Interview with Garrett Kato

Garrett Kato is a super talented Canadian born, Byron Bay local, who earlier this month released his anticipated new record, That Low and Lonesome Sound, alongside the announcement of a 27 date tour opening for Pete Murray on his extensive regional, Yours Acoustically tour through October, November and December. Check out what he had to say about life in Byron Bay, his new album, touring and everything in between.

Congratulations on the completion of your new record ‘That Low and Lonesome Sound’. How does it feel, now that the record has been released for all ears to hear?

It’s great, so nice to get some feedback, good or bad. It’s been such a long and isolated process recording and producing the record, it’s just a relief that people even like it.

How did you first become involved in the world of music?

As a kid I always loved music. My first encounter with live music was my uncle would play Beatles songs on the piano and sing. I thought it was amazing as a child, almost like a magic trick. So naturally around 13 I decided to give it a go.

Who or what are your main musical influences?

It’s a pretty massive range of influences. Anything from alt country icons to rap or even EDM stuff sometimes. It really depends on the melody and the feeling in the music more than the genre for me.

At the age of 23, you left Canada and relocated to Byron Bay. What made you choose Byron Bay and do you miss anything in particular about being in Canada?

My brother was living in Byron and I was just finishing a record in Canada, he told me check it out and on a whim I decided to book a flight and have a little holiday. I moved into a share house and met the girl from across the hall and the rest is history. I do sometimes miss Canada whether it be family or the mountains or the quiet forest, but Australia is certainly a beautiful place and I’m lucky to be here.

You mention that this new record marks a turning point for you both as a singer-songwriter and a father. How does this record differ from your previous work?

This album has more depth for sure. My perspective is very different from the last record. I didn’t play by any rules or try to sit within a genre or style. So it was pretty liberating to have the freedom of anything goes. The subject matter was also a lot more mature in writing more about situations and people rather than personal feelings and moods. 

What’s the best thing about being a father?

The best way I can put it is, it’s something that makes you happier than anything and you do basically nothing to earn it. It’s like free happiness and it really builds character in a person when you are always thinking of someone else. 

The third track of your album is titled ‘Arkansas’. I’m just wondering… have you ever visited Arkansas and if so, what was your first impression of the area?

This song is more of a biographical topic for me. But rather than writing in the first person I chose to write the song from an outside perspective. It’s a situation of a struggling touring musician with loved ones at home whom he rarely gets to see and all the trials and tribulations that occur within those circumstances. 

This record focuses on the journey and personal battles of letting go of a past life. Did you ever experience ‘writer’s block’ while working on this album and if so, how did you go about tackling those situations and refocusing your attention? Did you embrace those moments and incorporate them into your work?

I don’t have too much trouble writing ever because it’s kind of a constant part of my life. I never say to myself that I’m done writing simply because I have a record out, the more songs the better for me. This record is definitely a concept of adjusting to a brand new life and letting go of a previous life. People do it all the time so this isn’t ground breaking, but it is so far the most pivotal moment in my life and will be for some time. 

How do you know when you’ve finally finished working on a track?

Some of the songs on this record I recorded three or four times. It’s hard to say when a song is done, it’s almost like a painting or a film once you feel like you’re taking away from something when you add a part it usually means it’s close to the end. Most songs when I’m writing them in the early stages, I know where I’d like to take it. 

The music video for ‘Headlights’, your second single from the album, was shot in a heritage building in Murwillumbah (Northern NSW, Australia). How did you come across the location and what was it like on set?

The set was pretty incredible. It was a very interesting old building and it has crazy sideways floors and creepy old mannequins. But it was fun shooting the video with Trevor and I hope to work that that guy again, he’s soo great.

What has been the highlight of your music career thus far?

I recently got a very nice review in Rolling Stone so that was a definite box tick, but this tour I’m about to embark on supporting Pete Murray is going to be a big tick in a box. I’ve always wanted to play in theatres and bigger rooms so it’s going to be awesome to have a chance at it.

What is something you want to do career-wise that you haven’t done yet?

 I’d love to land a spot on Bluesfest or maybe Splendour in the Grass? Those festivals are incredible and have the best food ever. If you know a mate, hook me up.

Five fast questions for five fast responses:

  • If your life were a book, what would the title be? Holy Shit
  • Which artist, living or dead would you most love to collaborate with? Townes Van Zandt
  • What is your favourite album of all time? Heartbreaker – Ryan Adams
  • What was the first concert/gig you attended and where was it held? Bruce Springsteen, Rodgers Arena Vancouver BC
  • If you had to choose another career, what would it be? Tae Kwan Do instructor

You’ve toured Western Canada, England and numerous parts of Australia. Next month you’ll be touring Australia, supporting Pete Murray on his ‘Yours Acoustically’ tour. It looks like you’ll be quite busy! What are you most looking forward to while on the road?

I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of this beautiful country. We’re going to so many places I’ve never been before and I’m excited to have a look. Also having the opportunity to play for lots of great crowds will be amazing as well. Maybe I’ll learn a thing or two off Mr. Pete Murray.

Finally, what’s one piece of advice you would give to your 12-year-old self?

Don’t smoke so much pot, it’s bad for your motivation in life.

This interview was first published on 28 September 2015 for Amnplify.

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