Ash Grunwald and Josh Teskey's blues collaboration comes from mutual respect and influence

LONG ROAD: Josh Teskey, left, used to watch Ash Grunwald, right, perform at the St Andrews Hotel when he was still a teenager, but these days the influence runs in both directions.
LONG ROAD: Josh Teskey, left, used to watch Ash Grunwald, right, perform at the St Andrews Hotel when he was still a teenager, but these days the influence runs in both directions.

IT was the late '90s and an unknown bluesman Ash Grunwald was performing at the local pub in the village of St Andrews, on the northern outskirts of Melbourne.

In the audience were two teenage brothers, Josh and Sam Teskey, who'd wandered over after performing their own set in the nearby hippie St Andrews markets.

Two decades later the three would become close friends and reunite to record the album, Push The Blues Away. Sam Teskey would serve as the producer for Josh Teskey and Grunwald's back-to-basics blues songs with raw and powerful vocals.

"It's funny that these guys who ended up making such amazing music and really killing it America, were actually these little eager beaver kids watching," Grunwald reflects this week.

The Teskey Brothers kept following Grunwald's career as he played Falls Festival and found initial success in the mid-2000s with his booming voice, electric live shows and albums I Don't Believe and Give Signs.

Unbeknown to Grunwald, The Teskey Brothers even opened one of his shows.

COOL CAT: Ash Grunwald kept busy writing during the COVID lockdown.

COOL CAT: Ash Grunwald kept busy writing during the COVID lockdown.

"I like to think, in some small way, they saw a local doing it kind of thing," Grunwald says. "They've been influenced by a lot of people and have their own sound, so I'm not trying to imply that I made that.

"It's just really cool to look back and you don't know the influence you're having."

These days, of course, The Teskey Brothers are Australia's biggest new stars in the blues and roots scene after their second album Run Home Slow won three ARIA Awards in 2019, including best group.

Grunwald, too, has continued to sustain his career across eight studio albums and international tours.

However, he admits when it came to recording Push The Blues Away with Josh Teskey the influencer became the influenced.

"Josh is the most amazing vocalist," he says. "I look up to him so much as a vocalist. I learnt a lot about singing from him.

"It's funny as this is what it is to be in your 40s. When I first started out I was pretty confident in my voice and I thought that was the main thing about my music, I had this bluesy voice.

"In recent years I've been rethinking everything. I wanna learn more. I'm sick of my voice. I want to be better and I'm just in awe of Josh's voice."

The original idea for Push The Blues Away was to write the album together. But when Grunwald arrived at The Teskeys' studio in Warrandyte, Victoria with four completed songs and Teskey had two, they got recording. Throw in a couple of delta blues standards in Preachin' Blues and The Sky Is Crying and they had an album.

"We wanted to do something from the heart and easy to record, with no bells and whistles," Grunwald says.

"I know Josh was looking for that after all his success and work The Teskey Brothers had been putting in and I had done the same thing with my Mojo album, which was a behemoth of an album with so many special guests from around the world and it took five years.

"We were ready for a simple album on the practical level, but I think that's where we had a common love."

Ash Grunwald plays Newcastle Lizotte's on Thursday, Gosford's Rhythm Hut on Friday and Port Macquarie's Westpoint Park on December 12.

This story Blues union decades in the making for Grunwald and Teskey first appeared on Newcastle Herald.