“I’m going to play some songs Wayne Garrett has never heard before,” Angel Hall announces from the Whitewater Wednesday Jam Night stage, introducing her lead guitarist.

“That way everyone can appreciate his musical genius.”

And we do, as Garrett keeps up with her, effortlessly improvising riffs that match her songs perfectly.

Garrett is simply an amazing guitar player. Either sharing the stage with performers such as Hall or Ben Mahony or, more recently, on his own, Garrett is proving himself to be a true virtuoso.

“He’s the best guitarist I’ve seen at the jam in a very long time,” host Peggy Hanifan says.

“I’ve been playing guitar for 12 years now. I played violin before that and viola as well,” he admits over coffee at Baked Café. “My parents got me into music. They’re both musicians, playing double bass in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Mom teaches bass to children, but starts them off on a small cello.

“I feel like I’m spreading myself too thin when I play too many instruments,” he says, smiling and sipping.

Since then, he’s been concentrating on guitar. “I learned a lot by playing classical music and, while it is possible to add some feeling and style to playing classical, to me anyway, it seems kind of devoid of creativity and improvisation. And I wanted to express myself as a songwriter.

“Beside all that, there was the teenage attraction to guitars.” He smiles and remembers, “In school, during band rehearsals, whenever the conductor would be working on other sections of the orchestra, we’d always hold our violins and violas like they were guitars and pretend to play.”

Regulars to Whitewater Wednesday at Flipper’s Pub know that Garrett is musically diverse, playing jazz to Neil Young to the Mario Bros. theme.

“My favourite groups are those who can leap between genres. I really like Ween. I played at Ben Mahony’s Ween party in Dawson for Cinco de Mayo. We’re going to see if we can do a similar gig in Whitehorse this summer, alternating between Ween and the Beatles. He’s a fun guy to play with.

“I play all kinds of music,” he says, smiling shyly. “I used to play in an instrumental funk band in Edmonton called The Mighty Wahs, like the wah-wah pedal guitar players use.”

Originally from Calgary, Garrett has been living in Whitehorse about a year. “After I moved here, I was introduced to Angel through a mutual friend in the Sundog Carving program. We’re teaching each other, it’s kind of a skills exchange. She’s teaching me to sing, and I’m teaching her more about the guitar. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

“We’ve been working with Adam Pope on and off probably for half a year, but steadily only for the last three months. All three of us write together well, we’re pretty prolific. It’s great writing together.”

Garrett is constantly trying out new material, whenever he can. “I like working out tunes when I’m home for lunch, especially if they seem like a laugh and something good to do, like the Cantina Theme from Star Wars theme,” he laughs, brushing back his hair. “I like to get my roommate, Glenn Edmond, to play along because it gets him out of his rigorous conformity to heavy metal. It’s almost cultish the way he follows metal, not that there’s anything wrong with it.”

After the interview, Garrett mounted his battered bicycle, which he bought for 12 beers from a friend and then fixed up himself, and rode off down Main Street.

Five things you should know about Wayne Garrett:

  1. He’s a machinist by day and he still has all his fingers.
  2. He’s red-green colour blind, but he can see more shades of brown and khaki as an offshoot of it.
  3. He’s considered by many to be a music snob.
  4. He’s a captain of the Space Pioneers.
  5. He has a strange obsession with unicorns.