Garrett Kato

The strangest of journeys make for the most intriguing of stories—and records, for that matter.

Garrett Kato embarked on such a trip. The Canada-born and Byron Bay-based troubadour’s Kerouacian path twisted and turned in the most wild and wonderful of ways and brought him to his forthcoming 2019 EP debut for Nettwerk.

The journey begins 11,917 kilometers away from Byron Bay back in Vancouver. After discovering his parents’ Beatles and Bob Dylan records, he eventually moved on to contemporary songwriters such as Ryan Adams and Ray LaMontagne, finding influence in “the real authenticity of old-time American Southern melodies and harmonies.” Post-high school, he generated local buzz and radio play on early solo music, while recording between his day job at a skate shop.

“Take it like a strange journey,” he grins. “The decisions I’ve made in my life, for better or worse, haven’t necessarily been conventional to society. It was good though. I’d love for people to know it’s possible to show up somewhere new with nothing but a bag of clothes, a backpack, and a guitar and end up with a life you love. That’s my story.”

On a whim, he decided to visit his brother in Australia during 2010 and ended up “hitting the reset button on life, meeting a girl, staying, falling in love, fathering two kids, and having a mortgage.”

Rather than assume another nine-to-five, Garrett made a living busking Down Under. Not only did he play publicly for tourists and passersby in Byron Bay, but he also often performed five gigs a week at bars, cafes, and anywhere else with a stage. By doing so, he eventually caught the attention of some of Australia’s biggest superstars (despite not knowing they were famous). Pete Murray & Kasey Chambers both became fans after witnessing him perform on the street. That tireless grind paid off as he toured relentlessly alongside both acts.

Landing a publishing deal through Sony/ATV in 2015, he contributed “Sweet Jane” to the box office hit Bad Moms and released That Low and Lonesome Sound. 2017 saw him release the fan favorite “Take It Slowly,” which clocked over 7 million Spotify streams.

Now, he introduces his forthcoming EP with single “I’ll Be Around.” Backed by stark acoustic guitars, its folk spirit and rustic soul immediately connect as he delivers a message of assurance and hope to a late friend’s son with gravelly gusto.

“It’s about a friend who was a music producer named Anthony Lycenko,” he says. “Unfortunately, he lost his battle with depression in 2017. It was a pretty heavy moment in my life, because we were really close. I felt so terrible for his family. He did so much for me, championing me when no one else believed. It was a special relationship that I really cherished.  I wrote the song for his boy to say, ‘It’s terrible, but your dad will always be there spiritually.’ We all need that.”

Elsewhere, the upbeat “River Mouth” culminates on a lush, lively, and life-affirming chant elevated by his dusty delivery. A sense of hope underscores the faint strings and guitars of the nostalgic “Distant Land,” which “tells the story of an old friend who can’t quite get his life together. He’s waiting for someone to bring him back to that old time when you were kids, but it’s a distant land you can’t go back to.”

In the end, Garrett’s journey has only just begun.

With more music on the way and international touring, he’ll have many more stories to tell.

“I love it when someone can attach their own story to a song,” he leaves off. “I’d love for my music to be there for you when you need it like a friend. The best tunes are like that. It comforts you. At the same time, I want to give everyone a sense of freedom. You can do anything.”