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Artist Spotlight: Garrett Kato

Garrett Kato

Born in Canada, adopted by Australia, Garrett Kato is one of Byron Bay’s hidden talents. Sporting a lustrous husk of a voice that powers over delicate guitar riffs and a gorgeous soul filling sound, the lad is furiously making his way around Australia on his Heartbreaker tour, because heading straight back on the road with Pete Murray as the national support. Kato has been doing wonders for a long time, so we decided to catch up and peak inside his brain.

You’re jumping up at The Triffid tonight for their tribute show for The Cure, how has the process covering such a different style? 

Yeah, I’m not really like the Cure at all, so for me to find a song from this band that works for me was so incredibly difficult because they are so polar opposite from me. I actually struggled so super hard to find stuff and present it in a way that would you know, offend fans. I’m so self conscience, I don’ t even know, in hindsight I probably should’ve said no to this gig because I’m so sensitive about doing covers. I feel it unveils more about an artist than when they do originals because it sort of is where this artist is coming from. It’s so out of my comfort zone.

Were/are you a fan of The Cure before agreeing to the gig?

Yeah I am a fan … After we finished my last record actually, my producer, a friend of mine, killed himself; and his favourite band was The Cure. So with that in mind I was like, ‘I have to do this gig’. It just seemed right. And when we were recording in his studio he had this big “Boys Don’t Cry” poster on his wall and he just loved them. Just my way of paying homage to him and I’m sure he’s giving me the thumbs up from wherever he is. He’s probably saying that this gig definitely isn’t for me [laughs] but he’d love it anyway.

You played your Brisbane gig of your tour last night, how was that? How has this whole tour process been?

Last night was so killer man. We played Black Bear Lodge and we had to merge the show with The Revearsals, which is super good. Because when I play with my band it’s always caught somewhere between this 60’s rock and roll and some alt-country. I think my band is like the tastiest band, I think they’re too good for me sometimes. You know, it’s like when you’re dating a chick that is just way hotter than you and you’re just thinking, ‘She’s too good for me, when is she going to realise’ because my whole band is just filled with such guns. But it’s cool to see how they put a song together you know. We use a slide guitar and they use a synthesiser, and I realised it’s essentially the same thing but somehow so different.

So do you find yourself learning from all the bands you play with?

Oh big time. I kinda see how they put their show together and I see both sides of it. I see things where I’m like, ‘Oh hell yeah, I gotta do that’ but there’s other times where I’m like, ‘Umm … nahhh’. So it just depends, but there’s always something you can learn. Even if you see a shit live band, you can learn from their mistakes. Especially the banter, god the banter up here needs to improve.

Where are you heading to next after your own tour?

I’ve recently signed a publishing deal, so I’ll be heading to Sydney next week and meeting with all these publishers. Because it’s crazy, after my tour ends I go on tour with Pete Murray and his tour is almost completely sold out already because he’s a boss. I don’t even understand, because we’re friends and I hang out with him everyday and I’m Canadian so I look at him just as, ‘My Buddy Pete’. But then we go out to lunch and people are like “PETE MURRAY!” We could just be hanging out in pyjamas and people are going crazy over him.

Will you stay based in Byron, or are you looking to setting up camp in the big smoke of Sydney?

It probably would be helpful to move to Sydney or Melbourne. But flights are so cheap, and I kinda think it keeps it cool living in somewhere random. It makes you a little more exclusive. You know when you live in a major city and you have your contacts and you see them all the time and it just makes them super … not special. It’s almost like that friend you hang out with too much and you’re like, ‘I think we hang out too much’.

Is there still that ‘novelty’ of it all that you want to keep?

Yeah! It’s like when I see the people from Sony it’s always like, “Oh I haven’t seen you in ages! It’s actually really nice to see you.’ Rather than thinking of it as just another day at the office or something. I like to keep that distance between industry and artistry. Because that’s a bad mix I think. Because if you go into the studio thinking about the industry you’re gunna come up with something real weird. You’ll be thinking about your next press release or all this other stuff and it’s not an environment to create art in.

What frame of mind do you like to be in when you head into the studio? 

I like to go in full … art fag style [laughs] Like the whole “Oh I’m an artist”. Because when I write and album I try not to plan anything until at least a couple of months before. As soon as I turn on my ‘art brain’ all my organisational skills go out the window because the idea to write a song is creating something and to create things you just have to let your mind drift and let things go and you basically practise being disorganised so I think I’ve figured out why everyone says artists are disorganised, because it’s their job to practise being creative all the time.

You’ve been recording the new album, ‘That Low And Lonesome Sound’, for two years now? Does the record process usually take you this long? 

No, it’s because I recorded it myself in my home studio. I think if I recorded it with a producer, it would’ve turned out way shitter and way more stock standard and would have the same depth and same heart. Nothing against producers, I’ve worked with many in the past, but I feel that everything is so rushed. It sounds good, but it just doesn’t sound interesting.

So do you think there’s a lot more ‘you’ on this record?

Oh way more. This is the first release I’ve done where I’m not cringing. Sometimes where I’ve released something and been so unsure because of someone else’s input, but with this one it’s fully all my input. So if someone doesn’t like it, I’m happy to standby and say, ‘Sorry, if you don’t like it that’s fine. This is me and that’s cool’.

What’s special about this record? How would you sell it to someone?

I really tried to create an album where each song had it’s own flavour. You can listen to a record and it all sort of blurs together, but I really wanted to give personality to each different track. It’s definitely the most honest thing I’ve ever done. It’s all stuff that’s happened to me and just really honest stories. If they want something that’s not in anyway fabricated, that’s not made to take my career somewhere, and they just want to get a piece of work that’s homegrown and doesn’t have any ulterior motive then they should grab the record. It’s just so close to me.