By combining his passion for surfing and music, Ash has carved out a lifestyle that he loves. Travelling and performing is a dream come true for this amazing musician …
How old were you when you first became interested in music?
I’ve always been musical, since I was a kid, and I’ve always enjoyed singing. I took my first guitar lessons when I was 10. It’s always been a huge part of my life, although I never thought I’d do it professionally! In my early 20s I started playing around everywhere, and it became a profession for me – which I’m very, very stoked about!
How did you discover the Blues/Roots style of music … what attracted you to it?
It’s a purely musical thing … it just gives me a feeling. I was exposed to that kind of music when I was in my early teens, and I just loved it. I can’t really say why … I don’t know if anyone can say why they gravitate towards a certain style of music. I guess I’ve always been a kind of free thinker – it was never important to me as a teenager to sit with a crew and be identified as someone who listened to a certain style of music. At the time I was listening to ‘old people’s music’ – and I loved it.
I was lucky enough that further down the track that the Roots movement came along, and it kind of became cool for a while to play that Roots style of music. There were a lot of different genres that this music encompassed, and I fit in there with the Bluesy style. I hopped aboard, rode some coat tails and was sort of in the right place at the right time. I never anticipated that playing this style of music would ever work out as well as it has. As time went on, I started changing my music and making it more relevant to a younger audience.
Who in particular from the Blues or Roots movements really inspired you?
All the old Blues guys really inspired me … like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Jimi Hendrix. I’m an avid listener of most Blues music. I’m 35 now, so the influence from my generation was a little bit of early Hip Hop … and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Rage against the Machine, Metallica. This did influence me – you can hear my generational influences in my music.
It’s been 10 years since you released your first album. How much do you feel this year’s release, Trouble’s Door, differs from your early music?
It’s been a gradual change. The first album was just acoustic Blues, and now it’s very different. I’ve been experimenting over every album and really getting into the recording process – particularly in the area of the beats … I usually use a different producer on every album, and I’ll draw them from different styles of music. My buddy, Fingers Malone, helped me on this album – he used to be my drummer as well. He did a great job of producing the album, and I think it brings a freshness to the music – it inspires me a lot. Having this input into your music from other styles that may be far afield from your own is really important. And the recording process has become more important to me over the years … initially when I created albums, it was me playing live in a studio, but now it’s like building up a musical collage.
What’s the standout track for you from Trouble’s Door?
We chose Longtime as the single – I had a feeling it was going to go well, and it’s been my most successful song ever at radio – which was pretty cool. It’s a feel-good kind of track, and there’s an openness to it musically, or sonically, because for most of the song it’s a dance beat and heaps and heaps of layers of acoustic guitar, and that’s pretty rare for me.
I don’t often use the acoustic guitar, because it has bright and happy sound to it. I usually prefer to go for a dark and menacing tone, rather than a happy, feel-good one. But it gives the track a really summery, optimistic feel. Our film clip goes really well with the song – it’s very kind of East Coast and summery, almost feeling like the water does here – it’s amazing. Readers can view the film on YouTube:
And considering you were born in Melbourne, I guess the water really does feel quite different here!
Absolutely! I was born in Melbourne and lived in Torquay for 5 years, before we moved up to NSW. I travelled back to Melbourne just last week and had a surf – it was so cold!
Speaking of travelling, you’ve been doing a lot of touring too – not just in Australia, but also New Zealand. How did that go?
Fantastic! I’ve always wanted to tour New Zealand. It’s actually surprisingly hard to get over there and get people to book shows, even though they’re so close. I think you almost have to win them over … it’s a bit like how we might view America or England – the big country that doesn’t know anything about us … I would’ve been to WA 25 or 30 times, and this is the first club tour I’ve ever done of New Zealand. I was really stoked to get over there! I’d like to build up a good following over there and visit regularly with my family, go exploring, snowboarding and surfing.
You’re described on the internet as a “surfing, nomadic troubadour”. How accurately do you feel that sums up your life?
(Laughs). Pretty accurately! My life is definitely made up of a hell of a lot of travel, a hell of a lot of gigs, and I’m a frothing, old, crazed surf grommet! Growing up in Melbourne, music and surfing were always intertwined. I used music to get myself to places I wanted to surf, from a really early time in my touring. It was all one adventure bound in together, and they’ve never been separate for me – it’s a whole lifestyle. I’ve been so lucky. Another example … I’ve been snowboarding for 10 years, and I’ve done heli-boarding in Canada and gone to so many cool mountains, and I’ve never done any of it without playing a gig. It’s expensive to do all of these things, and I’ve used music to do it.
We’re looking forward to you visiting the Hoey Moey. You’ve been there before?
Yes, I have. It’s one of the best surfing and music venues in Australia. You can get up, run over the road and get a wave. I’ve done that before, and it’s been a great experience … Living the dream!
Interview by Jo Atkins.
This story was published in issue 24 of the Coffs Coast Focus