Ashia Grzesik

 

                      Photo: Ben Z Mund

 

(Poland – USA – Germany)

 

 

www.ashiagrzesik.com

 

 

Interview

 

 

 

 

JB: Ashia, you were born in Wrocław in Poland in communist times. Was the music put into the cradle so to say?

 

AG: Yes, my father is a blues man and played rock, soul, as well as classical and folk records at home when I was a child. He also played in a band.

 

JB: But then, in 1981 martial law in Poland was declared, and your family fled before oppression into Germany. Before going to America you lived in Hamburg.

 

AG: Yes, for about 3 years and then we moved to the Bay Area of California.

 

JB: And in America you learned an instrument. Why did you choose the Cello and which teacher did you have?

 

AG: The story with the cello is a bit of a funny one. My parents heard about a local youth orchestra when we lived in the East Side of the Bay (San Francisco) in California. The Orchestra had thirty violinists, one cellist, and no violas. So my parents thought it would be best if I as the older and bigger one, joined the other cellist, and my younger/middle sister the viola. I’m happy I ended up with the cello, since it’s easier to sing with it, than with the viola.

 

 

       Photo: Ashia Grzesik

 

 

JB: You were influenced by and gained a great deal of experience from Circus and cabaret…

 

AG: Yes, I love the theatre, dance and movement. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a dancer, and somehow I live out this dream working with physical artists. It was great to explore some cabaret and theatre, as a singer and character actress, such as in Vagabond Opera. I like to think of songwriting and composing this way as well – telling stories and finding the right sounds and music to express them. Also, I have theatre fever, and love being in productions. It started with Cirque du Soleil’s « O », which is a huge show, but now I love doing smaller productions that are a bit more intimate in different theatres and touring.

 

 

Ashia with the Vagabond Opera, Live from Vancouver (2010)

 

 

Ashia Grzesik of Vagabond Opera at Beloved Festival, 2010

 

 

 

 

JB: Beside classical and cabaret music you are very inspired by American folk music. You were part of the American Songbird Festival this year.

 

AG: Yes, it’s hard not to be inspired by American Blues and Folk! The songs and sounds tug at any human soul and heart strings! The American Songbird Festival, brings female American songwriters to European venues, but all of them –us – are different. Open Icy Canadian vistas, New York Cabaret, Smoky New Orleans Jazz Venues, and Portland, OR indie folk pop were all explored in this last year’s tour. It gave a broad sense of the sounds that American Music Landscape can give.

 

 

Ashia Grzesik performing live at Mississippi Studios with Todd Bayles, opening for the musical artist « Bitch », 2010. Original song by Ashia Grzesik

 

 

American Songbirds: ASHIA & THE BISON ROUGE live in Bochum, 30. März 2014

 

 

JB: Your love for folk music is also connected with a strong feeling for peace and ecology, your last CD “Diesel vs. Lung” is inspired by ecological themes of west-coast-America?

 

AG: Yes – I grew up in California and the Seattle area of Washington, which are both regions where ecological education is important. I grew up learning about recycling, composting, and respecting the environment, both at school and also at home. This last album is also inspired by industrial regions, such as the Silesian regions of Poland and the Czech Republic.

 

 

 

 

JB: So you have returned thematically to Europe, to Poland and also to the Czech Republic, but to Germany as well,… Is it the call of your roots, a feeling of destiny, that you have to close the circle from your birth until now?

 

AG: My first solo project tour in Central Europe, between Poland and the Czech Republic was in February, 2011. With a bit of networking and asking around, I was able to book and pull together a small tour including Prague and Cracow. I had just recorded and released an EP – Bison Rouge – of 5 songs/pieces and decided I needed to do this tour. Wearing a winter coat and boots, I carried my cello, CDs and clothing in a carry-on luggage and backpack on trains and buses.

Before each show I had to work out how to bring my things. I was alone and didn’t hire anyone to help me. I used to arrive at venues tired, but full of energy and excitement. Even with the most intense exhaustion, I would draw from some well of energy deep down inside me and bring out the songs and cello pieces. The venues were small, but full of warm and excited listeners. On one connection, the train was going through the mountains of the northern Czech Republic on the way to Wrocław, Poland, where I was born. The train had barely any people in it and I was alone in my compartment, left to my thoughts. As I listened to the tracks and a rush of fir trees going by, a feeling in my heart started to grow.

Something felt pure and full.

When I returned to the States, I met my cello teacher from high school in Seattle, WA. She is a generous, wise, but strict Russian cellist. I told her about the tour, about this feeling I had on the train.

She said:

« You felt fate, you felt destiny ».

Within a year I returned to make another spring tour, with more shows and more train rides. On this tour, I was invited to perform for a Shakespeare play in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and within some months to tour with a German based acrobatic company, Base Berlin’s « Dummy » show. In the meantime I released the above mentioned album « Diesel vs. Lungs », inspired by the eco-green movement on the West Coast, USA and the industry of Silesia. I received a grant to perform the songs from this album under the title « Polish Immigrant Songs » in Portland, OR, where I was living at the time.

Even though I love the Pacific NW, my Slavic Roots called out to me, or perhaps even destiny. I have moved from Portland. OR and now live in Berlin, DE.

 

 

Ashia & Olga. Firlej 4.03.2014 Panny z dobrych domów

 

Koncert charytatywny na rzecz podopiecznych organizacji: Fundacja Dwa Plus Cztery i EKOSTRAŻ. Panny z dobrych domów na rzecz bezdomnych zwierząt 3 edycja. Klub Firlej Wrocław. 4.03.2014r.

Maciej Czemplik – gitara | Żenia Betliński – kontrabas | Michał Polak – instrumenty perkusyjne

 

 

JB: So, it is Berlin, where you have finally settled down?

 

AG: Finally? There is no finally, but somehow this city makes sense to me and seems to have a combination of all things I have grown up with and loved. A city between the West and East. A city re-united and a bridge between Eastern Europe, Western Europe and the United States. There is one street in my quarter of Neukölln where there is a Polish Deli on one side of a street and a Bio (Organic) food store directly on the other side. There is also so much nature around the city….

 

JB: Thank you, Ashia, for this interview, we look forward to your next ideas and music. Good luck!

 

 

       Photo: Petr Kiska

 

 

 

For LEVURE LITTERAIRE, Jörg Becken (Berlin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

Biography

 

 

 

Ashia’s solo project songs and compositions, written and sung with the cello, reflect her longing for her Slavic roots, while adding the pop, rock, indie folk, and classical of the land she grew up in. This comes naturally from being born in Wroclaw, Poland, raised in the US, and performing internationally. Her belief is to bring and celebrate Polish and Slavic culture and ancestry to new audiences, as well as using the cello, non-traditionally, as an instrument of accompaniment and melodic lead.

 

Currently she is performing in Berlin, Germany with the celebrated show, Dummy, with original compositions of cello, voice, loops set to acrobatic choreography along with electronic tracks written by Reecode. She has performed with Cirque du Soliel’s “O” production, received an award (Portland Drammy for best original music 2010) for original compositions for Third Rail Theater’s, “The Gray Sisters” written by Craig Wright (Six Feet Under). She performs her solo act extensively under the title ‘Ashia & the Bison Rouge’ as well as being in demand for Portland, OR bands and internationally, including a Czech Republic Summer Shakespeare Festival in Ostrava, CZ and venues in Poland, Germany, and Czech Republic. She received a RACC Grant under the title of “A CD Release of Polish Immigrant Songs” to perform in Portland, OR in the Fall of 2013.

 

Ashia also believes and is part of the growing indie movement in the US that brings folk and classical sounds into pop and rock settings, as well as using the cello non-traditionally/Classically. She was invited to and performed at the NDCA (New Directions Cello Festival) in June 2012. She is a member of The Portland Cello Project, Vagabond Opera, and Classical Revolution PDX.

 

Her ideas and voice, at once ethereal and demanding, are pop/rock, yet the sounds are at times classical and folk, being on the cello. Her style as described by Portland Monthly: “…one can’t help but hear a collage of influences. Grzesik can certainly give Joanna Newsom a run for her whimsy, she possesses the old-world charm and quirky dramatics of Regina Spector and the cello-punk instincts of Bonfire Madigan, and her voice vacillates between the throaty alto of Amanda Palmer and the ethereal soprano of Maria Callas. Simply put, she’s got a little bit of everything.”

 

 

       Photo: John Labovitz

 

 

 

Discography

 

 

 

EUROPEAN STORE!

JARO Medien GmbH – Bismarckstr. 43 – D-28203 Bremen

www.jaro.de

US/NORTH AMERICA:

http://ashiaandthebisonrouge.bandcamp.com/music

 

 

 

                       Diesel vs. Lungs, 2013

 

 

 

                       Single the Cover, 2012

 

 

 

                       Winter Songs, 2012

 

 

 

                       Bison Rouge, 2011

 

 

                       Pay to be loved, 2007

 

 

 

Press

 

 

Diesel vs Lungs – Album (2013)

TOP 20 World Music Charts Europe October & November 2013!

 

“Captivating” Portland Mercury

”Absolutely Tremendous!” Capitol Public Radio

 

“Ashia Grzesik’s voice moves from ethereal to earthy as easily as a seal slipping into water. She weaves pop/rock sounds with a Slavic/classical sparkle, grounded by the cello and her Polish roots.” – Oregonian

 

“This new full-length (Diesel vd Lungs) is something remarkable, though, a wildly ambitious but not-at-all-unwieldy mixture of classical music, traditional Polish and Slavic folk musics, chamber pop, and other styles that defy categorization….a singular talent and a huge creative force.” – Portland Mercury

 

“Ashia Grzesik’s expansive musical vision… the release of Grzesik’s colorful new album, Diesel vs. Lungs, which, like much of her theatrical, multilingual music, owes as much to the European cabaret tradition as to American pop.” – Willamette Week

 

“She is a three-ring slyph, a vaudeville dervish, a woman after our own hearts….Aptly entitled Bison Rouge (the new EP), it ranges from parlor popular to European avante garde. Her siren voice calls and dismisses cellos, accordion, drums, string quartets, and trumpets at a whim, whirling your ears down into your heart and out into the aether. It is beautiful.” – Seattle Pi

 

“You can compare how her songs sound to any number of pieces written by Tom Waits, Tori Amos or Laurie Anderson. Indeed, her new album, “Diesel vs Lungs,” would sit comfortably on your shelf next to records of such artists. However, there’s something uniquely “Grzesik” about this musician, something sui generis…..the Polish-born immigrant combines over-the-top artsy theatricality with the kind of down-to-earth, self-deprecating humor that endears you to your favorite greasy spoon waitress. In other words, Grzesik was clearly born to dazzle folks with her talent, but apparently lacks the pretension that can mark some divas.” – Portland Tribune

 

German & Europe Press!

„Ihre fantastische Stimme zwischen punkigem Alt und dramatischem Sopran wird von slawischer Leidenschaft und Tiefe getragen. Musikalisch gibt es Geige, Ukulele, Akkordeon, Trompeter und vor allem ein Cello, das Ashia selbst spielt. Über Folk und Klassik kommen am Ende aber doch meist zufängliche Pop-songs raus.“ – 8/10. Armin Siebert – Melody & Rhythmus

 

„Stimmlich beherrscht Ashia ein breites Spektrum zwischen Alt und Sopran und vermittel auf diese Weise in ihren Songs eine einzigartige Atmosphäre von dramatischem Poprock. Ihrem Cello ringt sie dank moderner Elektrotechnik immer wieder neue Klangfärbungen ab, die so recht zu der extravaganten Ausdrucksweise der Polin passen. So erliegt man ziemlich schnell dem geheimnisvollen Charme dieser 45 Minuten intensiver Musik.“ – Sound & Image De

 

Poland Press

Na “Diesel vs Lungs” znalazło się sporo tekstów polskich, czasami przeplatanych angielskimi wstawkami, a w utworze “Głupie Bajeczki” zabrzmiał nawet najpopularniejszy polski temat kołysankowy” –

“Na Wojtusia z Popielnika”. Etnosystem.pl

 

„Korzystając z jej zachwycającego głosu i cudacznych, porywajacych melodii wiolonczeli, Ashia Grzesik tworzy utwory składające sie z folk, pop, kabaret i indie-rock w jej solowym nagraniu “Ashia and the Bison Rouge.” Jej tworzenie odzwierciela tęsknotę do jej Słowiańskich korzeni, i łączy wpływy Szopena i muzyki cygańskiej z bluesem, rockiem, i otwartymi harmoniami Nowego Świata. Jej piosenki i opowiadania, na równi z humorem jak i poważne, przywołują wspomnienia o przodkach, środowisku, i miłośći.” – docelu.pl

Bison Rouge EP Press

“She is a three-ring slyph, a vaudeville dervish, a woman after our own hearts….Aptly entitled Bison Rouge (the new EP), it ranges from parlor popular to European avante garde. Her siren voice calls and dismisses cellos, accordion, drums, string quartets, and trumpets at a whim, whirling your ears down into your heart and out into the aether. It is beautiful.” Seattle Pi

“…one can’t help but hear a collage of influences. Grzesik can certainly give Joanna Newsom a run for her whimsy, she possesses the old-world charm and quirky dramatics of Regina Spector and the cello-punk instincts of Bonfire Madigan, and her voice vacillates between the throaty alto of Amanda Palmer and the ethereal soprano of Maria Callas. Simply put, she’s got a little bit of everything.” – Portland Monthly

 

 

Other

“…Utilising her full vocal range and putting in a virtuoso performance on cello, accompanied only by accordian. Is this folk? It’s mixed with classical, but yes it’s folk, most certainly: Grzesik sang of her Polish Grandmother’s numerous ploys to discourage her family from moving away from home; ranged through intimate tales, both emotional & mature, tossed in jaunty escapades; and sang in English and Polish. It was nicely varied and consequently never boring…. I should mention her voice – a sumptuous but delicate soprano which scales, sometimes violently, but to good effect, to a forceful almost ‘rock’ vocal.” – Zaph Mann, Oregon Public Broadcasting

 

“Harnessing haunting and intense cello lines, this artist’s mesmerizing composition was praiseworthy for its sincer originality and stunning musical range. The delicate score traversed vast depths of emotion and wordlessly acted as a meditative cushion to our ears.” Drammy Award for best Original Music 2009-2010

 

 

Pay to be Loved Album Press

“Ashia combines the vocal sensibilites of Elenie Mandel and the avante-garde musical approach of The Dresden Dolls with the intensiveness of P.J. Harvey. How could this not be good?”- Mite Mutant, The ChickenFish Speaks

 

“Ashia’s unconventional sound is sometimes haunting, alternating among broad ranges of styles, volumes, and speeds at most unexpected moments…an album praiseworthy for its sincere originality and stunning musical range.” – Melanie Fried, Elmore Magazine.

 

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