate campaign, whose mission is to hold the governments accountable for decisions made in regards to the environment – so that future generations are able to live their lives within a clean and healthy Australia. Themes of this temperament surface through the lyrical content on his new album. “I had some stuff percolating in my head for a long time that was a bit too apprehensive to write about,” he shares. “There's a lot of pondering. Without wanting to sound too simplistic, one of the inherent problems in our system is that it's geared as if the only important thing is capitalism. It seems to come unstuck, a lot of our environmental issues. It seems like any issue we come up with, like the coals and gas mining is one, it seems to be trading dollars verses our future. And you know, I'm not dogmatic about it either – I never have been. We've got to live and we've got to have energy, but that seems to me to be pretty ridiculous, the nature that it could change our water table forever. There's nothing more important than your water. It's scary, that's why there's the Lock The Gate campaign.

“I was originally going to write a blues album and I went around to a friend's place, they were away, and I set up my gear there and I wrote nine original songs in one night. It's interesting when I say they're personal, it's just what was going around in my head. A lot of it comes out sounding political. I think the album is pretty honest. I've often refrained from comment on certain things because I don't want to get too political, I don't want to get too anti-this or anti-that, or consider myself to be the party guy... I think I got to a time in my life and an age where I feel settled and comfortable and don't really care very much about offending people. The irony of that is you do an album and probably find that you are offending very few people and that most people would probably agree with what is said on it. For me, that is a shift – to just put it out there and not worry about it,” he explains.

The musical change seems to be both internal and external, as Grunwald looks at the future prospects of his career. “Sadly, I can foresee the death of the album. I do love the album as a format, but I can see something else which is cool anyway – putting out songs on a song-by-song basis. It could be very musical and artistic in a way that you probably will start putting out more songs more regularly and worrying about each individual song less. So you really go with it and it might be a radically different sound for you, but you just put it out there and if it doesn't stick, you just don't give it a second thought and you move on. I can see negatives to that, with people not achieving their full potential. It becomes a bit more of a throw-away thing. But I can see a lot of positives in it. It's going to be interesting... we really don't know what's going to happen in the future and I really love that.”